British Columbia is a Canadian province. In 2001 they set up a Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform where citizen's were chosen by sortition to put forward a recommendation for which electoral system voters should judge in referendum.
South Sea Republic has covered sortition
methods in articles before. One article titled; Tapping the Wisdom of the People
included a discussion of Nicholas Gruen's idea for a citizen's chamber. So how did the sortitionists in British Columbia do?
Campbell Sharman has an article; Citizens' Assemblies and Parliamentary Reform in Canada [pdf]
on the Australian Parliament House website from March 2006 which discusses this event.
British Columbia is a Canadian province with a unicameral parliament and a first past the post [FPTP] electoral system. In single member districts a a FPTP system can accentuate swings against the government. The downside is that members can be elected without a true majority. Another problem is that it punishes minor parties, keeping them from any representation in parliament. This can focus the special interests of major parties and hinder parliament from being truly representative of the community which elects them.
The circumstances which precipitated the formation of the Citizen's Assembly was the 1996 elections. The New Democratic Party was elected with a majority of seats, despite not having a majority in the popular vote. At the end of their five year term they were in disarray from allegations of corruption and poor governance. In the 2001 election the New Democrats won just two seats, with the Liberals winning seventy-seven!
Apparently Gordon Campbell, the Liberal leader, went forward with the Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform despite reservations from his cabinet.
How Were They Chosen
First, invitations were sent to a randomly selected, age stratified, panel of electors from the electoral role in each district inviting them to attend a meeting in that district.
At the meeting, there was a presentation by Citizens' Assembly staff explaining that members of the Assembly would have to be willing to spend 12 weekends in the coming year (2004) and travel to Vancouver for each meeting (expenses would be paid by the Assembly).
At the end of the meeting, those who were willing to make such a commitment had their names put in a hat, and one man and one woman were selected. This process was repeated for all 79 electoral districts in the province.
So citizens that were chosen by sortition were given the chance to opt-out if they wanted to. The Assembly met over several weekends learning about the electoral system and the political process. They also attended several public hearings with the final six weekends spent deliberating over whether British-Columbia needed a new electoral system.
The knee-jerk reaction to average citizens doing what is seen as a professional's job - ie politicians - is usually "people are dumb". Yet everyday of the year people over-achieve, with their families, in their jobs, in the economy, culturally and socially. An individual is a ball of achievement waiting for new opportunities to excel.
Sharman writes on the media response to the Citizen's Assembly;
The news media were initially sceptical about the ability of 'ordinary people' to become familiar with the complexities of electoral rules and their parliamentary consequences but, as the Assembly's meetings progressed, the tone of media reporting moved from mild condescension to admiration both for the substance and the tone of the Assembly's discussions.
The faith in 'ordinary people' being able to make decisions on complex political issues had been overwhelmingly endorsed. The public goodwill towards the Citizens' Assembly process was perhaps its most important achievement.
So what did the Citizen's Assembly come up with? They decided a proportional system similar to the Tasmanian and ACT systems offered the best outcome. They also decided that keeping a member close to its electorate as more important over a majority party government. Unsurprisingly political parties see it the other way around.
In Australia the only altruistic electoral change was Steele Hall in South Australia who removed malapportionment from the electorate even though he knew it would cost him his government. He did it anyway.
Most of the electoral changes to secure permanent majorities in Australia have back-fired anyway. The biggest clanger was Chifley changing the Senate from winner takes all to proportional. Since then Labor has never had a majority in the Senate. That change also led to the rise of the Australian Democrats giving them in a niche in Australian politics for a quarter of a century.
So what did the British-Columbian politicians think of the Citizen Assembly's recommendation. Sharman writes;
The Assembly's recommendation of PR-STV [a variant of proportional representation by the single transferable vote] had been signalled during the final weeks of the Assembly's deliberations, but the recommendation still came as a shock to many of the political class.
For parliamentarians and established political parties it represented at best a major challenge to the existing pattern of electoral and parliamentary politics and at worst a threat to the influence of the major parties.
Some groups which favoured electoral reform
were not happy with the Assembly's commitment to PR-STV. The electoral system of choice for several of these groups was MMP [mixed member proportional - like NZ], and the rejection of this system by the Citizens' Assembly undid the image of MMP as the perfect electoral system and the unquestioned choice for reform minded people.
Even the Greens, who had much to gain from a proportional electoral system, were divided over the virtues of PR-STV; several of those in executive positions in the party liked the idea of MMP with closed party lists as a way of ensuring a socially diverse slate of candidates.
The electoral system still had to pass a referendum which required 60% of all British Columbians as well as 60% in each district. There were no funds put toward the yes or no campaign and the without anyone campaigning for electoral change the issue was swamped in the day-to-day party politics as the Liberals and New Democrats positioned themselves to try and take government.
The in the end all but two districts got the required 60%, but throughout the whole province the number who voted for the referendum was 58%. It was two percent short. Sharman writes;
This result was remarkable. Even though the referendum did not fulfil the requirements for acceptance, a substantial majority of the electorate had voted for electoral change in spite of an almost complete lack of organized campaigning.
One of the surprises to come from the aftermath was that many voters, despite not understanding the complexity of the PR-STV system, trusted the Citizen's Assembly because it was randomly drawn from the citizenry and voted for the referendum.
Phoenix Eats Out
is the restaurant review site for Phoenix
and Old Town Scottsdale
which lists the modernist and contemporary restaurants, taverns and bars in the greater Phoenix area.
This is the list of the most popular restaurants pages from phoenixeatsout.com that have been viewed the most;
My personal favourite restaurants in Phoenix are AZ88
, Humble Pie
, Orange Table
, The Vig
and others coming close behind. View the complete list with the photo-journalistic style images on phoenixeatsout.com
Arizona is an outdoor state and has lots of hiking in the city and around the state. Phoenix is unusual for most cities in having several large mountains in the center of the city with great hiking. Anyone who comes to Phoenix has to do the Echo Canyon trail on Camelback
and the Summit Hike on Squaw Peak
or Piesta Peak. The views of the city, suburbs and surrounding mountains are wonderful from Camelback and Piesta Peak.
For more experienced hikers there is the McDowell Mountains in North Scottsdale that has several difficult and strenuous hikes in Tom's Thumb
and Bell Pass
. Alternatively, you can hike the highest mountain in Arizona. At 12,600 feet Humphrey's Peak
is a long and difficult hike.
Between 2004 and 2009 this site, southsearepublic.org
, was a constitutional blog based on scoop which focused on Australian and global constitutional issues.
One of the strongest aspects of it was the development of constitutions by those involved in the blog. These constitutions are the outcome:
The constitutions were built using principles from Montesquieu's separation of powers, the enlightnment's universal political rights and the ancient Athenian technology of sortition and choice by lot.
I am an Australian living in the United States as a permanent resident.
I am a software developer by trade and mostly work in Java and jump between middleware and front end.
I originally worked in the New York area of the United States in telecommunications before moving to Washington DC and
working in a mix of telecommunications, energy and ITS. I started my own software company before heading out to
Arizona and working with Shutterfly. Since then I have joined a startup in the Phoenix area and am thoroughly enjoying myself.
I do a lot of photography which I post on this website, but also on flickr. I have a photo-journalistic website which lists
the modernist and contemporary restaurants in phoenix. I have a site on the Australian Flying Corps [AFC]
which has been around since the 1990s and which I unfortunately
lost the .org URL to during a life event; however, it is under the www.australianflyingcorps.com
The AFC website has gone through several iterations since the 90s and the two most recent are Australian Flying Corps Archives(2004-2002)
Australian Flying Corps Archives(2002-1999)
which are good places to start.