I've always been a little jealous of American ballot-initiatives, and living under Conservative Premiers Blaine Higgs and Doug Ford has amplified that feeling. My seventh Advent Policy Brief is a call for plagiarizing US laws that facilitate regular referenda alongside representative elections.
The culture of ballot-initiatives doesn't exist in Canada. When we say "referendum" everyone gets squirmy and thinks about the time Quebec almost left. Americans regularly open up their law books to the general public, and sure, there are some dubious results, but drug law repeals and re-writes are the shining example of what can be achieved by citizen organizing.
I support amendments to federal and provincial Referendum Acts to create a path at each level for citizen-initiated bills to achieve Royal Assent and become law. I also support pathways to citizen-initiated by-laws in Toronto and Ottawa. In general, I support the model in other cities, but from my own years lived in each, I can see them both enthusiastically engaging with the process.
Elections offices will need to be funded significantly more to manage the increased civic engagement. Timelines for proposing language, making amendments, and signature-collecting reach back years before voting day. The logistical complexities make large cities and small provinces the ideal testing grounds before we'd see any movement on a national process.
If Doug Ford wants to strong-arm a ballot-initiative pilot onto Toronto, I wouldn't be mad.