Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Democratic Reform in New Brunswick

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Democratic Reform in New Brunswick

Article excerpt

William Cross (ed.), Democratic Reform in New Brunswick (Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press, 2007), 302pp. Paper. £17.99. ISBN 978-1-55130-326-0.

In 2003, New Brunswick established a Commission on Legislative Democracy to improve citizen participation, and the Centre for Canadian Studies at Mount Allison University ran a research colloquium, at which most of papers in this collection were discussed. This volume consists of an introduction and twelve essays. The range is 'somewhat eclectic' (p. 4), and takes one hundred pages before the reader encounters much that is specific to New Brunswick. The opening papers review electoral systems, issues of voter turnout and the lifecycle of governments in a global context. Subsequent contributions weigh the respective advantages of single-member, first-past-the-post systems against proportional and multi-member alternatives. Selection of candidates for election is dominated by party insiders, but it is hard to change this. Politicians work hard at constituency level, and party-list voting systems would damage local links. The province has an effective system in place for fair revision of electoral boundaries. Fixed-date elections do not prevent incumbent governments from manipulating the electoral cycle, and may encourage them to ignore the legislature. The referendum is a risky device that may divide language communities, and the 2001 experiment harnessed only 44.5 per cent participation. Declining turn-out at elections, especially among young people, is a worldwide problem, and reducing the voting age to 16 hardly inspires.

Neutral observers might feel that New Brunswick has few problems to tackle. …

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