Canada’s Democratic Deficit: Is it Systemic and Can it be Fixed?


November 22, 2012 :: Duane Bratt
Moderated by Bernie Williams

It has not been uncommon to hear people decry the democratic deficit in Canada. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin defined a democratic deficit as MPs having, among other things, very limited independence. Prime Minister Harper has been accused of increasing the democratic deficit by using parliamentary tactics and omnibus bills to confine parliamentary debate. These tactics have not been limited to the federal government as provincial premiers across Canada have cancelled sittings of the legislature and used prorogation to severely restrict debate.

Has Harper’s government altered the role of Parliament in debate and scrutiny? With the recent omnibus crime bill and two budget implementation bills that both included over 400 pages of wide-ranging changes to legislation, many critics have argued that the Prime Minister has sidelined the House of Commons. Is there a difference in the role of Parliament under this government when compared with previous experiences? Should we be concerned about the function of an institution that has, for some Canadians, been deficient in democracy for decades?

In a democracy, shouldn’t governments do their utmost to find a fair balance between “getting things done” and provide parliamentary debate and scrutiny of legislation? The speaker will address these questions and unravel the relationship between voter apathy and elected governments in the context of today’s reality, where majorities can be elected by 25% or less of the eligible voters.

Speaker: Dr. Duane Bratt

Duane Bratt is Chair and Professor in the Department of Policy Studies at Mount Royal University. Duane was educated at the Universities of Windsor (BA 1991, MA 1992) and Alberta (PhD 1996). His primary teaching area is international relations and public policy. His primary research interest delves into Canada’s nuclear policies.

Duane is a regular guest on Access Television’s Alberta PrimeTime and CBC-Radio’s Alberta at Noon, as well as a general media commentator on political matters. Recent publications include: Canada, the Provinces, and the Global Nuclear Revival (McGill-Queen’s University Press: Montreal, 2012) and co-editor, Readings in Canadian Foreign Policy 2nd edition (Oxford University Press: Toronto, 2011).


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