Ever since citizens of ancient Athens first gathered on the Pnyx to deliberate on the affairs of their city-state, how best to translate the will of the people into public policy has been a subject for debate. The debate about democracy is more intense at some times than at others. In the last couple of years, the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Quebec's student movement and British Columbia's referendum on sales taxes, among other examples, have led to an explosion of ideas and arguments. We bring some of these ideas and arguments together in this issue of Inroads.
Inroads co-publisher Henry Milner, who has spent much of his professional life studying democracy, expresses concern that "social media politics," as exemplified by the Quebec student movement, may be incompatible with representative democracy. Judy Rebick, another long-time student of democracy, comes to a different conclusion: that the innovations created by the Quebec students and Occupy Wall Street are deepening and broadening democracy. Pierre-Gerlier Forest finds in the Quebec students' conflict with Jean Charest's government a clash of centuries: a government stuck in 20th-century ways of thinking confronting a 21st-century movement.
Brad Kempo and Vaughan Lyon suggest new mechanisms for expressing the popular will that, in their view, can empower citizens: Kempo proposes electronic referendums while Lyon argues for constituency parliaments. Irene Martin Cortes takes us inside a protest movement that has become a model for others throughout the Western world, Spain's 15M or Indignados. And Inroads co-publisher John Richards, analyzing the tax revolt that brought down British Columbia's sales tax reform, warns us of the dangers of determining tax policy by referendum.
Two significant expressions of democracy in recent months were September's Quebec election and the U.S. presidential election in November. One of Quebec's most perceptive political observers is former Parti Quebecois cabinet minister Joseph Facal, now a professor and newspaper columnist. He has shed his partisan cloak and casts a pitiless eye on all of Quebec's political parties and actors. We present, in translation, excerpts from his blog written just before and after the election. Bruce Hicks puts one of the Quebec campaign's most contentious issues, language policy, in an international perspective. And Donald Cuccioletta and Henry Milner examine why Barack Obama, despite his narrow victory, was not able...