Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2176808
 


 



The Promise and Limits of Citizens' Assemblies: Deliberation, Institutions and the Law of Democracy


Michael Pal


Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa; Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation

November 16, 2012

(2012) 38(1) Queen's Law Journal 259

Abstract:     
Recent experiments with deliberative democracy in British Columbia and Ontario have brought new life to the debate over electoral reform in Canada and have called into question the roles of the judiciary and the legislature on electoral law. In both provinces, Citizens' Assemblies composed of randomly selected members were tasked with deliberating on electoral reform and bringing their recommendations to the electorate in a subsequent referendum. These Assemblies were lauded as innovative alternatives to the conventional legislative decision-making process. The author examines the potential and the limitations of the Assemblies, by situating the Citizens' Assembly model within broader discussions about the law of democracy. Specifically, the article explores how well the Assemblies in British Columbia and Ontario insulated electoral reform from manipulation by elected representatives. Although he concludes that those Assemblies were less successful at keeping politics out of the process than many have suggested, he argues that the model nevertheless makes a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate between structural theory and rights theory regarding election law and the right to vote. In light of the fact that both sides of the debate are dissatisfied with the Supreme Court of Canada's section 3 jurisprudence, there are good reasons for both structural theorists and rights theorists to support the continued use of Citizens' Assemblies on issues of electoral reform. The author concludes by offering recommendations for improving the Citizens' Assembly process in the future.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 20

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Date posted: November 17, 2012 ; Last revised: December 1, 2012

Suggested Citation

Pal, Michael, The Promise and Limits of Citizens' Assemblies: Deliberation, Institutions and the Law of Democracy (November 16, 2012). (2012) 38(1) Queen's Law Journal 259 . Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2176808

Contact Information

Michael Pal (Contact Author)
Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa ( email )
57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, K1N 6N5
Canada
HOME PAGE: http://www.commonlaw.uottawa.ca/index.php?option=com_contact&task=view&contact_id=799&Itemid=151
Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation ( email )
720 Spadina Avenue, Suite 218
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2T9
Canada
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