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Plebiscites… what are they good for?

Posted on October 14, 2014 by Sunny South News

Plebiscites… huh… what are they good for? (say it like you’re singing “War” by Edwin Starr). Well, absolutely anything. From residents voting if hens should be raised in a backyard or liquor sold in a community like Cardston just did earlier this month or if a town should change police services.

Democracy shines — even if some old, out dated and archaic laws need an overhaul. The last time anyone checked Al Capone wasn’t alive and prohibition didn’t exist in most communities across North America. The funny thing is — a town, such as Cardston, isn’t dry. Bootleggers, or should I say town folk who enjoy the odd glass of wine or stein of beer, simply head over to an adjacent town and/or city to stock up on the hooch to bring back to their homes to imbibe and be merry. Businesses in a supposed dry town could make a few more bucks selling booze in moderation and a town, prohibiting it, could make more in taxes. But… those who voted in Cardston, not including the apathetic, voted “no” to selling liquor in the community and voters said “not for another 100 years (at least)” to sitting down at a nice establishment to get their drink on.

Cardston aside, perhaps Coaldale could have went to the public with a plebiscite vote on the issue of changing police services from Lethbridge Regional Police Service (LRPS) to the RCMP, as of January 2016. Cardston did it, a town that continues to be alcohol free (except for those dang bootleggers), so… Coaldale sure the heck could’ve.

What is a plebiscite? Or referendum (to some extent) or vote on a ballot question that can be used by a governing body about a political or pressing issue. Sadly though, a plebiscite is not the end all solution. Some governments may only use the information gathered at the polls to make a final decision about something. Do you remember Scotland recently went to the polls (a referendum) to decide if Scotland continued to be a part of the U.K. or be on its own? Spoiler alert… Scotland remained a part of the U.K.

Does it cost money for a community to hold a plebiscite? Surely, it does. But… perhaps more municipal, provincial and federal governments should hold a vote on important topics including if Canada should go to war or if Quebec should separate from the country. Just think. Voters, from any community, could head to the polls and vote on any number of things. Maybe every year — hamlets, villages, towns, cities, provinces and the country could hold a Canada-wide Plebiscite Day to vote on various items of importance and issues that have the constituents in an uproar. Enough of us expecting elected officials to make the right choices for our well being and future happiness — let’s get involved with the political system. Let’s take the bull by the horns and make choices for we the people.

But… sadly, many voters are apathetic and could care less about politicians making bad choices in the name of doing what they think are our best interests. When an election is held voters vote how they have always voted. Young voters vote how their parents have always voted. And the cycle continues to undermine the whole political system in Canada and globally, in democratic societies. A national Plebiscite Day could work, in theory. Too bad, a high percentage of non-voters, don’t give a damn about local, provincial and federal politics.

Back to any southern Alberta town or Canadian city. Maybe, residents would like to make pink the official colour of downtown. Perhaps, residents would like to bring back sequined jumpsuits, as the official town wardrobe of all employees. Some residents may want to have input or at the very least a public consultation on something as important as a change in police service or the continued ban of liquor in a community. It’s time voters took back the power to decide what is best for each and every member of a civilized society. Sure, not everyone will be happy with the outcome. In order for there to be a winner, there must be a loser. One side will be victorious, as the other side is hopefully noble in defeat, learning from the experience.

Coaldale is moving forward with the RCMP, as decided by the men and women the town’s electorate elected. That is council’s job — to decide what is best for the town, as a whole. They did that. The problem many have with the town’s decision is what some have called a lack of communication and not including input from the town’s residents. Hopefully, in the future, the town and others in southern Alberta will ask the community what is best for the community, on such a big deal. Policing is a big deal. It affects everyone and maybe a vote on it could have gave the town a clearer picture of where residents stand on the issue. It is hoped, the town will provide future opportunities for residents to attend public information sessions. It is also hoped, Canadians will take more interest in democracy and what is happening locally, provincially and federally. Being an informed citizen and a politically active citizen is something we could use a little bit of… moving forward.

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