Comment 13606

By ventrems (registered) | Posted November 01, 2007 at 09:59:59

Looking into this a bit further, Simon Fraser University had some nice stats on historical voter turnout in Canadian Federal Elections (

They note the difficulty in reading too much into statistics such as these, since voter turnout and % of registered voters lists have been compiled differently in the past, but overall the conclusion is that voter turnout has generally been comparable across our history.

The % of registered voters has fluctuated from around 60% to 80% since confederation. As recent as 1988, turnout was measured at 75%, but has been on a steady decline ever since. The 2004 federal election was a record low 60.9%, the lowest since 1896 (62.9%).

Seeing these numbers suggests that the recent declines we've seen in voter turnout cannot be fully explained by our voting system, which hasn't changed. That people believe their votes are being wasted is likely not the only (or perhaps not even the most significant) reason for staying away from the polls.

The explanation, I think, may be a hybrid of some of the points we've brought up. The average citizen, unlike people like us, is not really interested in the day to day issues that come with running a democracy. The average citizen is more concerned with family, friends, their career, or the NHL, than with federal or provincial politics.

What then, would fire people up about politics? Like I suggested, I think major issues would. It's not pleasant, but catastrophic events force people to turn to their governments for direction. War, starvation, disease, etc. All of these things get people fired up about public policy.

BUT-- we do not have these things here (nor do we ever want them!!). So how can we engage people in the political process again? Perhaps it starts with education. How often do students in elementary and secondary school have the opportunity to study social and political issues? I was fortunate enough to take an elective during my OAC year, but it was not a mandatory subject. Now I believe students take a course in civics, but is this enough? Perhaps we should have classes in school that expose kids to provincial, federal, and global issues. Children should learn more about how their governments operation, and more importantly, how we the people can change how they operate. Educating people, starting at a young age, about some of the problems in our world will put us in a better position to solve them.

Just some thoughts...

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