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Patrick Boyer

Lawyer, Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament for Etobicoke in (1984 - 1993), candidate for leadership of the PC party, acknowledged expert on referendums, author of five books on Canada's electoral systems including The People's Mandate, Referendums and a More Democratic Canada (1992)


By virtue of an 'iron triangle' involving politicians, bureaucrats, and special interest groups, our political parties no longer serve as neutral brokers of all legitimate interests. Instead they arrange compromises among long-established elite groups, neglecting the interests of the masses.

1992 - from The People's Mandate, Referendums and a More Democratic Canada
The ... phenomenon ... of our legislatures being reduced to 'rubber stamps' for decisions already taken by cabinet has to be troubling to anyone concerned about maintaining the dynamic counterbalances essential to a parliamentary democracy.

1992 - from The People's Mandate, Referendums and a More Democratic Canada
Although we call our parliamentary system democratic, we have witnessed on a profound level the institutionalization of some very anti-democratic processes.

1992 - from The People's Mandate, Referendums and a More Democratic Canada
... referendums and plebiscites are not meant to replace parliamentary rule, but rather to enhance it. Our system of government depends, ultimately, upon the consent of the people being governed. Canada is not a dictatorship where tyrannical force is used to obtain public acquiescence in the measures and programs of the government. Nor is it a theocracy where we follow the dictates of our leadership because of blindly obedient religious faith. Ours is a democracy where, at the end of the day, there simply must be public consensus about where we are going, and general agreement on how to get there. Without consent the whole elaborate superstructure - the legislatures, the courts, the financial system, the commercial marketplace, the acceptance of laws and norms of behaviour - will corrode until it collapses.

1992 - from The People's Mandate, Referendums and a More Democratic Canada
Canada has remained a timid democracy. The establishment that has run our country has proceeded comfortably - not always in the interests of the people, nor indeed of the country itself - supported by Canadians' deference to authority and a strange willingness to be passive spectators in our own land. We have become what anthropologists call 'participant observers'.

1992 - from The People's Mandate, Referendums and a More Democratic Canada
The problem is that democratic theory is premised on the citizens' playing an active and informed role in the political system, but theory is not being met by opportunity.

1992 - from The People's Mandate, Referendums and a More Democratic Canada
The collective wisdom of a large body of well-informed people most reliably produces the best decisions. ... Pooled information and variety in experience can blend to produce not only a sound course of action, but also and as important, the underlying consensus necessary to implement it.

1992 - from The People's Mandate, Referendums and a More Democratic Canada
I obviously believe in the institutions of 'representative democracy'. But, on the basis of seven years experience in parliament ... I must conclude that serious imbalances created by rigid party discipline must be corrected if we are to keep on calling our MPs "representatives". Even with their faults, our legislatures are still vital to our system of government.

1992 - from The People's Mandate, Referendums and a More Democratic Canada
Powerful governments have long promoted the doctrine of parliamentary democracy that brazenly holds that once elected by virtue of winning the most seats in a general election, regardless of the size of their party's popular vote, they have a mandate to deal with any issue that comes up during the life of that Parliament. ... While this doctrine makes sense as a practical approach to the many details and issues that could never have been aired and debated or even anticipated in an election campaign, it nevertheless enshrines a bold fiction. [This attitude] has become one of the major factors in the loss of credibility suffered by Canadian governments and has led to a general disrespect for Canadian legislatures, shared even by many of us who are members of them.

1992 - from The People's Mandate, Referendums and a More Democratic Canada