Plenary: Is Canadian Democracy under Threat?
(Chair) Jonathan Montpetit, CBC Montréal; (Presenter) Yann Allard-Tremblay, McGill University; (Presenter) Antje Ellermann, University of British Columbia; (Presenter) Sheryl R. Lightfoot, University of British Columbia; (Presenter) Debra Thompson, McGill University; (Presenter) Daniel Beland, University of Saskatchewan; (Presenter) Kristin R.Good, Dalhouise University
On one hand, the question of whether Canadian democracy is under threat is, in comparative terms, largely settled. Canada is considered a full and robust democracy by any measure, with resilient democratic institutions, a pluralistic political culture, a vibrant civil society, and constitutionalized protections for minority rights. On the other hand, numerous social, political, and economic forces, both new and old, can have a potentially corrosive effect on even the most stable of democratic societies. In Canada, longstanding issues, such as evolving intergovernmental relations, increasingly contentious dynamics of federalism, the divisiveness of Quebec nationalism, stalled reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, persistent and growing wealth inequality, the urban/rural divide, gaping holes in the social safety net, the housing crisis in urban centers, the looming climate disaster, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, unresponsive democratic institutions, the civic literacy deficit, declining trust in the media, and the centralization of power in the office of the Prime Minster, remain unresolved. Moreover, recent social movements that seek to challenge the very meaning and motives of Canadian democratic rule, including Idle No More, Black Lives Matter, Land Defenders, and the so-called Freedom Convoy, have suggested that formal venues of political power are inaccessible for large portions of the population. Can Canadian democracy respond to the old, new, and recalcitrant forces of the 21st century? If so, how? If not, at what cost?