What da…?

Nov 17 2012

Illustration by Ricky King

It fills the local papers, television stations and airwaves. Frankly, I’m sick of hearing it and I’m sure I’m not alone on that. It’s going to happen regardless of protesting and nay-saying. I think you all know what I’m talking about. Now, everyone wants a referendum. Why ask a bunch of people to vote on something they know nothing about? How does that make sense?

Rant by Rapid Flow

15 responses so far

  1. People should know everything about it. Therein lies the problem.

  2. Amen!
    I’ve been following much of the Muskrat Falls stuff and I gotta say, I’m still puzzled by it all. I’m with you though – a referendum might be pointless.

  3. i moved here 6 years ago, and my fiance (from here) told me about the fuss that surrounded the outer ring road development and how that was going to ruin everything if it were built…..years of bull shittery and argument back and forth between the “lets build it” crowd and the naysayer crowd, but everyone knew it was going to happen eventually anyway. tonnes of wasted tax dollars to do analysis, and what do we have now? the outer ring road…which is pivotal. maybe an askew analogy to draw a parallel but my point is this. its going to happen. learn about it. read about it. ultimately, deal with it.

  4. Referendums are not only pointless but in most cases are unhealthy for representative democracy. One year ago we gave the government a strong mandate to govern, and that’s what they should do, not call a referendum every time there’s a decision to be made.

    The Muskrat Falls detractors don’t seem to understand why or even if they’re opposed to this themselves, and I don’t think they even care. They simply don’t like this government in general and are trying to be a thorn in it’s side over it’s signature issue by using foolish tactics like referendums and filibusters. I’m not 100% supportive of the way the government has handled this, but the detractors, especially our opposition members, have certainly not made a case for themselves either. They don’t want honest debate over it either, they just want to antagonize the democratically elected government.

    And lets face it, no matter how much information and debate there is, most people out there are either unable or unwilling to wrap their heads around an issue like this, that’s why we elect a government. I’m all for representative democracy, but I don’t think Joe Voter needs to have direct say in every government decision either. A referendum over Muskrat Falls would be a bad precedent to set.

  5. “A year ago we gave the government a strong mandate to govern”

    Ummm, not exactly. Less thank 25% of the eligible vote endorsed the current government. The remainder either didn’t vote, or voted for other parties. For those that opposed the project, there was mo party platform that specifically opposed the project. At the lime of the election, much of what is known today including NL’s latest projected cost of $6.2 billion was not in the public realm,

    A referendum would not set a precedent either – PEI held a referendum over a fixed link. NL last held one deciding to end the denominational school system.

    Would a referendum be effective in ensuring that the best choice is made? Probably not. I agree with your point that most are unable or unwilling to wrap their heads around the issue. We have a Public Utilities Board that has just that responsibility. Government prematurely asked the PUB to make a decision already, but they severely limited the scope of their decision as well as neglected to provide them with the necessary information to ensure a valid assessment was possible. Personally, I’d like to see the latest data presented to the PUB along with a wide open mandate to determine the most advantageous course of action.

    Barring that, I’d prefer to have the people that are going to pay for the project decide.

  6. Can the people really be relied on to vote? Large portions of the population can’t and/or don’t get out to vote during election time.

  7. The majority of the protests & concerns around the issue aren’t related to the project per se, but the process – specifically, the fact that government isn’t following it’s own rules. Do we need a referendum? Maybe not, but we do need a transparent, accountable gov’t leading something this big – not one hiding behind new restrictions on information access and displaying a complete contempt for the voting public. No mandate absolves a gov’t of responsibility to it’s electorate.

  8. Christopher Chafe

    I’d bet my life that if we held a referendum on this and it passed, those opposing it would still be up in arms and say we weren’t knowledgeable enough to make a sound decision.

  9. Yeah, just like the Upper Churchill. We had experts who reviewed the project, and they advised the Smallwood government that it was good, and it went ahead. Thank God there were no naysayers, because they ruin everything. If our own experts and the government think its a good idea, then it is. Oops, except that the Upper Churchill was the worst deal we ever signed, and it will be forever recognized as the largest blunder ever committed by a government. Not saying Muskrat Falls is or isn’t such a blunder. It’s certainly gotten more analysis than the Upper Churchill did, but the best thing we could do right now is resubmit the decision gate 3 numbers along with the mandate to look at all alternatives to Muskrat Falls to the Public Utilities Board. If we did that and Muskrat Falls was still the best option, I would volunteer to be head cheerleader. Right now, I’m in the “could be convinced, but not yet convinced” column. A referendum is not the way to go, in my view, because this analysis needs a level of expertise that the average voter does not possess.

  10. There would be die-hards that would make this decision, yes. I imagine the argument would go something along the lines of “the referendum question wasn’t clear” or “anti-Muskrat Falls crowd wasn’t given enough of an opportunity to properly educate the public.” Moving the goal posts isn’t terribly hard.

    However, the difference is that a referendum victory (that isn’t a 50% + 1 vote squeaker) would be enough to draw many of those on the fence (and yes, there are many people on the fence, including me) over to the government side by the sheer inertia it would put behind the movement. Dunderdale would have a definitive mandate and would be able to characterize the die-hards as, well, die-hards.

  11. Holy fudge! A post where Gordon Gekko is actively arguing for a massive expansion of government involvement in the economy!

    I have a hard time believing Gekko’s argument that we go to the polls to abdicate all of our responsibilities as citizens to a handful of individuals, all of whom have their own views and agendas.

    After all, incumbents are evaluated during elections based on their record in office. This, in itself, forces the government to listen to the people, and at least try and craft legislation and policy based on the wishes and needs of the entire public – not the wishes and needs of a small clique of politicians and senior-level bureaucrats.

    Referendums are rare occurrences in the history of the province, and are usually called when an issue has provoked an excessively bitter and divisive debate, with little hope of any kind of compromise being reached.

    The past two referendums were on constitutional issues that touched the very fabric of the province’s society. So has Muskrat Falls – the project has touched on decades of frustration and resentment over the massive giveaway that was the Upper Churchill. Pro-Muskrat people see the project as a way to right the wrongs of a previous era. Anti-Muskrat people fear a repeat of the Upper Churchill contract.

    In that sense, a Muskrat Falls referendum wouldn’t set a precedent. It would be following an already set precedent.

  12. You’re right, previous referendums have been constitutional issues, which as far I’m concerned is the only time when a referendum is appropriate if not outright necessary. Muskrat Falls does not involve a constitutional amendment. Referendums are extremely rare not just in NL but in Canada as a whole, and we should try to keep it that way.

    “After all, incumbents are evaluated during elections based on their record in office”

    Exactly. We elect them to govern, and then evaluate them at election time. We should not be calling a referendum every time there is a difficult decision to be made. That’s not how a government should work.

  13. Not So Fast I already addressed one of your comments in my previous post. Abolishing the denominational school system, as well as building the PEI fixed link, both involved constitutional amendments. Muskrat Falls does not. They are completely different types of issues.

    As for your 25% comment. I find it amusing how Canadians only bring up those numbers when they disagree with the outcome of an election or oppose a particular government decision. Voting is not mandatory here (in some places it is), yet we bend over backwards to get people out to vote. Candidates will provide transportation to polling stations. Employers are required to allow time off so employees can vote. We have mail in ballots. If we don’t have online voting yet we eventually will. If people don’t bother to vote they don’t count. Your 25% figure is irrelevant. Now this is getting a bit off topic, but a more concerning issue here is the unfairness of the “first-past-the-post” system, but once again Canadians rarely seem to care much about that unless their party loses an election or they disagree with one specific government decision. Switching to a proportional representation system is the type of thing that should be put to referendum, and has in Ontario and several other provinces. It was soundly defeated each time. Until people in vast numbers demand electoral reform I cannot take anyone seriously when they question the legitimacy of our government due to voting percentages. A perfect example of this is the way liberals have been howling ever since Harper got a majority government with 40% of votes cast by 60% of eligible voters. This is our system, and as long as most Canadians approve of this system you cannot question the legitimacy of our government.

  14. 75% of the population isn’t included in the “we” you referred to GG. That may be the system, but to plant your flag as that being justification for the government to act as they please doesn’t hold weight.
    No party offered an opposing stance on this project. Most people, including myself, trusted that the checks and balances in place to protect our best interests would be respected. The PC’s never indicated that they would tie the PUB’s arms behind their back and require them to answer a highly structured yes or no choice when they presented their platform.
    I don’t have a crystal ball, I have no idea if projections regarding oil prices have any foundation in reality. I do invest though, and that activity has taught me that to make projections 5 decades into the future is foolhardy.
    A decision that will bind the people of the province for at least the next 13 governments should be made with more consideration than the whim of the currently ruling party. My beef with the project is not fear of repeating Churchill Falls, it’s that the scale is beyond what is foreseeable as being required and the public spend associated is massive. Even if it does cost more in the long run based on today’s information, I believe we’d be far better off managing affairs in much smaller bites than a single roll of the dice gamble that will suck what could be grossly inflated rents from our economy for most of my kid’s lifetime.
    We simply don’t have that right. If we really desire a project on the scale of Muskrat Falls, front load the costs so that we, the ones that are supposedly making the decision, bear the brunt of the costs.

  15. Well then, how SHOULD our government work?

    After all, the 1971 and 1972 elections worked SO well in stopping the Upper Churchill contract in its tracks.