Referendums Ii

During the 2000 Federal Election, CAP leader Stockwell Day suggested that he’d be willing to hold national referendums on any issue over which an instigating group could come up with 350,000 petition signatures. CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes responded by mounting an internet-based petition demanding that Day change his first name to Doris, and easily got more than a million embarrassing signatures. Now, this was a good joke that humiliated Day, but the laughter hides a very serious point about the Internet’s possible effect on populist politics. That point? If we’re not going to turn Parliament into a mud-wrestling forum for grudge-driven minorities with one-idea explanations for human reality, we’d better adjust our gate-keeping to account for the fact that in the electronic age, information and opinion moves the same way avalanches do on snowy hillsides, and that both can be as lethal to innocent bystanders.

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