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EDITORIAL: Report shows Canada’s democracy weakening

Maintaining a democracy is not a given, it requires open debate, tolerance
Canada’s democracy is still strong, according to the 2023 Democracy Index, but the country’s political culture is lagging. Black Press photo

It was a rough year for democracy in Canada.

In the 2023 Democracy Index, released by the Economist Intelligence Unit on Feb. 14, Canada’s score fell by 0.19 points to 8.68.

This is the country’s lowest level since the index was started in 2006.

The Economist Intelligence Unit, a division of the Economist Group from the United Kingdom, provides research and analysis of countries around the world. The Democracy Index, released annually, examines the economic process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation and political culture in 167 countries.

Canada’s score, 13th overall, down from 12th a year earlier, is still significantly higher than the global average score of 5.23, and Canada remains a full democracy according to the index. Only 24 countries are listed as full democracies, with another 50 as flawed democracies. The rest are hybrid regimes and authoritarian regimes.

Canada’s decline is cause for concern.

The country has a solid electoral process, a well-functioning government, strong civil liberties and good political participation. However, the political culture is lagging.

According to the report, tensions have been increasing between the Liberal federal government and provinces with Conservative governments. The level of tension is now one of the biggest risks to Canada’s political stability.

In addition, divisions surrounding individual freedoms, including transgender rights and parental rights, have also escalated.

In any democratic country, people will have differences of opinion on many topics, with a variety of strongly held views. However, a growing level of polarization shows a problem.

Democracy works when people are able and willing to respect or at least tolerate views that are not their own.

Elections in Canada are free and fair, and they are carefully scrutinized. Those who do not like the governments in place at present will have opportunities to participate in deciding future governments.

British Columbia has a provincial election in October 2024. Canada’s next federal election will be in October 2025, if not earlier.

Toning down the heated rhetoric and respecting the electoral process are ways to help improve the strength of Canada’s democracy.

— Black Press