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QUESTION PERIOD — Democratic Institutions

Deterioration of Democracy in Canada

February 21, 2022

My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Leader, on February 10, the Economist Intelligence Unit issued its annual index on global democracy, which showed that Canada dropped seven spots in two years, from fifth to twelfth place, just ahead of Uruguay.

According to Andrew Potter, associate professor at McGill University’s Max Bell School of Public Policy, one explanation for this situation is the way the Trudeau government managed the pandemic. He said, and I quote:

What has happened over the past two years is that the Prime Minister has basically shut down Parliament for a long time and has been keen to limit the opposition as much as he can . . .

What is more, according to the Democracy Index, the measures that were taken to fight the pandemic accelerated Canadians’ loss of confidence in their institutions. The pandemic led to the normalization of emergency powers and accustomed citizens to a huge extension of state power over large areas of public and personal life.

Aren’t you worried about Canadians’ loss of confidence in our institutions? Don’t you think that the unnecessary use of the Emergencies Act will make this already bad social situation and Canadians’ loss of confidence in our institutions even worse?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ - ]

You asked two questions.

With respect to your first question, everyone in this chamber must think about the public’s opinion of our institutions. Canadians must have confidence in the work we do in the Senate and in our democratic institutions. That is important. We have a role to play as parliamentarians to ensure the public is more aware of the work we do so that we can help build confidence in our work and our institutions.

With respect to your second question, the answer is no. I am proud to be a senator and to represent the government. We are about to start a historic and unprecedented debate on the application of an act that helps bolster our democracy. Our job will be to ensure that the powers of the government, in this exceptional situation, are consistent with our democracy. I will have much more to say tomorrow when I speak to this issue.

Leader, I heard you say that you are not worried. Canada dropped seven spots in the global Democracy Index and now sits just ahead of Uruguay, even though the Prime Minister claimed that Canada was back. Doesn’t it worry you that Canada has dropped from fifth to twelfth on the Democracy Index and now sits just ahead of Uruguay?

Senator Gold [ - ]

With all due respect, esteemed colleague, that is not what I said. I said that Canadians should be very concerned. I am concerned by the level of confidence that Canadians have in our institutions. It is important that we all do our part to promote awareness of what we do and build the confidence we deserve.

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