Decisions should be made in parliament

My own personal opinion is that government by referendum, if not just plain foolish, is at best misguided.

Re: “Referendum a must before election reform”, (Citizen, Oct. 21)

My own personal opinion is that government by referendum, if not just plain foolish, is at best misguided. A close examination of some recent referendums would, I believe, show that referendums are not a good choice for making serious decisions.

One — the HST referendum in British Columbia.

The HST was rejected, I believe, not because the HST per se was bad but because many voters were angry with our then-premier.

Two — the recent British referendum, known as Brexit, led to a bare majority of the British voting to leave the EU. The growing consensus amongst observers of this vote was that many voters did not fully understand what was involved and secondly many voters were just plain angry with current government policies, not necessarily anything to do with the EU.

Some say that if the referendum was held again the British would resoundingly vote to stay in the EU. However, it would appear that they are now stuck with a really bad choice.

Three — the recent referendum in Colombia, to end more than 20 years of civil war, was rejected by the narrowest of margins, 50.2 per cent. It would appear that civil war may well continue in Colombia. Unbelievable.

Four — we had a vote on building a new swimming pool here in the Cowichan a few years ago. I would suggest that if we the voters had been fully informed by our elected officials, the vote would have been negative. Which hits at the nub of one of the problems of referendums, a fully informed and responsible electorate.

A second major problem is the silly idea that the referendum should be decided by 50 per cent plus one vote (of the people that vote).

I suggest that on a serious issue the margin needs to be say 60 per cent, or even 66.6 per cent.

Referendums that bind us financially for 20 years (for example) and are decided by, say, 51 per cent of the vote could mean that an energetic, committed minority can push through an expensive and not necessarily popular project. For example, say only 70 per cent of the public vote on a new swimming pool and the vote is 51 per cent for and 49 per cent against, then only 35.7 per cent of the total population have voted in favour, but of course 100 per cent pay the bill.

We hold elections in Canada and create new parliaments from time to time.

The members of parliament that we elect are accountable to us, the electorate. It is a system that has been in place in Canada and in Great Britain for centuries and has stood the test of time. Parliament is where serious decisions should be made.


Rob Robinson