There is a lot of chatter -- particularly from the Conservatives -- about holding a referendum on electoral reform. Gerry Caplan doesn't think a referendum is a good idea. He writes:
To raise issues related to democracy is to raise the question of referendums (or referenda), which are favoured by the Conservatives. They insist only a referendum can legitimize something as fundamental to our democracy as changing our voting system. Presumably the Conservatives also believe a referendum would end up supporting the FPTP status quo, as they themselves do.But there’s a huge problem here. As any sensible political scientist will attest, the legitimacy of a referendum depends to a substantial extent on the clarity of its language. It must not be too complex or raise issues that most voters will find baffling and thereby diminish the credibility of the result.
Consider the question which was used a few years ago in Ontario:
“Which electoral system should Ontario use to elect members to the provincial legislature?
“The existing electoral system.“The alternative electoral system proposed by the Citizens’ Assembly (Mixed Member Proportional).”
How many Ontarians were really familiar with what the Citizen's Assembly had proposed? The best solution -- after having a fair hearing on the subject in the revamped parliamentary committee -- is to choose one system and give it a trial run. If it doesn't work, it can be abandoned or tweaked. If it does work, we should keep it.
Image: the star.com