The world is changing rapidly, due in large part to fundamental transformations brought about by globalization, the digital revolution and social trends. By comparison, the institutions of government in Canada have changed very little; they would easily be recognized by someone living 50 or even 100 years ago. In recent years, there has been growing pressure to reform some of the country’s central institutions of government (e.g., the Senate, electoral system, role of MPs). While there may be broad agreement that our governance institutions are in need of updating, there is no consensus about what changes to make, or even the process by which to decide how this might be accomplished.
Amidst this debate, it is essential to consider the perspective of the Canadian public, which is the central stakeholder in our democratic system. Reforming the country’s system. Introduction of governance cannot be accomplished without a certain level of public acceptance or support (a lesson learned two decades ago with the ill-fated Charlottetown Accord). How do Canadians view the country’s current institutions of government, what importance do they place on reform, and what types of changes would they like to see or be prepared to accept?
To answer these questions, the Environics Institute for Survey Research partnered with the Institute on Governance to conduct a national public opinion survey on Canadian democratic governance and reform. The survey focuses on public perceptions about governance at the federal level, and support for reforms across a range of institutions, including Parliament, the electoral system, the Senate, engagement with Canadians, representation of Indigenous peoples, the use of digital technology and governance of the sharing economy. This is the second in a series of surveys on public governance conducted by the Environics Institute and the Institute on Governance, and some of the questions on the first survey (conducted in November 2014) were repeated on this one to identify how opinions may have changed over time.
Keywords: government role/effectiveness, federal government/institutions, democratic reform, governance, Canadian Senate, Indigenous/Aboriginal Peoples, digital technology, sharing economy, public sector