Slow Death of the Ballot

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The numerous, vivid struggles for universal enfranchisement during the first half of the 20th Century are recorded all over Canadian politics textbooks- testaments of the public will of citizens to be included in the running of the country. However, it is common knowledge that over the past decades, Canadians have become less likely to directly participate in political affairs, illustrated by the fact that only 61% of eligible voters casted a ballot in the 2011 federal elections (Elections Canada, 2011b). The trend of declining voter turnout is worrisome as the success of democracy depends on public participation in its institutions and processes (O’Neill, 2001, 9). The legitimacy of a government and its policies lies on the fact that it is elected, and increasing numbers of non-voters may call into question this legitimacy (Elections Canada, 2011a). Likewise, the quality of democracy is decreased as political leaders find it harder to govern and meet public demands if they are not expressed through voting (Belanger & Nadeau, 2005, 121). Yet any formulation of solutions must take into account the roots of this problem. This essay will argue that the troubling decline of voting turnout in Canada is predominantly due to three factors: widespread perceptions of the inefficacy of voting and non-competitive nature of elections, declining trust towards government and politicians, and civic disengagement by young Canadians.

First, electors’ beliefs of the inefficacy of voting and the lack of competition in Canadian elections, as contributing factors to lower turnout rates will be explored. Canadians’ sense of powerlessness vis-a-vis the government has increased from 1990 to 2000 across almost all age cohorts, by as much as 13% points (...

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O’Neill, B. (2001). Generational Patterns in the Political Opinions and Behavior of

Canadians: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff. Enjeux Publics Policy Matters:

Institute for Research of Public Policy, Vol. 2 (5), 1-48. Retrieved from "http://"

Pammett, J.H, & LeDuc, L. (2003). Explaining the Turnout Decline in Canadian Federal Elections: A New Survey of Non-voters. Elections Canada. Retrieved from http://


Roese, N.J. (2002). Canadians’ Shrinking Trust in Government: Causes and

Consequences. In Nevitte, N. (Ed.), Value Change and Governance in Canada

(165-206). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

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