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Democracy doesn't mean you get your way - Part 1

Open Houses and Public Hearings:  Public Deliberation, not Delegated Decision-Making Unfortunately, and contrary to popular belief, showing up at an open house or public hearing does not mean you get to veto issues that are going forward to council. Quite often, participants in municipal consultation events are frustrated and disheartened that their feedback does not lead to obvious and explicit policy change. "But I live in the neighbourhood! I should be able to say what gets built, and what doesn't!" These sentiments are common, especially at the municipal level when rezoning applications are put forward, or communities are reviewing their Official Community Plans (OCP's) to accommodate new and different developments. Which begs the question - why bother holding open houses or public hearings at all? Making decisions democratically is not always straight forward. Once we get beyond foundational elements of a democratic society (rule of law, freedom

Why democracy doesn't mean you get your way - Part 2

If you do an online search of the word "democracy", you'll come across references to things like 'majority decision-making' or 'control by a majority'. Majority decision-making, and voting, are often assumed to be key features of a democracy. However: neither voting, nor control by a majority, are necessary for democratic decision-making. This may come as a shock, but there are ways for groups of people to make decisions that do not involve voting. Voting leaves very little room for nuance, for the exploration of alternatives, or for compromise between disparate perspectives. Majority decision-making, for its part, can lead to a tyranny of the majority, the oppression of minority perspectives, the polarization of opinions, and, by definition, a portion of participants whose preferences are ignored. So what's the alternative? If you're part of a group that is empowered to make a decision on some issue (a board, community group, committ

Including rational thought in decision-making: novel idea?

The post last week brought up the idea that we need to think about what concepts and ideas are put forward in the public realm. From pop music to sports to local community events, our approach to decision-making is influenced by commonly understood cultural practices. Meaningful democratic decision-making requires that we think about the practices, ideas, and values that percolate throughout society. More specifically, when it comes to engaging a group of people to get together and go through a democratic decision-making process, practitioners need to think about how participants are being, or have been, educated. By definition, democratic decision-making is not limited to specialists. "Rule by the people" means everyone gets to participate in decision-making, even about issues where we are not experts. This does not mean, however, that democratic decision-making should be approached from a place of ignorance.  Robert Dahl  emphasized the importance of  enlight