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Letter of the day
It’s long past time for us to embrace participatory democracy
Marian Wright Edelman is famously quoted as saying "Democracy is not a spectator sport". For a political system to be not only fully democratic but accountable to the electorate, it is imperative for the people to take an active role in their democratic institutions, and not merely head to the polls every four years.
When it comes to participating in our provincial democracy, we as Islanders for years have tended to treat the process as more of a sport to be watched from the sidelines instead of becoming part of the team. Sure, we have one of the highest voting rates per capita in the country, but are we as a society truly politically savvy? Do we understand the most pressing issues of the day or even how government works?
For centuries, Switzerland has maintained a stellar system of direct democracy whereby all citizens have the constitutional right to express their opinion through referendums and even propose amendments to the federal constitution. Furthermore, Swiss citizens have the power to recall legislators who fail to live up to their promises.
Fellow Islanders, we need look no further than the rampant corruption and lack of accountability plaguing our current system of governance. Imagine, if you will if P.E.I. had embraced direct democracy long before now. Unpopular pieces of legislation and initiatives such as Plan B, the HST, and the Municipal Government Act would never have gotten off the ground, as the people would have had the final say via legally binding referendums. As far as recall legislation is concerned, no MLA wants to go down in the history books as the first delinquent politician to be turfed (and subsequently stripped of their pension and benefits) because they arrogantly went against the wishes of their constituents or committed serious legal or ethics violations.
By taking the initiative and supporting direct democracy, Islanders could very easily start a trend that has ripple effects across Canada. It’s time to stop being spectators and participate fully in our democracy.
Chris McGarry is a professional writer and author from Belfast, P.E.I., who has reported on municipal, provincial and federal politics.
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