Just by changing the words used you can have a dramatic shift in results. Use the word "agree" instead of the word "should" and all of a sudden the yes side jumps a few points. Use "update" instead of "change" and you've shifted an election.
And that, ultimately, is the problem with referenda. How democratic and fair is it if changing two words can swing the outcome by 15 points?
Referenda turn complicated questions into false dichotomies that are manipulable by the political class in a way that your representatives are not. After all, no matter how many times - and no matter how many different ways - you ask the House of Commons the same question you're going to get the same answer
. And that's the way it should be.
Democracy is not synonymous with voting. The Soviet Union had elections
. Saddam Hussein's Iraq had referenda
. Democracy requires an educated populace, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.
Democracy also requires thoughtful deliberation, compromising between multiple points of view and mechanisms through which popular will can be accurately reflected. A referendum fails to deliver on any of these.
It has become fashionable for the Conservatives to say Canadians deserve a referendum on this question. But Canadians deserve better than a referendum on this. They deserve the best thinking of our elected representatives.
Let's do this the right way.