Page 2 of 6
Pique: In recent elections we've seen diminishing returns at the polls as more voters stay home. Is this is a result of so many elections or is there another source for the spreading apathy?
PS: It's for a larger reason, and not one that anybody who thinks about democracy has a good answer for. It's the same the whole world over, in democracies the trend line is down. In the U.S. it's down to around 50 per cent turnout, and that's the so-called "greatest democracy in the world," where half the people don't vote.
It has to be a concern for anyone concerned with democratic health. Canada has the same trend line as other places. We can't say for sure that four elections in seven years is too much, and there's no evidence that Canadians think it's too much or that the number of elections is a motivating factor for those who vote or don't vote. In any group, it's those disaffected by the other or larger things.
Pique: Do you see us moving to an Australian system where you get a tax break if you vote?
PS: The Australia story becomes interesting if the trend line continues negatively. Then, at some point, some people might think it's time.
It's the same question, if we move to quotas for gender in terms of representation. Some countries have done it. In Canada we haven't, but the parties are increasingly committed to making sure there's a reasonable number of candidates representing both genders.
In the short-term, the thing would be to try and re-engage voters. The group that is mostly not voting are the 18 to 35 year olds. Is there something that might reach out and grab the attention of that group? It's hard to say. The nature of how this campaign will play out will be a little different with more impact around the use of social media - which is something folks 18 to 35 are more comfortable with and already get their information via. So there is some possibility of engaging young Canadians because of that particular change.
My own sense is that the bigger feature of that is that it really just changes the news cycle. Instead of getting out one or two stories a day, there are 12 or 14 cycles with people responding to tweets from 30 minutes ago. It really changes things; parties have to be more attentive now.