How Canadians Can Move Towards Genuine Democracy - Starting Today

As a result of the Federal election on May 2nd, we Canadians are facing four years of “rule” under a false majority representing only 40% of the people who voted.  Across Canada 7,867,870 people voted Liberal, NDP or Green.  5,832,401 voted Conservative. This is a difference of over 2 million who voted against this government.  That’s the bad news.  

The good news is that this election has touched a nerve across the land; awakening the grass-roots and kick-starting a wave of organized opposition to autocratic rule.  There are several websites dedicated to capturing this energy and moving forward in spite of the fundamental flaws inherent in our first-past-the-post electoral system, including:  www.leadnow.ca, www.projectdemocracy.ca and www.fairvote.ca.  More good news – Elizabeth May, our first elected Green MP is committed to using her national profile in working towards true democracy, including electoral reform.

How do Canadians move forward given these results?? One of the best things we can do at this time to deepen democracy is to convene randomly-selected Citizens’ Councils at all levels, including the National level (see www.wisedemocracyvictoria.org,  www.wisedemocracyvictoria.wetpaint.com & www.wisedemocracy.org).

In my experience, one of the biggest criticisms of any initiative designed to influence public policy is the claim “that the results simply represent the views of another squeaky special interest or corporate lobby group.”  Since this accusation is accurate 9 times out of 10 given Canadian politics as-usual, it is very difficult to provide a reasonable counter argument.  

The key to acceptance of results designed to influence policy is to genuinely represent the views of the Canadian people.  How can this be done?  The best technique I’m aware of to enhance the legitimacy of any such endeavour is random selection.  A cycle of randomly selected councils provides a statistically valid and very powerful mechanism for achieving a representative cross-section of any particular population, whether it is at the municipal, provincial, or federal level.

The political leverage for what progressives are trying to achieve would be greatly magnified if we conducted a randomized sample (similar to what a polling firm would undertake) and invited 100 Canadians to participate in face-to-face facilitated sessions.  The aim would be to convene at least one council of 12 randomly-selected individuals; but even more powerful would be to have three such councils.  With sufficient profile and publicity this is certainly achievable and the results would be certainly news worthy.  I’m certain the media would become fascinated with the process and outcomes.

The other key point is facilitation.  I know from personal experience that a particular type of facilitation (Dynamic Facilitation) can create a conversation that will allow 12 strangers to reach a unanimous perspective on the key issues in a matter of hours (see www.tobe.net).  

Our most recent work has been with the City of Victoria, to help the city in revising the Official Community Plan.  We have facilitated two randomly selected councils for the City with excellent results and have been asked to facilitate a follow-up session with the original participants (www.ShapeYourFutureVictoria.ca).

There’s growing support at the municipal level – now it is time to ramp-up this approach and to convene Citizens' Councils at the Provincial and National Level.  Supporters of Leadnow, ProjectDemocracy, etc can help by promoting this idea on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

George Sranko
gsranko 'at' shaw.ca

1 Response to "How Canadians Can Move Towards Genuine Democracy - Starting Today"

  1. burke June 26, 2011 at 7:55 AM
    The random selection process is new to me in the States. Do you have to take such pains - and, ugh, mathematical pains at that - in a commonwealth country because you don't have the right to assembly as guaranteed by the United States First Amendment? Best wishes on your quest, but why not just assemble people with common interests without any mathematical hocus pocus as justification?

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