Why It Matters
The participation of citizens in the electoral process is a central component of a healthy democracy.
Yet a marked decline in electoral participation has been observed in many western democracies during the last two decades.
In Canada, voter turnout is now 15 per cent lower than it was following the Second World War. Electoral participation reached an all-time low of 59 per cent in the 2008 federal election and voter turnout in most provinces is hovering above or below 50 per cent. In the 2011 Ontario provincial election, less than half of all eligible voters cast a ballot.
Even more concerning is the fact that low voter turnout is disproportionately concentrated among young Canadians. This has serious implications for the future of Canadian democracy as the research suggests that habits of voting and non-voting persist over time and one of the best predictors of individual turnout is whether or not a person voted in the previous election.
According to Elections Canada’s National Youth Survey Report released in November 2011, “the most important motivational barriers to voting were lack of political interest and knowledge, a belief that all political parties were the same and that no party spoke to issues relevant to youth, and a lower sense that voting was a civic duty.”
The school system was designed to build citizens and this goal must be emphasized once again. Educators have an appetite for teaching citizenship and democracy to their students but often do not have the resources or confidence to implement the activities that would engage their students.
CIVIX will address these needs and work with students, teachers and stakeholders to strengthen civic education in Canada.
Why does CIVIX and civic education matter? Young Canadians need and deserve a solid base of interest, knowledge and experience to inspire their citizenship. Without it they will continue to stay away from political participation, public policy and voting. With it, they will determine the future of Canadian democracy.