The Netherlands Citizens Assembly finished its deliberations and on December 14 reported its final recommendations to the Minister of Government Reform in The Hague. The Citizens Assembly recommended a new electoral system for the Netherlands, but its recommendations (fine tuning the existing proportional representation system) are more incremental in nature than those of British Columbia’s Citizens Assembly (moving to the radically new single transferable vote). For authoritative English language accounts of what happened in the Netherlands, click here.
Ontario’s Citizens Assembly finished up its learning phase and is now entering its consultation phase. The consultation phase includes written submissions from the public plus some 40 public hearings throughout the province. To date, and based only on a handful of the public hearings, the turnout appears to be small. An advantage of the local consultations appears to be that they attract additional local newspaper coverage.
For first person accounts of what happened in Ontario, click here. The three members of the Ontario Citizens Assembly who submitted comments all expressed disappointment with the press coverage. This comes as a surprise because, compared to British Columbia and the Netherlands, Ontario was getting a bounty of press coverage. But it is true that the vast majority of the articles were in small town newspapers. Coverage in the major papers appears to have lessened in the past few months. These observations suggest that press coverage may be helpful in keeping up the morale of members of citizen assemblies.
In late November, the Ontario student citizens assembly convened and issued a recommendation to the adult citizens assembly. Here is its interim report. The student assembly website is located at http://www.studentsassembly.ca. The Student Citizens Assembly recommended a shift from the current system to a mixed member system of proportional representation. A handful of the students involved in the assembly were profiled in their local newspapers. Next, the students who participated in the citizens assembly are expected to take what they learned and share it with their classmates back home. More than 150 schools have already signed up to hold their own deliberations and formal votes on the electoral system. The results of both the students’ citizens assembly and all the local school votes are to be included in a final report sent to the adult citizens assembly next February.
Proposals for citizen assemblies continue to crop up elsewhere in the world. But only in California would I place a “likely” for something substantial to happen in the next 12 months. The New America Foundation’s California office conducted a poll of California citizens in part to assess their attitudes toward such an initiative. The poll found overwhelming support for such a proposal, and the results were cited in a Sacramento Bee opinion column. The Sacramento Bee covers Sacramento, California’s Capitol, and is widely read by journalists throughout California who cover State politics.