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! Continue reading
Tag Archives: HST
There’s been much ado about the cost of the HST referendum, and it’s valid ado. $30 million is a lot of money. However, my preliminary calculations show that referenda could actually be held for somewhere around eight bucks. Via the internet.
That’s right, the internet. You know, that thing we do everything else on. Like banking, shopping, and finding home remedies for weird rashes. I’ve been claiming that we will be using the internet to vote for years, and, until recently, most people have thought I was crazy. I think even the most adamantly opposed to the idea, though, now have to admit that it’s not a matter of if but when we will start using the internet to cast our votes. It is going to happen.
So why not start now? One of the main weapons in the arsenal of anti-True Democracy warriors has been the cost and feasibility of allowing The People a say in public policy. That particular weapon is about to become outdated. It is now completely possible to introduce some true democratic processes into our democracy.
I’m not for scrapping everything and having true democracy, at least not overnight. But, there are things that are perfectly reasonable for the public to decide on, and an arbitrary tax shift is a perfect example. We will now (maybe) have the chance to debate and approve or disapprove of the HST, but look at the process it has taken to get here. Matters like this should automatically be decided by the people, and now it is possible to do so.
Of course, it will take some will and cash to design a system that will make e-referenda possible. So let’s use that projected $30 million to design the system now. Once the system is worked out it will be in place for future referenda, elections, polls, etc. This will save millions (billions?) of tax dollars for things like education, health care, and political pensions.
Should the HST be the first e-referenda?
The process of implementing the HST in BC continues to illuminate my long standing arguments about why people have lost faith in our system of government.
I have already written about the democraticness of introducing the new tax weeks after campaigning on a platform of no new taxes, but the Recall and Initiatives Act is an even better example of the safeguards in place to shield governments from having to represent the people.
The Zalmer’s initiative to repeal the HST under the Act is a noble gesture that is doomed to failure. Not because there aren’t enough people who passionately hate the new tax. Not because the drive won’t be well-organized. Not because of a lack of volunteers. The initiative will fail because even if the canvassers somehow collect enough signatures under the incredibly stringent guidelines, the government DOESN’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT! That’s right. Even if every single person in BC signed the petition, the government would not have to repeal the hated new tax! The Recall and Initiatives Act is specially formulated to ensure that, ultimately, the ruling government can not be forced to represent its people.
How’s that for democracy? The funny thing is that the ACT is a groundbreaking and revolutionary tool of modern democracy. Before its inception in 1994 we didn’t even have a pretend process for people led initiatives! Now at least we have that.
I just don’t get why we cling–like a monkey to her dead baby–to the label of Democracy, when we so clearly don’t have one. Maybe a true democratic system isn’t currently possible, but who decided that all you have to do is hold the odd election in order to use the title? Now anyone who has an election gets to call itself a Democracy. It’s ludicrous. Pericles and Cleisthenes would be all hella trippin on these noobs if they were up in these times.
I see almost no connection between a democracy, in which citizens debate issues and make decisions, and our current system, in which decisions are made by one party or the other. The best we can hope for is a change of oligarchies every few years. Are we cool with that?
And don’t tell me that adding the qualifier “representative” before democracy makes it OK. That’s an even bigger insult, as it implies, well, representation. “Representation” means doing something on behalf of someone, not to someone. The HST debacle illustrates this beautifully. The vast majority of citizens clearly oppose the HST. So who is being represented in its implementation?
I’m not calling for true democracy over night. I’m just saying let’s call a spade a spade.
Either change the system or change the name.