Democracy or policy?

With the HST referendum underway and ballots supposedly in the mail (I should have mine in the next couple days…) I’ve had a thought that there may be a bigger question than the subtleties of consumption taxation.

The question has to deal with two issues near and dear to my heart: Democracy and evidenced-based policy.

Disregarding whether or not the HST is smart, rational policy, it must be evidently clear that its implementation was anything but democratic. Harmonization was announced within weeks of an election which gave not a peep to the issue, and the paperwork was signed in such haste that it seemed negotiations had been going on for months (which they may or may not have been). With no opportunity to fairly weigh the pros and cons of this policy, the public was left scathing at every extra dime spent on every cup of coffee and haircut.

So my question is about priorities. While we should want a government that only brings forward rational, evidenced-based policy, can we let that come at the expense of democratic participation?

In other words, is being right or being heard more important?

My first inclination, and I won’t claim to have a final answer on this issue that has only arisen in me this evening, is that we should prioritize democracy and accountability even at the expense of rational policy. History has given us countless examples of dictators and tyrants who grow increasingly corrupt when unchecked. The benevolent dictatorship is a fiction, and while far from perfect, democracy is still the least bad system of government to date.

And so it is partially to re-affirm that requirement of accountability that I feel compelled to vote Yes to scrap the HST. There are only so many chances to chastise one’s government, and while the policy may or may not be good for the province, the lies around its implementation require reprimanding.

One thought on “Democracy or policy?”

  1. I will add that this argument only applies when weighing two reasonable policy alternatives. Obviously one could construct an absurd example where the harm caused by a policy reversal would be much greater than leaving the crooks in charge. My feeling however, is that the HST is not one of these issues.

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