Fall/Winter Timetable

POL2191Y1Y L5101

Undergraduate Course Code: POL491Y1Y L5101

Topics in Canadian Politics II

Democracy in Decline? Renewing Civic Engagement


This course surveys the broad realm of the democratic deficit: exploring elements of disengagement as well as initiatives to overcome low trust and responsibility. Why are people so turned off politics? Governments offload issue resolution to the non-profit Third Sector but charitable groups cannot take up the burden. Philanthropic failure results. Canadians withdraw their formal commitments to one another. Voting declines. We care less for each other, while the post-modern state expects more. Voluntarism sags. We withhold recognition and respect. Unity efforts fail. Political Science often proposes remedies through institutional reform of governance -- citizen’s forums, free votes, electoral reform, transparency. Instead, we look at the attitudinal remedies of: social capital [trust], social cohesion [sharing], political readiness [duty], political reciprocity [engagement], and community organization [co-governance]. We aim to propose concrete initiatives that would address: protests, diversity, voluntarism, corporate elitism, direct/participatory/representative/associational democracy, the dropout of GenX, and prospects for community self-development.


Readings from R. Putnam [www.hks.harvard.edu/saguaro]; use of website material on Third Sector organizations and civic engagement. A. Breton et. al. A Fragile Social Fabric; N Nevitte et. al. Value Change and Governance in Canada.

Format and Requirements

Seminar. This is a hands-on course: a) twenty hours of Service-Learning [www.ccp.utoronto.ca] -- community volunteering to test the concepts of the Course with municipal agencies -- is integral to the development of student’s critical reasoning, life choices and civic awareness. Students support or serve as facilitators in multi-stakeholder discussions on community redevelopment and evaluate the potential for “getting to yes” over divisive economic/social/cultural issues. [Locations may be tri-campus]; b) the course is team taught, incorporating community actors and past students; c) the main product is a chapter in a virtual Minister’s briefing book on democratic decline; and, d) weekly class participation is required.