As this chapter of the HST struggle winds down, let’s consider the potential impact of the process. For me, as a proponent of true democratic reforms, this has been a monumental struggle. The results of the referendum are less important than the fact that citizens–hard-working folks that pay the bills and whose lives are directly impacted–were given the opportunity to have a say in public policy!
The whole process has shown that it is possible for The People to participate in the decisions that affect their lives. Imagine!
Never mind that this was a last-ditch effort to save a doomed political party, or that the question was posed after the introduction of the new tax. I’ll also ignore (for now) the point that having the government decide what the people are allowed to vote on is certainly still not democratic, or that the government is free to interpret the results as they see fit.
No, for now, I want to focus on the positive—the potential! There are now real reasons to believe that citizens will be allowed to participate in some of the decisions that shape our society, our future, our children’s futures. Imagine a society where all people are given a voice on issues such as taxation, crime, education, economic principles, and environmental issues. Imagine a society where the will of the people has to be taken into consideration!
We’re not there, certainly, and I don’t think we should be moving towards a true democracy overnight, but it is inevitable that people will demand the right to make decisions on certain issues, now that the practical barriers to doing so have been largely eliminated.
And why shouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t the populace be allowed to decide matters such as increasing taxation? People aren’t as dumb as many would have you believe, and the HST referendum is a great example of this. The fact that more people participated in this referendum than in many past elections is evidence of the hunger for some participation, any participation, within our so-called democracy. The fact that many citizens actually cast a vote for higher taxes! in this referendum shows that people are, in fact, capable of critical thinking and not simply focused on their own short termed interests.
Focusing on their own short-term interests seems to be the dominion of our leaders and their parties.
I know true democracy is difficult to comprehend and seems daunting, but so did the concept of being allowed to vote for those making the decisions when that was granted to us plebs hundreds of years ago.
The next logical (and way overdue) step in the evolution of democracy is to introduce some democratic processes. There are plenty of things The People can and should be deciding, and the canned rhetorical reasons for not allowing citizens to do so are being examined with increased scrutiny and deemed as obsolete.
The first step towards monumental change is often the hardest, and this flawed, politically motivated process will be looked back upon as an unlikely harbinger of true democratic reforms.
Get ready for democracy!