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About the Project

Between 2012 and 2017, there has been a notable decline in Canadians’ belief in the value of democracy. In fact, 35% of Canadians now believe that “democracy doesn't matter” or “an authoritarian government may be preferable in certain circumstances.” We also know that residents are less involved with their communities now than in 2012.

That’s why the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue has launched a priority initiative in the Strengthening Canadian Democracy project, which will explore how best to strengthen Canadians’ commitment to and participation in democracy. By designing and testing different approaches with community partners, we’ll determine which approaches are most successful and have the best potential to scale across Canada and to diverse populations.

Why are we doing this?

Public opinion research over the past 10 years has revealed that Canadians have become less convinced of the value of living in a democracy as opposed to other systems of government. A 2017 PEW Centre study, for example, revealed that just 44% of Canadians are fully “committed to representative democracy” as a good way to govern Canada; 42% are less committed; 7% support non-democratic forms of government (i.e. military rule, or strong leader without interference from elected officials or courts).  

What appears to be driving these shifts is an underlying sense of disappointment and frustration with the way government works in Canada. Increasingly, Canadians believe their democratic institutions are drifting away from the core set of values and principles so important to a healthy and functioning civil society.  

While Canadian democracy is not under imminent threat, these trends suggest that active and immediate support is needed to strengthen Canadians’ commitment to democracy before cracks in our democratic foundations grow wider and bring unpredictable risks to our social and political fabric. In this context, the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue launched its Strengthening Canadian Democracy initiative in June 2017. The key goal of the Project is to work with community partners to pilot and test intervention strategies (in the form of engagement activities) that could have a measureable impact on the commitment Metro Vancouver residents have to democracy as shown through their participation in democratic processes and activities, the value they attribute to democratic institutions, and their embrace of the underlying principles of democracy.

Project Objectives

  • Understand and explore the commitment Canadians have to democracy.
  • Develop a set of key and relevant indicators to measure the impact of Project activities.
  • With community partners, develop and pilot test a core set of activities designed to build commitment to democracy and increase engagement in democratic activities. This will help build an understanding of what types of approaches work in what contexts, and why they work.
  • Determine implications of the Project, and make recommendations for how this work could scale to larger populations, including its application in other geographic areas across Canada.

Acknowledgments

The SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue would like to thank the following SFU faculty for their collaboration and contribution in this project. Daniel Savas, Project Lead responsible for survey design and analysis; Clare McGovern, Mark Pickup, and Eline de Rooij with the Department of Political Science for their contributions to survey design.