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Lecture

POL305Y1 Lecture Notes - Fiscal Federalism, Canadian Federalism, Direct Democracy

by

Department
Political Science
Course Code
POL305Y1
Professor
Rachael Gibson

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POL 306 Lec. 7 Prof. Gibson BA1210 Wed. July 25, 2012
Up until this point the readings have largely stuck to the literature in the textbook because until
now the course has been about the nuts and bolts of urban governance in Canada
o From now on though, the lectures won’t directly correlate with the readings
o If a few classes were missed until now, reading the textbook can catch you up
o Now it is important to attend regularly though, because the texts and lecs won’t
correlate so well
Alternative Avenues of Participation
Many diff ways local gov officials can engage citizens b/w elections
o How effective are these mechanicsms in terms of providing local residents w/ a
meaningful voice in decision-making processes
Informative Mechanisms
o Least empowering
o Diff ways gov provide info to govt
o Ads, newsletters, public meetings, PSAs
o Internet websites mins of local council meetings, strategic plans, annual financial
statements
o One-way means of communication
o But citizens mayuse this info to organize around particular issues and pressure officials
o An important force behind organized social movements at local level
o 1960s and 70s increase in local group formation, social envtal issues
o Emergence of a new “reform” politics at urban level
o Citizens for Local Democracy driven by former members of these citizens groups
Consultative Mechanisms
o Consulting with the public in a two-way process, opportunities for local citizens to
express their views/concerns
o Local govs use a variety of consultative mechanisms, incl.
Citizen Advisory Boards
Sponsored Lobby Groups
Plebiscites (non-binding forms of referendums)
Public Inquiries
o Allow for provision of info from local officials + feedback from citizens
o More effective in integrating public input into decision-making and decreases need for
citizens to organize into protest groups
o Still, final decisions rest with local officials
Delegative Mechanisms
o When municipalities delegate decision-making authority to citizens
o Incl.

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Referendums (exercises where public is asked to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on a specific
issue
Citizens’ Assemblies
Participatory Budgets (Guelph)
Initiatives
Localized Government
o Arguments for Referendums
True form of direct democracy
Decisions are more legitimate in the eyes of citizens because they reflect public
will
Provide direct links b/w citizens and their govt
Leading up to referendums, citizens often become more engaged politically and
more involved in their community
Can stimulate “urban citizenship” and lasting patterns of participation
o Arguments against Referendums
“tyranny of the masses” argument
Can be manipulated by small groups of ppl w/ political, info, or ecoic resources
(who chooses which issues merit ra referendum? Who crafts the wording of the
Q?)
Representative Democracy average citizens might not have time, interest, civic
education to make informed decisions
Needs to be part of broader initiatives for change incl. a commitment to
openness, consultation, public participation
o Initiatives
Citizen-initiated referendums
In some provinces, results not always binding
o Localized Government
When local groups permitted to make binding decisions over particular
geographic areas in a municipality
E.g. Winnipeg Unicity, after 1972 amalgamation
Creation of 13 community committees to provide a forum for
public involvement and political decentralization
Charged with making recommendations to council on planning
issues, development, etc.
Resident Advisory Groups elected to advise the committees
Committees actually had little authority, no taxing powers
Abolished 1992
Informal Routes to Participation
o Participation in local politics can also take place through cultural, volunteer, or leisure-
oriented associations
o As well as various forms of activism, social movements, and the mass media
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