The problem with young Canadians’ apathy towards politics

Canadians’ apathy towards politics is reaching new lows. Today we have an ingrained sense of cynicism for anything political and, particularly among our country’s youth, a growing disenchantment and disengagement with our political process. This unhealthy condition is reflected during elections when we are able to best gauge the citizenry’s interest by the percentage of ballots cast. So, here’s our sorry state in Canada:  
  • Just 54 per cent of adult Canadians voted in the 2008 federal election (ranked 16th out of 17 “peer countries” in the OECD)
  • Just 44 per cent of Ottawa voters bothered to vote in last week’s municipal election (a drop of 10 percentage points from 2006)
  • One in five of those eligible to vote for the first time in 2000 chose to do so

Enter Robert Fowler into this discussion. He’s Canada’s longest-serving ambassador to the United Nations and foreign policy advisor to three prime ministers. This past week Mr. Fowler spoke to University of Ottawa graduates as well as to Ottawa Citizen reporter Don Butler. His observations were recorded in the Citizen article:  Diplomat scolds Canada’s lost generation


We give TWO THUMBS UP to Mr. Fowler for his frank and biting assessment of what our citizens’ disinterest means for the future of Canada. In his words:

  • The civic and political literacy of young Canadians is appallingly low. Your age group’s involvement in the political process, at all levels of government, stretches any reasonable definition of apathy.
  • You seem to be enthusiastically disqualifying yourselves from any right to demand good government in your own country, and effective Canadian engagement abroad.
  • It’s intellectually dishonest for those who’ve collectively ignored their civic responsibilities to moan about the standards of political leadership in Canada.
  • Young Canadians] feel perfectly free to bitch and scream about the state of governance in our cities or our province or our country. But they do nothing about it. What I’m really saying is, they don’t deserve bitching rights.
  • The gap between rich and poor continues to grow and an exploding [global] population will only make that worse. Yours is a world that will necessarily impact everything you do, everything you hope to achieve, and if you allow it to get much sicker, it will threaten your potential successes and diminish your prospects.
  • … that world will get back at them, whether they like it or not. It’s going to impact them. It makes sense for them to want to influence it and change it in a way that will make that impact positive rather than negative.
  • Canada can’t run on fumes. It’s nice to say the world needs more Canada, but it’s mostly Canadians who say that.

Don Butler’s Ottawa Citizen article can be read here:


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