Direct Democracy in Canada: The History and Future of Referendums


407 words

Title: Direct Democracy in Canada: The History and 
Future of  Referendums;  Patrick Boyer; Dundurn Press; 
Paperback; 312 pages, CAN$19.99

Reviewer: A.T.Connellan, 

Boyer makes a convincing case for referenda

He's back, as promised, for another try at convincing us that 
pendulum politics is a valid way to govern a country. What 
makes Mr. Boyer all the more interesting this time is his 
candidacy for the leadership of the Federal Progressive 
Conservative Party. 

Patrick Boyer continues where he left off in his previous book, 
The Peoples Mandate to relentlessly pursue logic, for 312 
pages, in his quest to convince us of the merit of plebiscites 
and referendums as a way of supplanting representational 
incompetence or of providing participatory democracy via 
the poll. 

His enthusiasm for referendums is not shared by other 
politicians, notably the local bunch, who have had 
enabling legislation available since the last provincial 
election. Their studious avoidance of this option is clearly 
self serving. Would the vapid Premier, the rapid Sihota, the 
cherubic Cull, and that Alfred E. Neuman of Finance Ministers, 
likely to have survived the first 30 days? 

For Patrick Boyer, the fly in his ointment and the flaw in 
his argument, is that when all the polling, probing, studying, 
etc., are completed, someone has to make a decision. After 
all, isn't that what you and I agreed to pay these people for 
when we hired them through an election? Had that responsibility 
been fulfilled the referendum would not have been necessary, we 
would have an extra 150 million dollars in pocket, and Canada 
would have moved forward into the 21st century with all its 
provinces securely within confederation. 

The author provides a chapter long perceptive analysis of the 
October 26, 1992 referendum. The most compelling argument 
against his pet process is the incongruous result of that 
referendum. A decision of monumental importance to the future 
of our country was decided, not on the merit of its content, 
but on the perceived popularity of one of its proponents. None 
of this would have been necessary but for an act of 
extraordinary political cowardice in Newfoundland that 
thwarted the Meech Lake Agreement. Decision making is not for 
the faint of heart. 

In the final analysis, Patrick Boyer has given us a carefully 
prepared history of the direct vote in Canada. As with his 
earlier books; Appendixes, Notes, Bibliography, and Index 
firmly support his scholarship. His treatise causes us to 
examine the facile remedy of the referendum against the 
complex constituency system, it would inevitably dis-assemble.
Once again he didn't convince me, but it was so worthwhile, I 
hope you'll give him a read. 

Back to Non Fiction Book Reviews index

Back to Home page