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The People's Mandate

Referendums and a More Democratic Canada

by J. Patrick Boyer

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elections, political advocacy, civics & citizenship
list price: $7.99
also available: Paperback
published: 1991
publisher: Dundurn Press

A mood of anger with the political system has been stirring across Canada; yet rather than turning away from the system, many Canadians are actually seeking a greater say in matters that affect them. they want to become more effective participants in the political process.
In this timely book, Patrick Boyer examines the important role that direct democracy — through the occasional use of referendums, plebiscites, and initiatives — can play in concert with our existing institutions of representative democracy.
This concept is not alien to our country, says Boyer, pointing to the two national plebiscites (on prohibition of alcohol in 1898 and conscription for overseas military service in 1942), some sixty provincial plebiscites (on everything from sovereignty-association to abortion, medicare to women’s suffrage, prohibition to ownership of power companies), and several thousand at the municipal level.
Direct voting is an important instrument in a truly democratic society, Boyer argues, and it has a more important role in the current reformation of Canada than some in the comfortable growing governing classes want to admit. In addition to clarifying an issue, it is an educational tool, as the plebiscite campaign becomes a national teach-in. Canadians can become participants, rather than mere spectators, in the major changes and transcending issues that affect the future of our country.
The People’s Mandate is a helpful guide to understanding the distinctions between plebiscites and referendums in a purely Canadian context. It addresses some of the concerns about this unparliamentary practice, and makes a powerful and logical statement about democracy. In sum, Boyer believes it is essential to govern with the trust of the people.

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Contributor notes

Patrick Boyer, Q.C., elected as member of Parliament for Etobicoke-Lakeshore in 1984 and 1988, is the author of seven books. he has worked as a journalist in Saskatchewan, Quebec, and Ontario, and before entering Parliament was a partner in the Toronto law firm of Fraser & Beatty. he hols an honours degree in economics and political science from Carleton University, and a law degree and a master's degree in Canadian history from the University of Toronto. Boyer, born in Bracebridge, Ontario, in 1945, and his wife, Corinne, are originally from the Netherlands, live in Etobicoke and Ottawa. His book, Direct Democracy in Canada, a history of the country's referendums and plebiscites, will be published in fall of 1992.

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Editorial Reviews

In addition to clarifying an issue, [The Peoples Mandate] is an educational tool...a guide to understanding the distinctions between plebiscites and referendums in a purely Canadian context.

— Etobicoke Life

The People's Mandate is a fair and engaging polemic. The arguments both for and against referendums are put with disarming candour.

— Globe and Mail

A fully researched and well-written study of a range of issues associated with direct democracy, the history of referendums in Canada, and the problems associated with effecting constitutional change...[The People's Mandate] will be of interest to advanced undergraduates, graduates, faculty, pre-professionals interested in public participation and constitutional practice, as well to Canadianists.

— American Library Association

The author's detailed analysis of the various electoral mechanisms that come under the heading of referendum is worth the cost of the book alone...I am looking forward to his next book on the subject.

— Victoria Times Colonist

At a time when Canadians are as mad as hell about the process of government, [The Peoples Mandate] offers the nourishment that comes with engaging ideas that go to the heart of what life in a free democratic society could really be like.

— Politics Monitor

Mr. Boyer's book is thoughtful, searching and engaging.

— Etobicoke Life
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About the Author

J. Patrick Boyer

J. Patrick Boyer studied law at the International Court of Justice in The Netherlands, served as Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary for External Affairs, and works for democratic development overseas. The author of twenty-three books on Canadian history, law, politics, and governance, Patrick lives with wife, Elise, in Muskoka and Toronto.

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