Canada is often held up as an example of a healthy democracy, ranking high by international standards. However, the Canadian public is less enthusiastic about the way our democracy works. In recent years, there has been a marked decline in electoral participation, trust in government, and democratic satisfaction among the Canadian public. Rather than focusing on the operation of institutions, this book approaches the “democratic deficit” from the perspective of the everyday Canadians and assesses the performance of Parliament and the media in light of their perceptions and expectations.
In doing so, a number of chapters highlight the disjuncture between perceptions and performance. For example, governments do keep many of their election promises, and media coverage is not as negative as we are apt to believe. These are important findings that challenge conventional wisdom. The chapters on Twitter break new ground, providing completely new data on the use of social media by both elite political actors and ordinary Canadians. Similarly, the book provides new insights into political apathy by drawing on focus group discussions that represent the first attempt to ask politically marginalized Canadians why they have turned their backs on politics.
By introducing the voice of everyday Canadians, this book brings a critical new perspective to political discussions in this country. Canadian Democracy from the Ground Up is essential for anyone who would like to learn how to build a better democracy – one that meets the expectations of the Canadian public.
An important new perspective for scholars and students interested in understanding the attitudes of ordinary Canadians towards their country’s democratic structures and political leaders.
This volume will be an excellent resource for scholars, political actors, and engaged citizens alike. As the first comprehensive examination of the state of our democratic culture and institutions in the 21st century, it constitutes a wholly new source of empirical data and analysis on pressing questions about Canada’s democratic polity, with insights for the comparative study of contemporary democracies. The findings are bound to attract considerable attention.
There are serious problems with the operation of Canadian democracy, but they are not all at the top. This book explores the problems from the “ground up,” assessing what is wrong from the citizens’ point of view. It is based on new, exciting data, making it essential reading for students of Canadian politics, as well as for media commentators, party strategists, think thanks, politicians, and bureaucrats.
Elisabeth Gidengil is Hiram Mills Professor in the Department of Political Science at McGill University. Heather Bastedo is Skelton-Clark Post-Doctoral Fellow at Queen’s University.Contributors: Quinn Albaugh, Kelly Blidook, Wayne Chu, Munroe Eagles, Fred Fletcher, Jane Hilderman, Royce Koop, Alison Loat, Lawrence LeDuc, Michael A. Painter-Main, François Pétry, Alex Marland, Jon H. Pammett, Nick Ruderman, Livianna Tossutti, Christopher Waddell
Foreword / Michael MacMillan and Alison Loat
Introduction / Elisabeth Gidengil and Heather Bastedo
1 Attitudes toward Democratic Norms and Practices: Canada in Comparative Perspective / Lawrence LeDuc and Jon H. Pammett
2 Canadians’ Evaluations of MPs: Performance Matters / Nick Ruderman
3 Repertoire-Building or Elite-Challenging? Understanding Political Engagement in Canada / Michael A. Painter-Main
4 Outsiders: Agency and the Non-Engaged / Heather Bastedo, Wayne Chu, and Jane Hilderman
5 Media and Political Inequality / Quinn Albaugh and Christopher Waddell
6 The Story behind the Story: Evaluating the Content of Political News / Heather Bastedo, Quinn Albaugh, and Alex Marland
7 Social Media and Agenda Setting / Wayne Chu and Fred Fletcher
8 Representing Canadians: Is the 41st Parliament Still a Vertical Mosaic? / Livianna Tossutti and Jane Hilderman
9 MPs on the Home Front: How Constituency Characteristics Influence Representational Approaches / Munroe Eagles, Royce Koop, and Alison Loat
10 Democratic Responsiveness in the House of Commons / Kelly Blidook
11 A Tale of Two Perspectives: Election Promises and Government Actions in Canada / François Pétry
Conclusion: Taking Stock of Canadian Democracy from the Ground Up / Elisabeth Gidengil and Heather Bastedo
Appendix: Samara 2012 Citizens’ Survey Methodology
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