#38 – Choosing Canada’s future.

How do you choose a future for your country? We have certainly seen enough examples of how not to change the country. They range from revolution to political edicts. Last time we had a revolution, we hung a few rebels (1837 and 1885). Political edicts really do not work for fundamental changes because the next politician in line can un-edict them. A politician such as Lester Pearson can give us Medicare but subsequent politicians can pervert the intent. It is when a change is agreed to by the voters that politicians are more cautious about changing it back.

The last major attempt at change was the Charlottetown Accord that Canadian voters rejected more because it was a solution presented by politicians rather than a properly debated and understood change. In Ontario and British Columbia there were attempts at changing how people vote—moving from first-past-the-post to a form of proportional representation. They failed because the people pushing the proposals were less democratic in being chosen than their proposed changes.

In Ontario, the government actually held a form of lottery to pick one participant in each electoral district. These lottery winners were then given presentations by academics on various options. The outcome was obvious: they were given these choices, so they picked one. The entire project was a fiasco and Ontario voters turned thumbs down on the recommendation of the lottery winners. The results were similar in British Columbia where the government gave the voters two opportunities to change the voting system—with the same negative result both times.

The obvious answer is to use democratic methods to choose the people making the recommendation. If the people are chosen democratically, then the voters can take ownership of their deliberations. They have to have their discussions and debates in open forums. They have to be available to take input from the people who selected them. They have to be people who can function within a political environment.

That was what Ontario’s lottery winners lacked. With not being chosen democratically, they had no concept of how people would react to what they recommended. It would color citizens’ perceptions of the results if one political party dominated the proceedings and the results would have a more balanced reception with a reasonably balance of political philosophies among the participants.

Whether we called it a constitutional assembly or a Friday night fish fry, it would still need to attract the participation of people interested in how the country works and with ideas about how we can make it better. Some political science professors would be attracted but these people tend to be long on theory and short on practical knowledge and might have a difficult time getting elected to the assembly.

This is what is called a KISS solution. It means keep it simple stupid. And that is also one of the important keys to making it work. Confuse the voters and they will withdraw their support. As long as the average person can easily follow the process, understand the necessary discussions and dialogues and appreciate the conclusions, we could have a winning formula to Canada’s future. All we have to do is build some support.

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