Canadian Politics

In Canada we live in a democratic nation, this means that we can elect the political party that we think will serve our best interests. There is an election every four years, if at any time in those four years an issue might arise that needs to be addressed by the citizens, the government can have a plebiscite, referendum or a consensus decision making meeting to get the citizens involved in the decision process. I think that these processes are a great political tool, as the results of these processes are a direct example of public opinion and can not be argued, Canadians should participate in political decisions whenever possible.

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A plebiscite is a direct vote by citizens on a specific question, given to them by their government to determine the citizen??™s wishes. In Canada there has been many plebiscite??™s, one of the most memorable one was regarding the video lottery terminals, the question was should they be removed from bars and pubs. There was forty plebiscite??™s conducted across Alberta communities, the results were that the majority of Albertan??™s wanted to keep the VLT??™s in the bars and pubs, and leave the decision about using them up to the individual. The government does not have to act upon the results of the plebiscite, but in this case they did, and removed the VLT??™s from the communities that voted against them. Plebiscites can also be held at the local level of government as well, Calgary voted in a plebiscite to add fluoride to the city??™s drinking water in 1989. The vote was a yes and the city implemented fluoride in our drinking water, the issue was revisited in 1998, Calgarians were asked if they still supported fluoride in the drinking water, fifty five percent of the city voted yes. City??™s can always revisit an issue, people??™s needs and opinions change over time, it is good that government can hold a plebiscite when needed.

A referendum is a special vote in which all eligible citizen??™s may vote on an important issue put to them by a government, this is a form of direct democracy. One of the most controversial referendums in Canada was the Charlottetown Accord, in 1992. The question was ???do you agree that the constitution of Canada should be renewed on the basis of the agreement reached on August 28th 1992??? Fifty four percent of the eligible voters in Canada voted against the Accord, although New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Ontario, PEI, and the North West Territories voted in favor of the accord majority rules an Canada and the Accord was struck down. The government could not go ahead with its proposed revisions to the Canadian constitution.

Consensus decision making is a form of decision making where there is no vote, instead individuals in a group share ideas, solutions and concerns to find a resolution that all members of the group can accept. An example of consensus decision making is the Tsuu Tin??™a First Nations Peacemaker Court, the group has four rounds of discussion to determine the wrong that has been committed, and what impact the wrong has had on the individual or community it was done to. Then the victim, offender and the community representatives try to reach an agreement on the case that will best suit everyone involved.

The people that get elected in Canada do not always represent the values and opinions of every person in their riding even when plebiscites and referendums are held they can??™t please every person. When the government fails to address the needs of society, it can cause people to become enraged, to be fair the government can??™t always meet the needs of every person, and when frustrations reach a boiling point, protests and even riots can occur. An example of this was in February during the Vancouver Olympic torch run, some Canadians who didn??™t think the Government should be spending so much money on the Olympics when Vancouver has a large homelessness problem. The frustrated citizens disrupted the torch run, causing it to be re-routed, and had to miss the tribute to the war veterans. Sometimes people want their voices to be heard and will get their point across at the expense of others.

If any of these government tools are going to work, and be successful, we have to assume that Canadians are well informed, and are voting for what they truly believe. Political Parties spend millions of dollars on advertising and campaigning trying to sway our votes; it does not always reach everyone. Sometimes people get to the voting station and find they don??™t know much or anything about the people involved or the issues they are voting on, if they go out and vote at all. The people who don??™t vote cant really comment on the outcome of the vote, Canada spends lots of money trying to encourage people to get out to the voting stations and make an informed choice; there are many alternatives for individuals who can??™t physically get out to vote.

In Canada we are very lucky that we live in a democratic society, I believe that when a decision in the government is going to affect how we live our every day lives, Canadians should have a say in what is going to happen. Whether it is a plebiscite to see what the majority opinion is, a referendum or consensus decision, Canadians should have a say in a decision that will affect everyone.

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