Referendum encouraged

Resident believes officials should take issues of importance to the voters

Sincere thanks to Coldstream businessman Jack Borden, for his letter to the editor “Council should involve public,” May 22.

He suggests engaging voters in our November 2014 municipal elections in referenda on several topical issues to guide our elected representatives.

His chosen topics — returning treated effluent to Okanagan Lake, reducing transit service and costs and municipal amalgamations — are all hot button  issues likely to generate spirited debate.

If an apathetic electorate can’t be motivated to vote in greater numbers with such issues on a ballot, we really do have a disengagement problem.

The difficulties, as always, are in the details.

A simple yes or no vote may not suffice in all cases.

For example, imagine if the recent referendum on building a sports facility at OC’s Vernon campus had a third option – yes, I support a sports facility, but not in this location (or in a specified alternate location).

Our politicians would then know they have the right idea, but the details are unsatisfactory.

We must also be mindful that some jurisdictions, notably in the U.S., have taken government through referenda too far, with municipalities and school boards hamstrung by voters unwilling to approve even basic levels of spending.

So a modest, well-reasoned referenda experiment by our local municipalities would be a welcome addition at the ballot box.

What do we need to do to ensure this happens?


Colin Heggie