November 17, 2000
8:00 AM   Subscribe

In the other important election still to be decided:

The Canadian Alliance Party and their creationist leader, Stockwell Day, is proposing that if 3% of the Canadian electorate request it, the government should be obliged to hold a referendum on just about any issue. Up until now, many Canadians had been concerned that under a Alliance regime they would be facing endless referenda on limiting abortion rights, immigration, banning gay marriage, native rights, and so on. It was a sad, depressing prospect, as anyone living in Quebec knows.

Last week, however, the CBC television program This Hour Has 22 Minutes found a "hidden issue" I and many other "silent Canadians" can support: changing Mr. Day's first name from Stockwell to Doris.

If you are a Canadian citizen, add your name at the 22 Minutes Web site.
posted by tranquileye (20 comments total)

Beat me to it tranquileye.... I think I brought the 22 Minutes website up a couple days ago in an older post here on MeFi. I was thinking of reposting it on the front page, but you've done a far better job of posting than I could have.

They now have over half a million people signed up on the site... Go show your support for the right to hold a referendum on issues that matter to you!
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 8:34 AM on November 17, 2000

Wow, that's the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. I wish I was Canadian.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:36 AM on November 17, 2000

I think it's fine for 3% of the population to be able to bring up referenda for everyone to vote on. But perhaps, something greater than a simple majority should be required for passage?
posted by daveadams at 9:11 AM on November 17, 2000

a) That site is absolutely brilliant.

b) It's unconstitutional. Referenda have no legal weight in Canada. It must be done in the normal process of parliament and signed by the Queen or her rep. These referenda would be a waste of time.

c) At an estimated cost of $150 million (granted, that's Canadian, but it's still a lot of money :) it's a waste of time and money to vote on things that we elected people to do for us in the first place. If you don't like the job that they did the first time around, vote them out of office in the next election.

posted by mzanatta at 9:21 AM on November 17, 2000

Not 3% of the population, 3% of the *electorate*.

I would be interested in hearing why daveadams thinks that 3% is not an unreasonably small number. As of this writing, referenda are not binding under the Canadian constitution. Unless the laws are changed, the CRAP party proposal will result in a massive wasting of both time and money on everyone's part. Frankly, I can only see it being used as a way to filibuster and/or keep an issue in the media when it wouldn't otherwise be.

If the laws are changed, it ultimately begs the question in light of the CRAP party policy of decentralizing power and leaving the federal government with about as much responsibility as the current Govenor General...
posted by aaronofmontreal at 9:29 AM on November 17, 2000

Didn't "Stockwell Day" used to be known as "Dominion Day"?
posted by dhartung at 11:09 AM on November 17, 2000

I would be interested in hearing why daveadams thinks that 3% is not an unreasonably small number

Well, maybe 5% then. What percentage of the electorate has to sign a petition to get local or state initiatives on the ballot? In Florida (to use the first example I could find), Constitutional amendments can be voted on when petitioned by 8% of the previous election turnout (according to this page), which is probably usually 5% or less of the total electorate.

This is essentially the same thing, although if the referenda aren't even binding, but a way to have the citizens make their voices heard, what's the problem?

Anyway, it's still a lot of people. There are about 30 million people living in Canada. Let's assume that just half of them are registered to vote (if you even have to do that in Canada, what do I know?), then 3% of the electorate is 450,000 people. That's a lot of signatures to collect. 5% would be 750,000 signatures. I don't think that's unreasonably small.
posted by daveadams at 11:15 AM on November 17, 2000

As of a few minutes ago it was 623,486. It's most likely gone beyond "Canadian citizens" though.

Damn... I miss This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
posted by heather at 12:27 PM on November 17, 2000

The This Hour... site proves quite astutely why 3% is a bad, bad number. Also, there's easily 3% of the national electorate who believe that abortion should be illegal (for instance), and if the CRAP* were to institute such a thing, we'd be referenduming the same tired old topics.

I think the idea of allowing people to petition for referenda isn't in itself a bad one, but bump the number to 25% or something to prove it actually has a chance of getting a majority vote.

Also, make the referenda process much much easier. If you want to have a national dialogue with the people, don't make them take 2 hours of work to go stand in line to fill in a ballot, let them mail it in, or go to electronic booths in shopping centres to let them decide.

Daveadams, yes you need to register to vote, but it's a pretty simple process.

*CRAP is actually their acronym. The full name of the "Canadian Alliance" is actually Canadian Reform Alliance Party. Thank you, Aaron, for using the acronym, it never clicked for me before.
posted by cCranium at 12:30 PM on November 17, 2000

Shows the shocking power of the forwarded email. What's the next thing we can gather half a million signatures for? Free beer for all Canadians? Declare war on the US if Dubya wins? C'mon, it's easy!
posted by jmcnally at 12:47 PM on November 17, 2000

Declare war? Forget that, we're getting all those liberal artsy forward-thinkers who promised to leave the states if bush wins. We're building the extra houses now. Thank goodness for the delay, we thought we weren't going to have time.

And, actually, it shows the popularity of This Hour. Also, how many people want our public officials to make even bigger asses of themselves.

I'm sure you could easily get 450,000 signatures for the other politicians to change their names to something far wittier than I'm able to think of, but then, that's the whole point of this. To prove what a pathetically impotent number 3% of the population is.

(and if we all got free beer, it'd probably drive our GDP into the ground. :-)
posted by cCranium at 2:10 PM on November 17, 2000

I think Stockwell Day is a pretty pretty man, and having the name of a famous silver screen starlet would serve him well. Go Doris!
posted by cell divide at 2:53 PM on November 17, 2000

Suddenly I don't feel all that bad our Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

I am suddenly faced with my complete ignorance of Canadian politics. Does this guy actually get press up north? Is he considered a serious contendor, or just Canada's version of Pat Buchanan?
posted by RakDaddy at 3:39 PM on November 17, 2000

stockwell day is a moron
in yesterday's vancouver sun...and these are quotes mind you...
"Day declares world 6000 years old!"
"Day says men walked with dinosaurs!"
posted by starduck at 4:01 PM on November 17, 2000

Thank you, Aaron, for using the acronym, it never clicked for me before.

Well, to be fair it's actually something like CARP now. It was CRAP for a day or so following the convention that gave birth to the party. Took them that long, though, to click on the acronym.

That's a lot of signatures to collect. 5% would be 750,000 signatures. I don't think that's unreasonably small.

I'm not going to argue that that isn't a lot of people, but it's still only 3-5% of the electorate and that isn't very much by my lights.

We've never had ballot/citizen initiatives in Canada, but I haven't heard very many good things about them -- largely from people living in California where they seem to have turned the process into an artform -- and I confess I just don't think they are a good idea.

Yes, there ought to be better ways for people to express their views and grievances with their elected officials but I don't think that binding single-issue referenda on contentious issues with far-reaching impacts is the way to do it. Politics and government is the art of compromise which, while often less than satifying, is at the heart of (usually) peaceful and democratic societies.

I'm not totally opposed to the idea of ballot initiatives, but my gut tells me that they do both the discussion and the community as a whole a dis-service since they are generally addressed as short-term winner take all debates.

And for those who care, Stockwell Day has said that he would ammend the Constitution (real evil g2) and, potentially, allow the citizens to decide whether their referenda were binding or not. Nice idea, I suppose, until you scratch the surface.
posted by aaronofmontreal at 4:37 PM on November 17, 2000

RakDaddy: The Canadian Alliance is currently the second most popular party in Canada. The Liberals (simliar to Democrats) are chiming in at around 45% of the polls, the Alliance just under 30%, the Progressive Conservatives (fomerly analgous to the Republicans) and the New Democratic Party have around 9% each, and the Bloc Quebecois something like 6 or 7%.

posted by cCranium at 7:00 AM on November 18, 2000

Dear God in mean there's chance that Day might get into Parliament? And maybe become PM?

Why am I suddenly concerned? Gee Dubya in the US, Doris Day in Canada...and now I wish I knew more about Vicente Fox.
posted by RakDaddy at 1:26 PM on November 18, 2000

Day's already been a member of the provincial parliament in Alberta, and was quite prominent there also. I can happily guarantee you he'll win his riding next week, and quite probably end up being the leader of the Official Opposition.

Don't get me wrong here, Day and the Alliance do have some worthwhile ideas about where the government. But then, I suppose the Republicans do as well, and there are more people aghast at the idea of Bush being president then there are Day being PM.

There's a pretty good chance right now that the Liberals will gain the majority government, and if they don't the NDP party has already said they'd support the Liberals in the House of Commons. (similar to Congress) That at least means that stuff will get done in government, and that the NDP party (Alexa McDonnough being the sanest Canadian candidate) will be able to hold some kind of reins on vehemently opposed legislation.

Non-majority governements are a pain in the ass, because almost nothing gets done, but they're also good in that the stuff that does get done is generally agreed upon by more than 70% of the house.
posted by cCranium at 1:44 PM on November 18, 2000

Tangentially: as a Yorkshireman, it's heartwarming that Canadian constituencies are called "ridings".
posted by holgate at 12:23 AM on November 19, 2000

holgate: The Canadian Parliamentary system should be essentially the same as the British one. We still have a Governer General, after all.

(A Governer General, for you non-British commonwealth types, is the Queen's representative in her commonwealth nations. Theoretically speaking, the Governer General has the ability to veto and bill passed through the House of Commons, but in practice it isn't done, because that would piss off a whole lot of us and cause a complete breaking away from Britain.)
posted by cCranium at 5:31 AM on November 19, 2000

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