The intellectual focus
This thematic group explores critical issues facing advanced democracies relating to democratic participation, political legitimacy, and government responsiveness. Canada shares with many (but not all) European countries declining rates of voter turnout and public participation; at the EU level these tendencies are even more marked than at the national level in Europe. Multi-level governance systems, such as the Canadian federal system and the European Union, face particular problems because popular loyalties may be divided between various levels of government, lines of accountability may be blurred and federal or supranational institutions may seem distant from the citizen (DeBardeleben and Hurrelmann 2007). In Europe this is occurring even as EU decisions have an increasing impact on everyday life and despite the European Commission‟s efforts to adopt measures that will bolster the Union‟s democratic legitimacy (Petit 2006, 2005). In the Canadian context, institutional and/or constitutional arrangements produce unclear lines of accountability between federal, provincial and municipal authorities, generating political distrust, disinterest and cynicism on the part of the public (Clarke, Kornberg and Wearing 2000). Cluster members have done a great deal of work already exploring the nature and roots of these problems, also with Elections Canada and European partners (especially through the IDEA – the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance – in Stockholm), including a practical handbook on methods to increase voter turnout (Ellis et al, 2006). Some of the findings indicate that in both Canada and Europe, there are problematic relationships between voting and other kinds of participation, as the same people participate in a range of political activities, while a large part of the population is inactive or apathetic (Pammett and LeDuc 2003).
Youth engagement is a particular concern in both Canada and Europe (Franklin 2004). Since some research indicates that participation is undergoing a shift rather than a secular decline (Norris 2003), cluster members, in cooperation with partners, are exploring the kinds of participation that might energize youth; civic education programmes are only one approach to raising the level of „citizen duty‟ in young people. In addition, researchers study internet voting, new web-based vehicles for citizen networking and interaction with government officials, and effective communication of government actions to the public. The common challenge facing Europe and Canada is to encourage maximal participation while creating effective deliberative institutions that encourage tolerance (Ellis et al. 2006; Electoral Commission 2004, 2005, 2006; Mutz 2006; LeDuc 2003).
Another research focus of this thematic group relates to processes of constitutional change and multilevel policy-making in both Canada and Europe to accommodate diversity across regions (or countries in the EU) while ensuring institutional stability (Hallstrom 2003, Swenden 2004; Laursen 2003, Leslie 1996; McKay 2001, Tömmel 2003). The EU has developed approaches for addressing problems related to governance on many levels (Hooghe and Marks 2001, Laursen 2005, Maurer 2005), relevant to Canada‟s federal system. For example, the EU‟s „open method of coordination‟ involves innovative methods for reviewing policy, sharing information, developing guidelines, and benchmarking in areas where shared policies have not been adopted (Tömmel and Verdun 2006, Verdun and Croci 2005). The EU has also developed various methods of stakeholder involvement in policy-making that could be instructive to Canada (Crum 2005, Follesdal and Dobson 2004, Schure and Verdun 2006). Canadian efforts at building a constitutional consensus are of particular interest to Europeans as they struggle with analogous problems.
Clarke, H. D., Kornberg, A. & Wearing, P. (2000). A Polity on the Edge: Canada and the Politics of Fragmentation. Peterborough: Broadview.
Crum., B. (2005). Towards finality? “An assessment of the achievements of the European Convention”. In A. Verdun & O. Croci (Eds.), Institutional and Policy-making Challenges to the European Union in the Wake of Eastern Enlargement. Manchester: Manchester University Press / Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.
DeBardeleben, J. and Hurrelmann, A., eds (2007), Democratic Dilemmas of Multilevel Governance: Legitimacy, Representation, and Accountability in the European Union. Houndsmill: Palgrave.
Electoral Commission, (U.K.) An Audit of Political Engagement. London: Electoral Commission, 2004, 2005, 2006.
Ellis, Andrew, Maria Gratschew, Jon H. Pammett, and Erin Thiessen (2006). Engaging the Electorate: Initiatives to Promote Voter Turnout From Around the World. Stockholm: International IDEA.
Follesdal, A. & Dobson, L. (2004). Political Theory and the European Constitution. London: Routledge.
Franklin, M. N. (2004). Voter Turnout and the Dynamics of Electoral Competition in Established Democracies Since 1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hallstrom, L. K. (2003). “Support for European federalism? An elite view”. Journal of European Integration, 25(1), 51-72.
Hooghe, L. & Marks G. (2001). Multilevel Governance and European Integration. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.
Laursen, F. (Ed.). (2003). Comparative Regional Integration. Theoretical Perspectives. London: Ashgate.
Laursen, F. (2005). “The Amsterdam and Nice IGCs: From output failure to institutional Choice”. In A.Verdun & O. Croci (Eds.), Institutional and Policy-making Challenges to the European Union in the Wake of Eastern Enlargement.
Manchester: Manchester University Press / Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.
LeDuc, L. (2003). The Politics of Direct Democracy: Referendums in Global Perspective. Peterborough: Broadview.
Leslie, P. M. (1996). The Maastricht Model: A Canadian Perspective on the European Union. Kingston: Institute of Intergovernmental Relations.
Maurer, A. (2005). “Negotiating the Nice Treaty: A joint but failed search for efficiency Building”. In A.Verdun & O. Croci (Eds.), Institutional and Policy-making Challenges to the European Union in the Wake of Eastern Enlargement. Manchester: Manchester University Press / Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.
McKay, D. (2001) Designing Europe: Comparative Lessons from the Federal Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mutz, D. C. (2006). Hearing the Other Side: Deliberative Versus Participatory Ddemocracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Norris, P. (2002). Democratic Phoenix: Reinventing Political Activism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pammett, J. H. & LeDuc, L. (2003). Explaining the Turnout Decline in Canadian
Petit, I. (2006). “Dispelling a Myth? The Fathers of Europe and the Construction of a Euro-Identity”. European Law Journal, 12(5), 661-679.
Petit, I. (2005). “Agir par mimétisme : la Commission européenne et sa politique d‟éducation”. Canadian Journal of Political Science, 38(3), 627-652.
Petit, I. (2005). “Penser son appartenance autrement : la Commission européenne, l‟éducation et l‟émergence d‟une identité euro-communautaire”. Eurostudia. 1(1).
Schure, P. & Verdun, A. (2006). “States and the exercise of power in the new European Union”. Current Politics and Economics of Europe, 17(4).
Swenden, W. (2004). “Is the European Union in need of a competence catalogue?” Insights from comparative federalism. Journal of Common Market Studies, 42(2), 371-392.
Tömmel, I. (2003). Das Politische System der EU. München: Oldenbourg.
Tömmel, I. & Verdun, A. (Eds.). (2007). Governance and Policy-making in the European Union. Boulder: Lynne Rienner.
Verdun, A. & Croci, O. (Eds.). (2005). Institutional and Policy-making Challenges to the European Union in the Wake of Eastern Enlargement. Manchester: Manchester University Press / Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.