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Keep up-to-date with the latest news and views from CPJ on democratic reform.

"Till Elections Do Us Part"

Coalition governments in Europe and Canada

Last week I attended a conference sponsored by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, “Till Elections Do Us Part: What Makes a Coalition Government Work?” The event brought European and Canadian scholars and members of parliament together in a dialogue about creating and maintaining coalition governments, including lessons learned from Canada’s pre-Christmas experiment with a coalition.

The dialogue was extremely informative, and the comparative insights provided a lot of food for thought. It was particularly useful to view Canada’s system through outside eyes, and German journalist Gerd Braune provided a wakeup call to Canadians that while we smugly view our system as the best in the world, seen from another perspective our system is rather dysfunctional!

How healthy is our democracy?

Canadian politics haven’t offered much in the way of inspiration recently, even though inspiration is the new political buzzword. Canadians have been appalled in recent years by the mean-spiritedness, the partisan obsessions, the lack of coherent vision or policy substance and repeated broken promises. This disgust has contributed in no small part to the record voter apathy manifested by the 59.1% voter turnout in October.

In the latest issue of the Catalyst, I noted that voter turnout and increased vote-swapping point to the need to start having conversations about the health of our democracy. So I was exceedingly pleased to see Canwest wade into the conversation with an excellent series on Canadian democracy by Richard Foot.

It's Not the Stanley Cup

Recent events on Parliament Hill have revealed a deep problem: far too many Canadians are unfamiliar with our system of government. In our Westminster parliamentary tradition, no one is elected as the government. Unlike the Stanley Cup, government is not a trophy to be handed over at the end of a long contest. Any government must therefore have the confidence of the House of Commons and coalition governments are perfectly legal. The recent political events underline the unfairness of a party with a minority of votes having 100% of the power to set the parliamentary agenda and suggest the need for electoral reform.

Press Release: Keep political party financing public


Ottawa, ON: December 1, 2008 - Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) expressed strong concern over the federal government’s proposal to remove the $1.75 per vote subsidy for political parties.

In a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, CPJ board co-chairs Kathy Vandergrift and Jim Joosse outlined their hesitations about this proposal. “We sincerely question the wisdom of such a policy, as it could weaken Canada’s democratic system and encourage voter apathy, which has already reached a worrisome 41% in the most recent election,” the letter said.

BC electoral reform gets a second chance

In May of 2009, BC voters will get another chance to change their electoral system. Antony Hodgson advocates for the new system of Single Transferrable Vote, arguing that it will have several positive public justice implications.

Electoral Reform in Ontario

In the October 10 provincial election, Ontarians have the chance to vote for a new electoral system. This system is similar to the current system but adds more proportionality – the idea that the legislature should reflect the percentages of votes that parties received in the election. You can read more about the benefits of the new system in our brochure.

Embracing a politics of hopeful citizenship

It’s tempting to look in the mirror and see only our best selves reflected back. But there’s a disconnect between what Canadians say they believe and the actual policies of our country. Politics of rivalry and exclusion feed that disparity.


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