Civics, Ontario Style: Why Did Ontario's Civic Education Program Fail to Reduce the Democratic Deficit?

By Milner, Henry | Inroads: A Journal of Opinion, Summer-Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Civics, Ontario Style: Why Did Ontario's Civic Education Program Fail to Reduce the Democratic Deficit?


Milner, Henry, Inroads: A Journal of Opinion


In recent years, there has been a revival of interest in civic education, long the poor cousin of the school curriculum. The source of this interest has been concern about the decline in youth political participation--the democratic deficit. While the new interest has mostly been rhetorical, Ontario put the rhetoric into practice in 2000 and instituted a compulsory civics course for Grade 10 students.

Has Ontario's course actually made a dent in the democratic deficit? Examining this question with the help of some unique turnout data from Elections Canada leads to a surprising conclusion.

Turnout decline in Canada

By the late 1990s Canadian observers of political participation were coming to the realization that the democratic deficit was unusually deep. More than most comparable countries, Canada underwent a precipitous decline in voter turnout starting in the late 1980s. Turnout of registered voters dropped dramatically from 75.3 per cent in 1988, a rate close to the average for the previous 30 years, to 64.1 per cent in 2000 and 60.9 per cent in the 2004 federal election (figure 1). Though it rose in the 2006 election to 64.7 per cent, in 2008 it continued its descent to a miserable 59.1 per cent.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

As in other countries, the decline corresponded to a decline in other forms of political participation, especially party membership. The result is what Lisa Young and William Cross, who estimate the average age of Canadian party members at 59, describe as "the greying of political parties." A 2000 survey found that only 2 per cent of Canadians in the youngest age group had ever belonged to a political party, as compared with 33 per cent among those over 57 years of age. (1)

Unlike in Britain, official voting results in Canada do not divulge whether particular voters actually turned up. Hence the voting turnout rate by age groups is based on opinion surveys, which tend to inflate numbers. Still, the trend is unmistakable. Canadian Election Study data suggested that the 14 percentage point drop in turnout between 1993 and 2000 was almost entirely due to the behaviour of those born since the seventies--those first eligible to vote in the 1990s or 2000s. (2)

Elections Canada's response

Alarmed by the plummeting youth turnout rate, Canadian federal and provincial policymakers began to pay attention. Elections Canada, the independent body which administers federal elections, developed a number of programs to reach young people The objective was to encourage them to get onto the National Register of Electors upon turning 18, and to vote. The main initiatives included simulations; contests; special events; crossword puzzles containing democratic words such as "Vote", "Assembly" and "Elections"; and a trivia game on the Internet that involved players answering questions about Parliament and elections.

One contest asked students to create public service announcements telling their peers why democracy is important and why it is important to vote. In another contest, carried out in partnership with four student associations during the 2004 election, students produced posters to be displayed on campuses across Canada. And most recently, those who sent in the best videos participated in a televised debate among Canadians aged 18 to 25 about their qualifications and aptitude to be "The Next Great Prime Minister."

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

In collaboration with other organizations, Elections Canada supported federal election simulations in the schools, contributed to youth voter education kits and funded a series of surveys on issues related to youth political participation, as well as musical events organized by "Rush the Vote."

To test the effectiveness of such interventions and overcome the limitations of turnout data based on surveys of reported voting, Elections Canada instituted a new methodology for measuring turnout using a very large sample of electors identified by age. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Civics, Ontario Style: Why Did Ontario's Civic Education Program Fail to Reduce the Democratic Deficit?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.