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Misrepresentation in Canadian Democracy

Mahyar Armeen 11063516 POLS 205 (02) L. Berdahl

3. Declining voter turnout among younger Canadians suggests a problem with Canadian democracy. The participation of citizens is one of the fundamental elements in a successful election in any democracy. Voters from all ages, sex, races, and ethnicities within a country should be given equal value of vote. The lack of participation from any group would under-represent them in the political system, and thus undermining the democratic structure. The declining involvement by younger Canadian voters has produced governments that do not fully represent the ideas and beliefs of the entire population, which may be due to the lack of trust, interest, and education in the democratic and political structure. The democratic system of Canada must take drastic measures in order to reincorporate the younger generation in the electoral process, or it may face serious consequences. With the higher percentage of older Canadians voting, Canadian policies have shifted to better suit their needs. The importance of Healthcare to older voters is much greater than younger Canadians; therefore, we see a greater emphasis. Issues such as education, which mostly affects the younger population, may be in jeopardy. Since politicians are mainly interested in appeasing the voters, the lower participation of younger voters may in turn decrease the recognition of issues such as education (Milan 2005). When politicians mainly favour older Canadians, the budget is also unevenly distributed amongst the population in terms of costs and taxes. For example the rise in tuition fees for student that have continuously increased.

One of the benefits of democracy is to increase the confidence of the people towards their government. However, one of the major factors in determining the decrease in young voter turnouts in Canada has been the lack of confidence in politicians, and political parties
(LeDuc and Pammett, 2003). The low voter turnout by young Canadians has been a key indicator of

a failing system that has been hiding under a shadow of attention. Even with the influence of politicians like Gilles Duceppe with slogans such as if you dont care about politics, the politics will take care of you we are able to see that they have little influence. Members of political parties who are of the younger generation have statistically had a higher confidence level in the social and political institutions; therefore, an increase in confidence will result in higher voter turnout (Young et al 2007). Higher levels of transparency and accountability of politicians, and political parties may in turn increase the confidence of young Canadians. Civic engagement of Canadian citizens is vital for the survival of the democratic system. Civic engagement refers to playing an active role in the social and political life of ones community (Stole et al, 2005). The lack of interest in the younger population in elections also indicates that a failing democratic system may in turn affect the social aspect of Canadian society. If younger Canadians do not feel obligated to take part in the political life of Canada, then they may have the same attitude towards some aspects of their social life. In order to assist in this lack of interest, young Canadians must be educated from a younger age in the importance of elections, and the effects their vote may have on their way of life (ONeill 2007). The effects of lower voter turnout amongst the younger generation may also have a long term effect. Voters from the younger generation may in the future sympathise with their children who are in the early years of voting, by not illustrating support in voting. This cycle will likely to continue, unless action is taken to disrupt it. Another possible effect of the decreasing voter turnout amongst younger voters would be the continuous avoidance of the political system completely. If there is no interest in voting from a younger age, there are no guarantees that such an attitude would change over time. To support such an idea we look at the statistics; since 1965, we have seen

a general decrease in the voter turnout of all Canadians, which may indicate that citizens who were not voting in their younger years, may have continued this pattern over the years (Turcotte 2007). If citizens of a democratic nation are not willing to vote, and the rates hit below the threshold levels of a legitimate democracy, then that society may change paths in terms of their political system, or practices. The lack of intuitive political leaders when dealing with the interaction with young voters is also jeopardising the democratic system in Canada. Leaders must look towards new innovative ways in getting the younger voters more involved in the democratic system. Advertisement through the media, and internet would bring great emphasis on the importance of voters. By creating a parallel relationship between politics and events that interest the youth, the democratic system will be able to attract new voters. Young voters have a hard time relating themselves with the Canadian political system, and are sometimes confused with the American system (Cook 2004). To counteract this negative image that the Canadian democratic system is getting, we must differentiate it from the American one. The lack of representation of young Canadians illustrates the governments lack of conformity with present day issues. The younger generation has a higher interest in technology, and trends which are generally not practiced by older Canadians; therefore, many of their ideas are not put into practice. With the continuous changes which occur around the world, one might assume that putting emphasis on older Canadian voters concerns, rather than the vibrant younger generation can damage the Canadian democratic system, since society must change with respect to its environment.

The level of education in Canada amongst the younger population is increasing, however, the rate of participation is not parallel (LeDuc and Pammett, 2003). One may assume that with this increase in the level of education, individuals would be informed of the impact their vote may have on the direction of Canadian policies, however, statistics have shown otherwise. This lack of representation is also recognized by younger Canadians, where up to 40% feel that their ideas and beliefs have gone unrecognized (LeDuc and Pammett, 2003). The impact on the democratic legitimacy of Canadian politics has been detrimental, where the fundamental aspect of a democracy is fair and equal representation of the population. According to research, one of the main reasons why younger Canadians do not vote, is that they are not well informed of the political system, parties, and candidates in Canada (LeDuc and

Pammett, 2003). Unless we assume that the choice of party is entirely random, some minimal level of information is required in order to choose not just to vote but which party to vote for. In other words, where affective and cognitive engagement help to motivate the act of voting, cognitiveresources facilitate it. (Blais et al 2002)

If the democratic system of Canada is unable to illustrate the representation of its members, then how are voters able to decide which member most suits their beliefs and values? The answer to this question is through the communication and outreach of the political members of Canada. By creating a clear and transparent image, they will be able to attract the voters that can relate to them. The power of the vote has also been stripped of its importance in the Canadian democratic system. Many younger individuals believe that their vote would not make a difference in the political arena (LeDuc and Pammett, 2003). Empowerment of the vote in Canadian society should

be an important priority, which in turn would attract younger voters to make changes that would better suit their needs. If the power of the vote reaches levels below the threshold, then politicians would no longer need the support of the people. Such an event would eventually lead to a far right, or far left system, where democracy would be completely abolished.

Younger Canadian voters have been discouraged in the voting process, which is vital for any democracy. The lack of trust that these voters have towards their candidates and even the entire political system as a whole has discouraged them from entering their ballots. With this misrepresentation of population in the government, Canada is moving away from a democratic system. The voices of the higher voter turnouts of older age groups have more influence than the silent ones of the younger group. Younger Canadian voters must be empowered, and given a sense of accountability from the governments, in order to rebuild the trust that has been diminishing in recent history.

Work Cited Megyery, Kathy. 1991. Youth in Canadian Politics-Participation and involvement. Toronto: Dundurm Press Limited. Young, Lisa. and Cross, William. 2007. A Group Apart: Young Party Members in CanadaCharting the Course for Youth Civic and Political Participation. Canadian Policy Research Networks. ONeill, Brenda. 2007. Indifferent or Just Different? The Political and Civic Engagement of Young People in Canada. Canadian Policy Research Networks. Turcotte, Andre. 2007. What Do You Mean I Cant Have a Say? Young Canadians and Their Government. Canadian Policy Research Networks. Cook, Sharon. 2004. Learning to be a Full Canadian Citizen: Youth, Elections and Ignorance. Canadian Issues Magazine. Milan, Anne. 2005. Willing to participate: Political engagement of young adults. Statistics Canada-Canadian Social Trends. Blais, Andre. Gidengil, Elizabeth. Nadeau, Richard. Nevitte, Neil.2002. GENERATIONAL CHANGE AND THE DECLINE OF POLITICAL PARTICIPATION:THE CASE OF VOTER TURNOUT IN CANADA. Paper presented at Citizenship on Trial: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Political Socialization of Adolescent. McGill. LeDuc, Lawrence. and Pammett, Jon. 2003. Elections and Participation: the Meanings of the Turnout Decline. Presented at Canadian Political Science Association. Dalhousie. LeDuc, Lawrence. and Pammett, Jon. 2003. Explaining the Turnout Decline in Canadian Federal Elections: A New Survey of Non-voters. Elections Canada.