Electronic Petitions: A Proposal to Enhance Democratic Participation

Electronic Petitions: A Proposal to Enhance Democratic Participation

Declining rates of political participation demand practical reforms to enhance citizen engagement in our democratic institutions. Tabled in the House of Commons on February 13, 2013, Motion 428 aims to modernize and improve Canada’s antiquated paper-based petitioning process by establishing a system for electronic petitions. It further proposes allowing petitions to trigger short debates in Parliament if they receive a certain threshold of signatures from the public and are sponsored by at least five Members of Parliament. After providing comparative information on similar reforms implemented in other jurisdictions, this article argues that empowering citizens to initiate and sign petitions online will make our democracy more accessible, participatory, and responsive. It concludes with a brief discussion of the prospects of success for a motion submitted by an opposition Member during a period of majority government.