I was reading a CBC article this morning detailing the Conservative’s proposed referendum law. The article is generally favourable of the PC plan and failed to emphasize how seriously the law’s failings would negatively impact NB. I’m generally a fan of direct democracy, but it has to be informed democracy. A committee on Legislative Democracy in 2005 suggested using referenda in New Brunswick, but stressed the importance of having yes/no committees. Each committee would campaign and inform voters about the pros and cons of each side. Without them, we’ll have a public voting on their knee-jerk reaction. Budget cuts, I guess.
The article mentions how fantastic it is that referenda will require a “double majority” (50% of votes means a win, but the result isn’t binding unless at least 50% of eligible voters participate). This, combined with restrictions that make it illegal to take away rights and freedoms granted by the Charter are supposed to protect minority rights, is supposed to reassure us that referenda will only be used for good. Leave it up to the Torries to make a big deal out of how they’re not infringing on the personal rights of minorities.
With a NB legislature that’s pretty much doing whatever it wants, language of referenda will be subject to the subtle crafting of Torry MPs. I’ve seen how weighted questions can have a huge impact on referenda results on even trivial matters and, frankly, I don’t trust the government (regardless of it’s colour).
In the end, the new Referendum Law appears to be a way for governments to pass the blame for bad decisions onto citizens who were too uninformed to make a smart decision. A Referendum Law, in principle, isn’t a bad idea. However, this one is just another reason I’ll be glad to leave New Brunswick.
36 days. Can’t wait.