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Creating space for transformative conversations

Strengthening Canadian Democracy: Demonstration 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 2-year priority initiative in the Democracy Demonstration 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.

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Project Updates

September 24, 2018

Media Release

New survey finds Metro Vancouverites disengaged from democratic activities

According to the survey a majority of Metro Vancouver residents (73 percent) think it is “very important” Canada be governed democratically but 52 percent believe ordinary citizens cannot do much to influence government even if they are willing to make the effort. A significant portion of Metro Vancouverites—41 percent—feel voting in elections does not really give them a say in how government runs things and two-thirds (65 percent) think elected officials do not care what people like them think [...]

Download Media Release
Download Full Public Opinion Poll Report

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 in Metro Vancouver 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 Metro Vancouver residents have to Canadian 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.

Learn More

The full results of the public opinion poll, including an environmental scan for the poll rationale as well as details on methodology, can be found here.

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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.

Other Project Documents

* SFU CfD Democracy Initiative - Phase 1 Final Report (26 Oct 2017).pdf
Download the Final Report for the first phase of the Project which includes a summary of interviews from over 100 Canadian stakeholders
* SFU CfD Democracy Initiative - Scan of Opinion Research (Report - 16 January 2018).pdf
Download the Environmental Scan for Public Opinion Poll Rationale

Looking for a meeting space?

Email mecs@sfu.ca

Call 778-782-5800