I'd love to. Here I am, which makes me very happy. I've bugged your clerk in Ottawa for the last two weeks on behalf of our group. It looks like advocacy and sticking at it might actually be able to penetrate the system.
In the town hall held by the MP in Regina, there were 300 people. How many people do you see behind me? In the minister's information session, which went very well, there were another 300 people, and these were different people. How many people do you see behind me? You see, you're not hearing the same vibrant thing I did, and I'm trying to bring it to you.
I'm the representative of a learning process, because as an environmental group concerned with watershed protection, our group decided that we had a stake in this. We held meetings and we did self-study. We've been to all three of the gatherings here. There are others here from our group. You see, we've learned an immense amount in the last month because we wanted to get ready for you folks, and most of the population is not going to go through that process.
Also, a referendum is a joke in terms of democratic consent, because if you have four things on there, one pure PR and two kinds of MMP, and then preferential and first past the post, a minority view is going to win the referendum. You all know that.
I was in Thunder Bay in the 1970s when they changed the name. They used to be Port Arthur and Fort William. The business community didn't like the vying between the two groups. There was a history to it; the English were Fort William and the immigrant workers were Port Arthur. I know the history there. On the ballot, they wanted Thunder Bay. On the ballot, there were three choices: Thunder Bay, Lakehead, and The Lakehead. Do you know which one won? Thunder Bay. All kinds of people were referring to the place as “the Lakehead” and had been forever, as in, “we live at the Lakehead”. That was our common identity.
Anyway, we're Thunder Bay, and I like it because it's an Indian name, but the vote was rigged, because the majority of people did see the place as the Lakehead. If they had said “Lakehead or the Lakehead”, it probably would have received 60% of the vote.
Participation and learning are really crucial, so I don't think a referendum is going to be creating consent. I think you need to have the courage as parliamentarians and as a government to get the process moving. People need to participate in an alternative to be able to evaluate it. I really think that's true.
Things can be reversed, but we need to change in order to bring the momentum of public participation onside, particularly at this period, because you know how far down we've gone. When I was active in the 1960s, when Pearson was the prime minister, we had an 80% voter turnout, and then it was 61% for a minority government for Harper. The Liberals brought it up, but the four million more who voted brought it up only to 69%, which is 10% or 11% below the Pearson period. Our goal should be up at the top.