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Canadians score high on 'better life', but not our political system

A lot of Canadians may be high-fiving over news their country ranked high on a new "better life index."

Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch isn't one of them. He sees signs of a sick political system in the just released findings by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

"Many people will likely be surprised that Canada ranks only 14th out of the 34 OECD countries in governance, the lowest ranking it received in the 11 categories scored by the OECD," says Conacher, whose independent organization watchdogs good government issues.

"Canada's low voter turnout rate and level of secrecy in government -- including lack of privacy protection for people who request information from government, and lack of whistleblower protection -- caused Canada's low overall governance rating," says Conacher in a press release circulated this morning.

Among residents of 34 countries surveyed by the OECD for its rankings, Canadians scored higher than most for earning, leisure time, education and satisfaction with their lives.

But Conacher says Canada's poorer scores for how the nation is governed reflects findings last year in a report by Global Integrity.

"In the most comprehensive evaluation of Canada's federal government integrity and level of democracy ever completed, Global Integrity's 2010 Report, which used 320 indicators, Canada ranked 19th out of 100 countries (a drop from 11th place in 2008)," notes Conacher.

"Canada's main problem areas were lack of effective ethics rules for everyone involved in politics, patronage and cronyism in appointments, and weak enforcement of all good government rules," he says, adding:

"Clearly, all indicators point to the need for many changes to make Canada's government more open, honest, ethical and representative. And provincial, territorial and municipal government across Canada are plagued by similar problems and in need of similar good government changes."

The OECD includes the U.S., Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and European countries.

David Beers is editor of The Tyee.

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