Canada drops 7 spots in global democracy index

Canada went from 5th place in 2020 to 12th place in 2021.

Last month, The Economist published their annual Democracy Index for 2021, which ranks the world’s countries based on how democratic their governments are.

In 2020, Canada ranked as the 5th most democratic country in the world, behind Norway, Iceland, Sweden, and New Zealand.

Last year, however, Canada dropped 7 spots to 12th place.

Support independent journalism

The index scores each country in 5 areas, with a maximum grade of 10 in each area. Here is how Canada scored in each area in 2020 and in 2021:

Electoral process & pluralism9.5810.0+0.42
Functioning of government8.938.21-0.72
Political participation8.898.89
Political culture9.388.13-1.25
Civil liberties9.419.12-0.29

It looks like only 1 of the 5 areas saw an increase—electoral process and pluralism—although, technically, political participation didn’t receive a decrease, either.

The area where Canada saw the largest year-over-year drop, however, was in political culture, where it decreased by 1.25 points, basically 4 times the change that electoral process and pluralism saw.

According to the report,

“New survey data show a worrying trend of disaffection among Canada’s citizens with traditional democratic institutions and increased levels of support for non-democratic alternatives, such as rule by experts or the military. Canada’s citizens feel that they have little control over their lives, a sentiment that has been compounded by pandemic-related restrictions on individual freedoms.”

Democracy Index 2021, p. 11

It went on to say that Canada may be experience something similar as its neighbour to the south, where citizens are experiencing “extremely low levels of public trust in political parties and government institutions.”

The report’s lower score for Canada was influenced by the country’s 2017–2020 world values survey results last summer. The data for this survey were collected in October 2020, during the second COVID-19 wave.

“The results also reflected frustration concerning the reimposition of pandemic containment measures, after these were rolled back during the summer months, as well as reported difficulties accessing the federal government’s coronavirus relief benefits.”

Democracy Index 2021, p. 56

The WVS data showed that only 10.4% of Canadians felt as though they had a “great deal” of freedom of choice and control. When it came to confidence in political parties, 23.5% had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in political parties. More than half of those surveyed (over 55%) felt it would be “very good” or “fairly good” if Canada were under the rule of experts or a technocratic government. And 1 in 7 survey respondents (13.5%) would prefer military rule in Canada.

The country’s drop in civil liberties score was partially influenced, according to the index, by the Québec Superior Court upholding that province’s recently ban on wearing religious symbols in certain public sector jobs.

Despite its slide into 12th place, however, Canada still is classified as a “full democracy”. The report classified the US, by comparison, as a “flawed democracy”.

Even though Canada might be experiencing some of the distrust in political institutions also seen in the United States, it doesn’t seem as though Canada has been affected as intensely. That being said, the US dropped only 0.07 points from 2020.

Now all that being said, Canada is still performing well in the index, relative to the rest of the world.

Electoral process & pluralism5.6010.00
Functioning of government4.628.21
Political participation5.378.89
Political culture5.368.13
Civil liberties5.359.12

As well, last year’s drop might be a temporary drop, rather than part of a larger trend, as Canada had been rising in the index, compared to their 2006 ranking.

We’ll have to see how much last year will affect Canada’s 2022 index placement, and then how this year will affect our 2023 ranking, especially the so-called Freedom Convoy and all the news related to that.

Support independent journalism

By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

Comment on this story

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: