Last May the Three Elected Officials, “3-EOs”, announced debates on the subject if a referendum on incorporation of SSI materializes. This seems superfluous because SSI is renown for its propensity to debate and surely the 3-EOs are aware of that.
The timing is equally perplexing. The announcement was awfully premature because at the time, ostensibly, nobody knew which way it would go: The Consultant had yet to produce the “facts”; the Incorporation Study Committee, “ISC”, had to ponder the “facts” when made available and decide whether they weigh in favour of a referendum; then the Provincial Government, “Province”, would consider the ISC recommendation and decide whether to grant a Referendum on Incorporation to the people of SSI. It is not at all easy to predict the outcome of such a multistage process, that is to say if the process is not a farce.
But, ahead of that array of decisions been made, the 3-EOs became worried that if a referendum would happen, the people of SSI may not debate the issue properly. The fear was real, because while the Consultant would have dished out the “facts” – ordinary people are not to dispute the august Consultant’s facts – the final decision had to be made based on the interpretation of these “facts” by the people. The 3-EOs, may had feared that without a controlled debate, the people may not appreciate the “facts” and make the “wrong” decision at the polls.
A probable objective of the premature announcement could be to ease the people into a “not worry” regime, thereby preventing dissent against the farming out the “formation” of the public will to “offshore” consultants, fronted by local committees for the essential couleur locale. “Do not worry”, they were telling us, keep quiet, let the Consultants determine what is good for us and then “you will have your say in a pre-referendum debate”.
Additionally, this early announcement would pre-empt, or at least cool down, “unauthorized” debate of the Incorporation issue which could run out of control and endanger the “official” answer to the referendum.
At that early stage of the game, when they issued the news release, the 3-EOs” had already made a request to the Province to finance the debate and disclosed that much in the release, thereby insinuating the debate would be adequate and sterling. All of which converge to impose the Plan via “Peoples’ Study Committees”, “Neutral Consultants”, and “Tightly Controlled Free Debates”.
In their May 2016 news release, the 3-EOs promised updates about the debates program, but made none in the ensuing 9 months, until after January 17, 2017, which is when I filed a request about the matter – it turned out that the lack of interim updates was not due to a shortage of happenings to report...
On January 17, an unsourced item in the Victoria Times Colonist informs that the Province will grant SSI an incorporation referendum c/w a purse to buy a lovely debate.
Fascinated by the process, I pursued the “debate” issue and what came out made me uncomfortable. They have had a debate scheme in place since last May, and have been working on its implementation in the interim. But they had it under wraps determined to keep it secret until they could make it a fait accompli and leave no time for people to react.
The 3-EOs have even selected a debate moderator, “an authoritative, impartial, well respected former politician to moderate the debates”, as they describe him/her. They would not disclose the name lest, I suspect, those who had “formerly” voted against the “former” politician, debate his/her suitability for the task and prevent the appointment. Nonetheless, the exuberance of the introduction could ease us into a belief that the debates would be impeccable. Building “credibility” into PRopaganda, is crucial to its effectiveness.
They revealed more of the scheme, which it appears they had devised together with the Consultant. They will advertise for, interview, select and appoint, people to do the debate and leave the rest to the people. Just like they did with the “Governance Study” and “Incorporation Study” Committees. This time around they will split the recruits right down the middle into two debating teams of opposite persuasion and have them slug it out publically. The moderator will be flanked by the Consultant, who will there to safeguard the “facts” packed in the “ISC Report”. This will channel the debate to the fluid “emotional” aspect of incorporation which, of course, would make the outcome vulnerable if it conflicts with the “facts”. The debate troupe will tour the island, playing a number of shows, till all the money is used up.
No, they did not forget the people, they factored us in, too. Show attendees may claim one minute at the mike. If no “fact” is offended, the Consultant guardian of the “facts”, would signal the Moderator to allow the team Captains to answer the question. Then the 100, or so, who attended the show will knock on doors to inform the 9,900 (minus the ineligibles) on the outcome of the debate. Presto, the whole society would be readied to vote!
Do not miss the fact that the scheme provides for the Consultant to flank the Moderator as a “fact guardian”, to be at the command post of the debates. This will safeguard the Plan and would transit the Consultant to continue “helping” us later set up the Mayor-o-cracy the referendum is scheduled to produce. It will also position the Consultant to help the Trust cope with the loss of SSI. And would otherwise help the powers that be to spend the “transition” purse(s) the Province will provide.
This is a prescription for regimentation and control. Whether intentional or not, this scheme delivers control of the process to its architects. This, in turn, endangers the “democaticity” of the referendum and the integrity of the verdict. Too much is at stake to keep silent on this.
The 3-EOs made a website where to post citizens questions and the answers to all questions, they said. It appears impressive and I found it irresistible and I sampled the system with three queries. The “responses” came back highly disappointing but it was worthwhile the effort for it draw the cover off the debates scheme and the credibility of the 3-EOs’ Questions and Answers website page.
The credibility of the “Latest” (as they named the) website, is dismal. My queries of December 19, and January 7, 2017, were angrily censored; that of January 17 is posted on the website mutilated, “digested” and de-author-ized – all for the glory of fair discourse, I presume!
One cannot stand silent vis-a-vis “implementation” of such a “plan”. This debate scheme and what little else we know about the incorporation process, cause serious worries. I will discuss further the “Latest” website scheme in another paper.
For now, I would rather move on to suggest a fair debate. Indeed, that is why I examined the scheme they have in place. It is to demonstrate the need to scuttle it, which in turn necessitates a new arrangement to fill the void. In other words, I have firmly established, I believe, the need to dispose of the existing scheme which, in turn, opens the search for a fair way to inform Islanders about this serious matter. Fortunately, there are options to consider and I will table the best I know, the Ideas Bank, and which I will outline next.
The Ideas Bank, is a public forum par excellence. In simple terms, the Ideas Bank would be a website geared to serve as a depository and a showcase of public contributions. Access would be universal and unfettered to “depositors” and to whom they address, a bright beacon of communication it would be.
It would accept submission only in writing, preferably emailed. All contributions longer than (let’s say) 50 words to be accompanied with an “abstract” of no more than 50 words, written by its author. Shorter submissions and abstracts of longer submissions would be showcased. Long submissions will be posted in their entirety, but not showcased (other than their abstracts) – the full submissions would be available by a click on the “abstract” to which each links.
Submission would be posted “by right”, meaning the “submitters’ right” - because when freedom of speech is licenced, democracy is no longer. “Borderline” submissions would be arbitrated on the basis of whether they offend existing law, and for “relevance”, only. Absolutely no other “reason” would prevent any citizen from accessing the Governance Ideas Bank. Calls for “decorum”, “civility” and similar notions are buzz words for “license to censor” and to channel the debate to a pre-set “truth” – be leery of those who advocate them.
Anonymous submissions would be welcome for the same reason for which we have the “secret ballot” and the “whistleblowers protection act”.
Involvement is a function of perception of effectiveness and anticipation of recognition. With the Ideas Bank, citizens would know that their contributions will not be wastebasketed. People will be assured of fair process which would make involvement worthwhile.
Ideas are entitled to the time their evaluation would take, I say – “Bringing coals to Newcastle” takes seconds to recognize, but notions that take hours to evaluate are potentially meritorious. Wastebasketing is very dangerous to a free and civilized society.
An inherent benefit of an Ideas Bank is that writing down our thoughts is constructive. Moses would not have been as memorable if he had not carved the words in stone.
Submissions showcased in the Ideas Bank would be exposed to the whole society, to be reviewed and judged on their merit; and they would become stepping stones for the discourse to leapfrog to a higher level and result in expanding awareness. The boost this will give to public participation would result in cross-pollination and the birth of more ideas and suggestions. The Ideas Bank would excite latent talent and impregnate promiscuous minds to produce the fruits of democracy.
It is a “ckeck and balance”, so to speak, aiming to create an environment where politicians and bureaucrats can say with a straight face “we have nothing to hide”. It is, in a sense fighting back Lord Acton’s diagnosed epidemic “power corrupts” to which magistrates are vulnerable. Fundamental Democracy is what we are talking about.
The Ideas Bank is “outside the box”, but it sits foursquare within the domain of the reasonable and entirely feasible.
This is not about the proverbial “better mousetrap”. This is about a leap from a Bad to the Best.