Not everything should go to a referendum.
Whenever a controversial decision comes up that is going to be decided through the alternative approval process there begin rumblings in the community about how everyone should get to vote on these things.
It’s a sentiment with which we disagree.
Here’s why: if we sent everything to referendum we’d have a completely unwieldy system of government where nothing ever got done, and we’d spend buckets and buckets of money doing it.
Considering that the decisions that stir referendum talk usually involve spending a significant amount of money, it’s a bit ironic that referendum proponents suggest spending exponentially more for a full-scale vote rather than using the AAP.
People have every right to be both interested and concerned over these decisions. In fact, we hope they are. How our governments spend our money should concern all of us. But this is why we elect people. We elect people to represent us in making these decisions, both big and small, because it would be impossible to govern otherwise. Our communities would grind to a halt if we all had to vote on every single decision that needs to be made — or even just the ones a certain number of people feel are significant — day in and day out, year in and year out.
If we don’t like the decisions our elected representatives have made, we have the opportunity to vote them out of office in the next election. And if you want to have more of a say in these decisions on a daily basis, you have the opportunity to run for office yourself.
The AAP sometimes causes consternation. Under this process, 10 per cent of electors must sign and turn in a form opposing whatever project is being proposed for there to be a reconsideration. Many have likened it to negative billing, and claim that the system is stacked against those opposed. But we’ve seen AAPs pass and we’ve seen them fail, so we have to disagree that it is all in the government’s favour. Though imperfect, as any system is, it actually manages to be a decent middle ground between council making a decision and a full scale referendum. It does allow the public to have a voice beyond the usual consultations, or sending in letters of protest. It can also be decent at gauging just how much opposition there may be in the community to a particular idea, though sometimes it can lead to a loud minority carrying the day.
The alternative approval process is not the enemy, and our local governments are not wrong to use it.