From the People? – Maybe Now is the Time to Take A Better Look at Direct Democracy

So “For the People” has become Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s go to catchphrase. (replacing “Folks”) He claims that everything he does is “for the people”. Recently, he proclaimed that he has a mandate “from the people” to halve the number of council seats in the City of Toronto in the middle of the election campaign period. Well hold on now. “From the people” and “for the people” have two entirely different meanings. In the context of the situation of the elimination of Toronto city council seats this makes a significant difference. Well actually, it could make a significant difference in any number of situations.

During the recent Ontario provincial election campaign, there was no mention in the Progressive Conservative platform that the elimination of half of the Toronto City Council was an initiative they were proposing to carry out. However, it didn’t take long for this to be one of their priority issues. So important, that the Premier used the never used before in Ontario “Notwithstanding clause” of the Constitution to ensure the passage of the legislation to reduce the number of council seats.
It is extremely problematic once you start down a path of using heavy handed legal maneuvers to ensure passage of legislation that was not mentioned previously during an election campaign or without significant debate in the legislature. In this case, no debate. What unknown and unheard of before policies could be next?
So how does one ensure that the citizens are able to be informed, educated and have an opportunity to support or oppose proposed legislation within a reasonable time frame?

Perhaps this is a good time to begin exploring forms of direct democracy available. Advancements in technology, in particular privacy and security, would enable the use of direct democracy for significant policy initiatives facing citizens. This would allow for discussion and for people to support or oppose an initiative after each side (remember there are only two here, yes or no) has had an opportunity to provide arguments as to why citizens should support their side.

Referendum initiatives have not been widely used in Canada, but they certainly have been in the United States. Of course, the legislation and rules around initiating a referendum differ by state. These same rules would have to be set up in Canada, but only after significant debate.

This is really just the start of my pondering on this idea. There is certainly a lot more to be worked out.

I think that exploring the avenue of increased direct democracy will move us a lot closer to “from the people” and true democracy than the chants of “for the people” without any debate.

Back to all works