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Having a say should get attention


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One such bill coming from Nova Scotia MLA Andrew Younger certainly ranks in that category. The fact that he now sits as an Independent frees it that much more from the strictures of a government’s planning.

For that same reason, these bills are often doomed, even when they raise an interesting point of discussion.

Younger’s bill, introduced Tuesday, the Citizen Ballot Initiative Act, calls for referendum questions to be added to provincial election ballots. The aim has more than one thrust: it would register people’s take on a specific issue, but he says it would also serve to engage people in the political process.

There’s merit in that, particularly at a time when we continually, for the most part, see a slide in voter turnout. The more disgruntled among eligible voters claim they don’t have a say in important issues, so they’ve given up –though granted in some cases that’s an excuse for those who simply can’t be bothered.

The inclusion of plebiscites and various positions to be filled is included on ballots in some parts of the United States – although to the point that some describe them as tedious as tackling a grocery list.

As long as a possible Nova Scotia – or Canadian – version of this didn’t get bogged down with multiple questions, to the point of slowing lineups edging toward the voter’s booth, it would face fewer objections in that regard. That, after all, is another complaint about elections: that it takes too long at the busier polls. We’re beginning to hear experiments to alleviate that, including one jurisdiction in the country planning on drive-thru voting availability.

On that note, the growing shift to include an electronic voting option in elections would be more conducive to adding other questions to a ballot.

At any rate, Younger’s proposal is tailored to avoid a lengthy ballot filled with minor details. His bill sets a bar, in that an issue would require 10 per cent of eligible voters in the province to sign a petition before the question could be added.

It will be interesting to see where this goes, but it raises some good points about our democratic process and merits honest appraisal and discussion.

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