Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Irish Seanad survives: more evidence referenda and representative government don't play well together

Who could say No to that?
Ireland voted the other day on a referendum about Senate abolition. After leading the polls throughout the race, the Yes side narrowly lost. The Seanad, an unelected and largely powerless upper house roughly similar to Canada's goes on.

The referendum question was a simple Yes/No -- attractive compared to the Canadian style of "Do you want to consider potentially giving a possible mandate to tentatively negotiate...."  But it prevented debate on avenues for change and reform as part of the process. As usual, those who set the question shape the terms of debate and the outcome.  

As usual with referenda, the Irish debate encouraged maximalist demagogery, with the No side conjuring up an executive power grab if the Seanad were gone, and the Yes side just as extreme about elitist, unelected, autocratic blah-blah-blah.

Whatever Canada does about our Senate, I hope we have as little as possible to do with referenda. If  enough provincial legislaturs will line up, pass a simple statute, override or pack the senate, and just do it. 

Follow @CmedMoore