Politics often gets a bad rap. Many Canadians see politics as something that other people do and not really relevant to our day-to-day lives. Samara’s latest Democracy Report, “Political Participation Beyond the Ballot Box,” confirms that fewer Canadians are now participating in formal politics, including joining or donating to political parties, and even voting.
But when we have 60 people coming out to a weekend session at a School4Civics workshop, there is clearly interest in becoming more actively involved.
- While 55% of us volunteer our time, only 10% volunteer in an election.
- While 84% donate money to a charity or nonprofit, only 10% donate to political candidates or parties.
- While 58% are active in a group or association, only 10% are members of political parties.
Being politically active matters
People who are involved in politics also tend to be involved and active in their communities – be it volunteering or organizing a community event, among others.
But, for many, participating in politics automatically means joining a party which can be seen as a very partisan decision. This makes it difficult for people who are community-involved to make that transition. There needs to be a more thoughtful way to sell participation than “wear the team colours.” Parties need to figure out a new pitch and new means to get more of those people, who are already active and engaged in other ways, involved in formal politics.
Community-involved people shouldn’t fear being seen as partisan
Many people often have trouble choosing a particular party because they share a set of values that are associated with more than one party. They don’t want to risk being perceived as a partisan that can no longer be trusted. But, the more they are exposed to politics, the more they’ll see that a lot of effective community leaders are actually active in elections and can see this as a legitimate way to make change.
Party members in Canadian democracy have a huge amount of political power. They vote on the nomination of candidates, who may or may not become a representative in government. Party members are the ones filtering their neighbours’ choice for who’s going to run and represent everyone in a riding. They have the political power of shaping party leadership, party platforms and policies, etc.
That’s a significant reason to become a member of a political party. It can be a difficult choice, especially for community-involved people, but it ultimately results in a great deal more influence and power in the formal political process.
Formal engagement isn’t your only option
There are many ways that people can be politically active outside of formal engagement. Samara identified 20 activities across five broad categories: Online Discussion, Off-line Discussion, Activism, Civic Engagement and Formal Engagement.
Over the next few weeks, I will explore Samara’s report and what it means for our work and audience. Through School4Civics, we’re working directly with diverse leaders interested in becoming part of the formal part of political engagement. We will also explore other forms of political engagement, and how anyone, from youth to newcomers who aren’t yet Canadian citizens, can, should and need to get involved.
- The Diversity Gap: The Electoral Under-Representation of Visible Minorities
- Latest DiverseCity-Nanos Research report: Does the diversity gap in leadership matter to GTA residents?
- Creating possibility where you live – promoting civic engagement and participation in the Greater Toronto Area
- Changing the face of leadership