The merits of holding a referendum on equalization are debatable and there are valid points to be made on both sides of the issue. Nenshi’s enraged opposition to the possibility of a referendum is based on pure, vulgar elitism. Naheed Nenshi thinks that Albertans are incapable of handling multiple questions at once at the ballot box. He claims that coupling a referendum with the municipal ballots next year would be “disrespectful to voters”. What is disrespectful is Nenshi’s attitude towards the great unwashed voters.
Nenshi’s dream of spending billions of tax dollars on two week party as a personal vanity/legacy project was dashed solidly when taxpayers were given a choice to vote on an Olympic bid. Naheed was “very very” disappointed in those curs who dared to slap down his pet project. In light of that, it is not surprising that Nenshi doesn’t want to empower citizens further by giving them more choices to directly vote upon.
Mixed direct/legislative democracy is not an untested concept. Switzerland has long used this style of governance. In being one of the richest and peaceful nations on earth while being small and landlocked, I would say that the Swiss are on to something. In giving voters a direct say in policy for generations, their unwashed masses have guided the country into being one of the most successful nations on earth. The humble ground level voters not only could handle multiple ballot questions, they appear to have consistently chosen wisely.
The Swiss go to the polls on referendum questions several times per year and vote on dozens of initiatives. Some are as serious as their overwhelming choice to refuse to join the EU (really pissed off the elitists with that one), to voting on whether farmers who choose to de-horn their livestock should qualify for agricultural subsidies. The ballot lists smaller local initiatives right along with larger federal ones and those darned voters somehow manage to handle these choices.
The Swiss have been allowing their citizens to vote directly on policy since 1848 so I think it is fair to say that their system has withstood the test of time.
Direct democracy helps keep voters engaged and increases turnouts. A Swiss electoral study had found that over 90 percent of voters had cast their ballots at least once in the previous 20 votes. Numbers that we Canadians can barely dream of. Those turnouts rise and fall depending on the issue of the day but clearly the electorate is very engaged. Great to see isn’t it? Unless you don’t actually like giving the majority a direct say in matters of governing of course.
Are the Swiss all immeasurably smarter than Albertans? Hey, they are clearly pretty bright but I am not sure by how many measures they may be better equipped than Albertans are in handling direct democracy.
Nenshi feels that Albertans are too dumb to walk and chew gum at the same time. He thinks that having more than one or two questions on a ballot would confuse the masses.
Nenshi’s biggest fear of course is simply in losing control. That is the hallmark of an ivory tower elitist. Perhaps a better engaged electorate may finally toss him out on his ass so he can enjoy retirement with his two tax funded pension plans.
I trust Albertans to be able to handle making choices on a referendum ballot at the same time as picking their municipal representatives. It is sad but unsurprising that Nenshi thinks so little of the voters who pay his salary.