Support for Democracy & Appeal of Populism Report

August 01, 2019

As a component of its ongoing Strengthening Canadian Democracy initiative, launched in June 2017, the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue conducted a pan-Canadian national survey of Canadians to build out its current knowledge, and to establish baseline measures that will be used to track the progress and impact of activities by multiple actors across Canada to strengthen Canadian democracy.

Key Takeaways

State of Canadian Democracy

1. Canadians’ changing commitment to democracy hides their underlying and continued dissatisfaction with the way their democracy is working, and a less than full embrace of representative democracy as the best way to govern their country. Doubts about Canada’s democracy are very much tied to Canadians’ questioning their role in the democratic process or if they can have any influence on what government does. And, they are largely of the view that elected officials are insensitive to their views or interests.

2. Despite their unease about how their democracy is working, Canadians largely believe the foundational principles and values of our democracy are strong. Many do see the need for more to be done for gender equality, protection of minorities, opportunities for political participation, and civic education.

3. There is an undercurrent of opinion – among a quarter to a third of Canadians – who question minorities’ place in our democracy. This is rooted in a feeling that that “too much” is being done to protect minority rights or to support freedom of religion, and that Canadian-born citizens should have more to say in what government does than those born outside the country.

Appeal of Populism

4. Canadians demonstrate a certain openness to populist appeals from candidates running for election. However, they draw some boundaries for those who might play the populist card; while they are prepared to support those who pit the common people against the elites, they will punish those who attack the media or who push strong anti-government positions.

5. The appeal of populism is rooted in views that government ignores the interests of ordinary Canadians, that minorities and newcomers should not have an equal say in what government does, and that questioning the majority view is a threat to Canada.

Dialogue Dispatch


Dialogue Dispatch is our community of practice newsletter where we share updates on our team's knowledge exchange activities alongside inspiring case studies, suggested readings and practical tools for people and organizations working to transform the field of democratic participation.

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