Referendums can be both divisive and dangerous, and especially these days when truth telling and fact finding are all too often abandoned in argument. Media reporting and journalistic licence contribute to voter confusion, and individual voting decisions are easily swayed by the rhetoric of the charming and popular soothsayers and simplistic intellects, but who are usually uninformed and disinterested in outcome detail.
The latest example is “Brexit”, a foolhardy and rash referendum that has resulted in not only division within the population of Great Britain, but instability and uncertainty in the economy and financial markets around the world, a leaderless Government that must negotiate the divorce from Europe, and the possibility of a breakup of the country itself into independent units, much diminished as a respected powerhouse on the world stage.
I use this latest example to recall the outcry of some in the public eye in Brampton that a referendum should be held to determine the route of the LRT through downtown to the GO station. To their collective credit, saner heads prevailed, and the wish of many did not materialize.
But it brings up a very important point. Are elected representatives in Brampton to simply follow the opinions and wishes of the electorate, or are they elected to make decisions based on sound judgement and reasoned analysis, even if the decision reached is not always popular?
Perhaps the words of Edmund Burke, the intellectual father of British Conservatism, are worthy of remembering.
“Government and legislation are matters of reason and judgement, – and not of inclination. Your representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgement, and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion”.
Perhaps some food for thought.
July 4, 2016