Participatory Democracy

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					                     Participatory Democracy
The following series of articles have been taken from a Canadian social
group’s website. Although the political system in India is different from
Canada’s, we can see that we face similar kind of issues when it comes to
voting in elections.

Reference Source :

Students are encouraged to read these articles and extrapolate the concepts
to their local Indian system of government, politics and social development.

Students are encouraged to identify problems with local democratic /
governance system and come up with solutions to address the issues.

One Vote Matters
      In 1645, one vote gave Oliver Cromwell control over England
      In 1649, one vote caused Charles of England to be executed
      In 1776, one vote gave America the English language rather than German
      In 1845, one vote brought Texas into the Union
      In 1868, one vote saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment
      In 1876, one vote changed France from a monarchy to a republic
      In 1923, one vote gave Hitler control of the Nazi party
      In 1941, one vote saved the military draft just a few weeks before Pearl
      In 1992, one vote gave Ralph Klein the first round win in the Alberta
       conservative Party leadership race

Voter "Apathy" Analysis
These notes were created to provide baseline information about Voter Apathy for an
Attacking Voter Apathy public forum on 18 April, 2002 at Fort Calgary, Calgary,
Alberta. Thanks to Michael Bruce Anderson for making the briefing notes available to
the Participatory Democracy Group website.

Although many issues could be explored, six concepts seem fundamental to the
discussion. they are followed by links to Additional Web Resources

   1. Declining Voter Turnout
   2. 30% of the Vote and 100% of the Power
   3.   Increasing Cynicism
   4.   The Electoral 'Coup D'Etat'
   5.   Compulsory Voting
   6.   Alternative Types of Voting Systems

1. Declining Voter Turnout

Voter turnout is in decline at the federal and Alberta provincial levels. Voter turnout
has always been low at the municipal level.

Voters are Less Likely to Vote
               Percentage of Eligible Voters who Voted (Voter Turnout)
    Federal                           Alberta Provincial Elections
Year    Turnout             Year                              Turnout
1968    76%       1982                        66%
1972    77%       1986                        47%
1974    71%       1989                        54%
1979    76%       1993                        60%
1980    69%       1997                        54%
1984    75%       2001                        53%
1988    75%       Voter turnout in Alberta provincial elections has been substantially
1993    71%       lower than every other province. Ontario has an average turnout of
                  61% where Alberta has an average of 56%. All other provinces are
1997    67%       generally at 70% or above, although Manitoba's average has
2000    61%       recently declined below 70%.
Source: Voter Participation in Canada: Is Canadian Democracy in Crisis?, Centre for
Research and Information on Canada, October 2001. Pg. 4 and 42

2. 30% of the Votes and 100% of the Power

None of the Prime Minister, the Premier, nor the Mayor can claim victory over none of
the above.

       5.25 million people voted for the Liberal Party of Canada in the last election;
        8.25 million did not vote
       627,000 people voted for the Progressive Conservative Party in the last Alberta
        provincial election; 898,000 did not vote
       62,000 people voted for Mayor Dave Bronconnier in the last municipal election
        (9% of eligible voter support); over 65% of eligible voters did not vote
(Source: Official web sites of Elections Canada, Elections Alberta and City of Calgary
City Clerks.)

      65% of MPs received less than 50% valid voter support (1997)
      16% of MPs received less than 40% valid voter support (1997)

(Source: Fair Vote Canada Website.)

The power wielded by these institutions is remarkable. The federal government has a
budget of 175 billion dollars. The provincial government has a budget of approximately
20 billion dollars (revised estimate). The municipal government will spend over 1
billion dollars in the next fiscal year. The federal government and all of the provincial
governments combined spent 461 billion dollars in 2000.

Given this power, why do Canadian citizens feel so uninterested in elections?

3. Increasing Cynicism

Canadians are losing faith in their elected institutions.

      86% of the Canadian population believe that politicians lie to get elected
      13% of the Canadian population has respect or confidence in political parties
      87% of the Canadian population thinks the government should place more
       emphasis on consulting citizens
      28% of the Canadian population thought that average citizens had influence
       with government (Ekos Research)
      79% of the Canadian population thought that average citizens should have
       influence with government (Ekos Research)

Source: Voter Participation in Canada: Is Canadian Democracy in Crisis?, Centre for
Research and Information on Canada, October 2001. Ekos Research statistics extracted
from Fair Vote Canada website.

Why do Canadians feel so disenfranchised from their political parties and government?

4. The Electoral 'Coup D'Etat'

Canadian governments find themselves in an increasingly difficult position. The
distance between their eligible voter support and their power is cavernous. Consider
the statistics presented below.

The last four federal elections produced majority governments who were able to
control the House of Commons for their entire mandate. In none of these elections,
however, did the winning party receive support from more than one out of three

In the last federal election, one out of four eligible voters cast a ballot for the winning
party who now have 100% control over the government. The situation is very similar in
the provincial case.
Elected Governments have More Power than Votes
                                                         Difference Between
             Cast               Eligible      % of
                      Voter                                 Eligible Voter       Gov't
Election    Ballot               Voter     Legislature
                     Turnout                                 Support and         Type
           Support              Support      Seats
                                                          Legislature Seats
                       Canadian Federal Government Elections
2000       40.8%     61%       24.9%       57.1%         32.1%                 Majority
1997       38.5%     67%       25.8%       51.5%         25.7%                 Majority
1993       41.3%     70%       28.9%       60.0%         31.1%                 Majority
1988       43.0%     76%       32.7%       57.3%         24.6%                 Majority
                       Alberta Provincial Government Elections
2001       62.0%     53%       32.9%       89.2%         56.3%                 Majority
1997       51.7%     64%       33.1%       75.9%         42.8%                 Majority
1993       44.5%     60%       26.7%       61.4%         34.7%                 Majority
1989       44.3%     54%       23.9%       71.1%         47.2%                 Majority
Sources: Elections Canada and Elections Alberta; Supplemented by Results on Simon
Fraser University Web site

Eight majority governments and at no point did the ruling party receive more than
33.1% of eligible voters. Eight majority governments and only two of these
governments had 50% of cast ballot support.

Why would Canadians feel that the electoral system was representative of their
electoral intentions?

5. Compulsory Voting

Voting in elections is defined by most democracies as a right of citizenship and a
citizen's civic responsibility. In some countries where voting is considered a duty,
voting at elections has been made compulsory and has been regulated in the national
constitutions and electoral laws. Some countries go as far as to impose sanctions on

Canada has never adopted compulsory voting. But, starting with Belgium in 1892,
countries such as Argentina, Australia, Greece, Luxembourg, and Singapore, have
adopted a compulsory voting system, with enforcement criteria. For example, in
Belgium it might be difficult getting a job within the public sector if you are a non-
voter. In Greece, a non-voter may experience difficulties obtaining a new passport or
driver's license. [Source: IDEA (The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral

Australia is one country that has consistently implemented a compulsory voting system
since introducing it there in 1924. In the two decades before compulsory voting was
introduced, voter turnout averaged 51% and 71% respectively. Since its introduction,
the average is usually around 95%. Imagine the impact of 95% of Canadians voting in
an election!

The following Table illustrates the Australian experience in the last 20 plus years:

Percentage Voter Turnout in Three Types of Elections, Australia, 1980-2001
                                    House of
  Year        Senate                                          Referendum
1980       94.35         94.35                          n/a
1983       94.64         94.64                          n/a
1984       94.55         94.17                          94.05
1987       94.34         93.84                          n/a
1988       n/a           n/a                            92.04
1990       95.81         95.31                          n/a
1993       96.22         95.75                          n/a
1996       96.20         95.77                          n/a
1998       95.34         94.99                          n/a
1999       n/a           n/a                            95.10
2001       95.19         94.85                          n/a
Source: AEC (Australian Electoral Commission)

Could compulsory voting work in Canada? What would be the consequences (e.g., a
majority Rhinoceros Party)?

Alternative Types of Voting Systems

Although not the sole problem, the electoral process in Canada must shoulder a large
amount of the blame for public cynicism. The first past the post Parliamentary
system produces a good deal of political stability because in between elections,
citizens have virtually no contributing role in the area of public affairs. Once a
majority government is formed, the government is very unlikely to lose power before
the next election.

There are three types of electoral systems.

        Single member systems are similar to the Canadian system where an individual
         is elected to represent a district.
        Multi-member systems are based on support for a political party that selects
         which, in turn, will represent the country and occupy a seat in the legislature.
        Mixed systems are combinations of the single member and multi-member
The major benefit of the single member system is that each part of the union is
represented in the legislature. The major benefit of the multi-member system is that
the legislature better resembles the results of the vote.

A few examples are listed below.

Multi-Member System

The proportional representation electoral system is discussed frequently among
political scientists as the most democratic method of electing a government. The
concept is simple. A political party submits a list of candidates. The election is held. If
a party receives 20% of the vote, they receive 20% of the seats.

The main advantage of the system is that seats in the legislature are the same as the
votes the party receives, making each vote important. The drawback of the system is
that it can lead to many small parties within the legislature. This can cause instability
and may generate unusual coalitions over specific issues. Also, specific regions may
not be represented by any political party.

Variations of the system can be used. For example, a geographic system can be used.
In a Canadian election, a province with 20% of the population would receive 20% of the
seats and sends representatives of the province who represent a political party.

For example, in the Canadian legislature today there are very few Alberta Liberals
although the Liberals received 20% support in Alberta. Also, there are very few (if any)
Canadian Alliance Ontarians in the legislature, although the Canadian Alliance
received over 20% of the Ontario vote. In a geographic proportional representation
system, the Liberal Party would have 40% of the seats and would have members from
each province. The Canadian Alliance would have 25% of the seats and also have
members from each province.

Single Member Systems

The second ballot run-off system and the alternate vote system both ensure that the
winning candidate receives at least 50% of cast ballot support.

The second ballot run-off system is similar to the present Canadian system of electing
a party leader, except that subsequent elections may be held (with the weaker
candidates being dropped) until one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote.

The main advantage is that each Member of Parliament has a majority support. The
main disadvantage is timing and cost. For example, only certain ridings become run-
off ridings and, hence, can control the outcome of an election.

In Canada, the second ballot run-off system would allow Progressive Conservatives or
Canadian Alliance voters the chance to collect their votes behind one candidate if
none of the candidates received 50% of the vote.
The alternate vote system is similar to the second ballot run-off except that voters
rank their preference for candidates all on the same day. Voters receive a ballot
where they are asked who their first, second, and third preferences are. If no one
receives 50%, the weakest candidate is eliminated for those voters who selected the
eliminated candidate, and their second choice now becomes their first choice. This
process is repeated until one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote.

Variations on the ranked ballot system are also available.

Mixed Systems

These electoral systems provide each voter with two votes. One vote is for a Member
of Parliament. The second vote is for a national or regional candidate.

What Matters to You: A Self Reflection Tool
   1. Think about the community you live in and the impact it has on your daily life:
         o What are the geographic features of your community?
         o What institutions/facilities exist within your community (i.e.: schools,
             hospitals, police services, recreation centres, etc)?
         o What types of businesses are located within your community?
         o What services, resources, and social groups or associations exist in your

   2. If you have children, describe their activities within your community:

   3. How would you describe your community to a new community resident?
         o What would you say about the residents in your community?
         o What would you say are your community's best qualities?
         o What concerns would you share about your community?

   4. When you look into the future of Calgary, what excites you the most?
        o What concerns you the most?

Based on your answers, what issues, concerns or opportunity do you feel should be
addressed in the upcoming election?
Create three questions to ask your candidates:




Tools for Action
   1. Become informed
          1. Read a newspaper/magazine (Alberta Views, British Broadcasting
             Corporation (BBC), Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Calgary
             Herald, Calgary Sun, Globe & Mail, National Post, New York Times,
             Macleans, Time, Newsweek, Politics Watch, or Politicx)
          2. Read a book on an issue important to you (see some listed at
          3. Attend a community event regarding an important issue
          4. Know the results of last elections so you can be better informed at the
             next one
          5. Read about political party positions, constitutional & human rights
             (Alberta, Canada)
          6. Read about the roles/activities of governments (Calgary, Alberta,
          7. Read policy analyses relevant to Canada
          8. Find other Information You Need to Know
   2. Discuss the issues important to you with colleagues, family & friends - or find
      out what issues are important to them
          1. Join an online forum dedicated to an issue important to you
          2. Mayor's Youth Council - for Calgary youth to have a stake in muncipal
          3. Youth - find a place to discuss issues important to you, e.g.
          4. Attend a issue-related event
   3. Voice your views:
          1. Answer our Poll question,
          2. Make a Phone Call or Request a Meeting with your elected official
          3. Write a Letter to your elected official
   4. Make an Issue More Visible/Talked about
          1. Develop a Petition on an issue important to you
          2. Host a Forum on an Issue important to you
          3. Attend a issues-related event (see e.g. our Calendar of Events or those
             listed at Activist Network)
      4. Participate in an issue campaign (e.g. listed at Activitist Network)
      5. Community Building Tools
      6. The Citizen's Handbook
      7. Form a Society or a Charity
5. Get Political!
      1. Vote in the next election (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
      2. Voter's Kits (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
      3. Become a Candidate in a future election

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