A to a Q

As you all know, I am running for the board of FVC. Here was an extra question from somebody who was late submitting but just really wanted to ge an answer from us, so it was sent along. I think it is important enough for a reply and to put the reply up on my campaign web site and here.

The Q

Would you support a broadening of the Fairvote mandate to include advocacy of any or all of Recall, Citizen Initiatives and Referenda, all of which in one way or another increase citizen involvement in government? On the whole, they are easier for voters to understand than PR and may be a faster way to achieve PR than Fairvote's current approach.

The A

Yes, I do support a broadening of the Fair Vote mandate. I do not necessarily support Recall, Citizen Initiatives, or Referenda. It depends on how these things are done.

Recall is usually just abused by fanatics who cannot accept that they lost the election. But you do need some way of getting rid of someone in office who is clearly not doing the job right.

Initiatives and referenda can also be abused and manipulated. I think the Swiss have it pretty close to right; the issues raised by citizens are then studied by a Citizen's Assembly which investigates and decides if the matter has merit and frames the issue for a referendum. There must be adequate time and resources to have a proper debate about it before a vote. Money has to be kept out of the process.

There are other things that need to be studied and taught by a democratic reform group. In Canada local governments need to be empowered and political divisions rationalized. The principle of subsidiarity needs to be instituted; that government power over each type of function must be at the lowest level that can handle it. The corresponding principle is referentiality; that lower levels of government refer to higher levels only what they cannot deal with themselves, meaning that higher government is the creation of lower government, not the reverse.

Participatory budgeting has worked very well in many local governments around the world and in some places is being tried at regional levels. This means allowing neighborhood councils to decide how to spend available money. Also, delegates of the councils negotiate together to decide whose needs should have priority.

There are so many innovative things being tried out and working well all over the world, which can be studied in Canada. There is no need to try to promote foolish things that have never been seen to work or to work well.

Therefore I am puzzled by the second sentence in the question. None of these things is the same thing as PR. They certainly are not substitutes for PR. Getting PR first will definitely make it easier to achieve these other things.

I think the worst thing that FVC could do once PR is achieved is to decide that the job is done and we can all rest now. Expanding democracy must be a continuing process, just like any area of reforms. A rule about reform movements is that if they do not keep moving forward, they start to slide back.

Canada is long overdue for a modernization of its institutions and PR is just a good first step. tr