Some Relevant Referendums in Canada.
3.1 – Plebiscites and referendum have been around for over a hundred years. A non-binding plebiscite on prohibition of alcohol was held in Canada on September 29, 1898
3.2 – The Province of British Columbia introduced The Direct Legislation Bill in 1919. J. S. Cowper, MLA defended the proposed law. The Bill was passed, but never received Royal Assent. The government feared that it would be ruled unconstitutional.
3.3 – A non-binding plebiscite on conscription was held in Canada on April 27, 1942.
3.4 – The National Referendum on the Charlottetown Accord was a package of proposed amendments to the Constitution of Canada. It was defeated on October 26, 1992.
3.5 – The Quebec referendum on October 30th. 1995 asked whether Quebec should secede from Canada and become an independent state. The motion was defeated by a very narrow margin.
3.6 – The British Columbia Recall and Initiative Referendum on October 17, 1991. There were two questions: One on whether elected officials should be able to be recalled and another on whether voters should be given the right to initiate legislation by referendum. Both questions were decisively approved by the electorate with 83% and 84% respectively.
In theory, the Initiative and Recall Legislation was introduced by the BC Legislature in 1996 as law. In practice however, the requirements for recalling MLAs were so onerous that although many ridings started the petition, none were qualified to trigger a Recall by-election during the following 15 years. Furthermore, the mechanisms for citizens to initiate legislation are unnecessary cumbersome as well.
3.7 – A referendum on electoral reform was held on May 17, 2005. British Columbian voters were asked to approve a new electoral system based on the Single Transferable Vote, STV-BC. It failed to meet the required “supermajority” threshold of 60%. A second referendum on the same issue was held on May 12, 2009. The second defeat meant a “supermajority” of 60.92% voting for retaining the current “first past the post” electoral system.
3.8 – In Rossland, BC, referenda was adopted and practiced, between 1991 and 2001, until the local government was made aware, by the Minister of Municipal Affairs, of the “ultra virus” illegality of it.
In Canada, a referendum, meaning a binding vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular law, needs the adoption of a constitutional amendment. Currently, the supreme authority to legislate comes down from the Queen to parliament, not from the people up to politicians. Andre Carrel, a retired city manager, expands on this issue on his book, “Citizens’ Hall.”
3.9 – Elections BC administered the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) Mail-in Referendum – June 13 – August 5, 2011. 54% of BC voter’s rejected the government’s imposed HST. The argument here is not to analyze which form of taxation is more fair, and who benefits most from either form of taxation, the important issue, for this PDD Thesis, is that the citizens of BC have made a binding decision which, in principle, should overrule their government’s decision.
This is just a small sample of the precedence and local experimentation with citizens participation, or direct democracy. The next chapter focuses on some detrimental contradictions between the few in government and the majority of citizens.