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Canadians feeling more alienated from the political process: report

As thousands of Canadians protest Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to suspend Parliament, a new report says people are feeling increasingly alienated from the political process and its institutions.

The Institute of Wellbeing's report on democratic engagement, released Wednesday, says Canada is experiencing a huge democratic deficit that is only getting worse.

"The disconnect between Canadians and those who govern on their behalf is deep, wide and growing," institute CEO Lynne Slotek said in a statement.

"At a time when people are demanding greater accountability and transparency, they see their government institutions becoming more remote and opaque."

The report points to the fact that voter turnout in the last federal election was the worst in Canadian history.

Participation rates in formal political activities is also declining, with volunteer hours dropping 15 per cent from 2004 to 2007. And the participation of women in Parliament has remained stubbornly at around 20 per cent since 1997.

The report also cites recent surveys which suggest Canadians are skeptical that government policies have made their lives better.

The institute recommends governments look at ways to entrench citizen engagement in policymaking, and then audit that engagement on a regular basis. It also suggests investing in think-tanks and other non-governmental organizations that do research and advocacy on public policy.

The Conservative government has cut funding for such groups since it came to power in 2006

The non-partisan institute, chaired by former Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow, includes democratic engagement in its Canadian index of well-being. The index measures the quality of life of Canadians based on a number of indicators.

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