Whose party is it anyway?

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Participation Thursday, April 25, 2013 View Count = 1431

Whose party is it anyway?

On Tuesday we spoke to Bryce Geereart and his classmates about their dislike of political parties. Despite being well-informed and politically engaged students, none of them had any interest in joining a party. Some expressed an interest in abolishing parties altogether.

Across industrialized nations less and less youth are joining political parties. The last comprehensive study on parties in Canada*, conducted in 2000,  showed the average age of party members was 59. Only 6% of members were under 30. One UK study** suggested that partisan affiliation repels this generation. It’s not just folks under 30 who aren't joining political parties, either. In the spring of 2000:

  • Less than 2% of voters belonged to a political party

  • Almost 2/3 of party members were men

  • Almost 90% of party members were born in Canada (vs approximately 80% in the general population)

  • 40% of part members had university degrees (vs 13% of the general population)

Looking at these numbers, it certainly doesn't seem that party members are representative of Canada as a whole. Does that matter? We got to thinking about it..

The main purposes for the existence of political parties include:

  • Nominating and choosing candidates to run as MPs and as potential leaders of the government

  • Creating party platforms that will outline the priorities of any elected government

  • Providing an avenue for citizens and groups of citizens to gain access to the political process

  • Mobilizing people to vote, volunteer and participate politically

It seems fair to assume that party members are likely to nominate people they know and trust for political positions, and that they'll make policies based on their knowledge and experiences, and that they'll mobilize those in their social circles. Since there seem to be less immigrants, women, youth and people without university educations represented in parties – is it any surprise that these populations are also under-represented in our Parliament?

Maybe it’s time to take political parties back into our own hands.

Joining a political party is surprisingly easy. If you're interested, you can join the Conservative Party here, the Green Party here, the Liberal Party here and the NDP here

If you don’t want to be a party member, but want to bring your ideas forward or influence policy in other ways, check out Leadnow and Change.org. Or sign up for a party newsletter and keep your eye out for interesting opportunities. 

* Willam Cross and Lisa Young "The contours of political party membership in Canada." 2004.
** UK Electoral Commission "Voter Engagement and Young People". 2002.  Available  here.        

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