Saturday, February 25, 2017

Switzerland's newest citizen-generated referendums

Once again Switzerland runs ahead of the rest of the world in pursuing democratic means of governing. For once again, the other day, the Swiss used citizen generated referendums to vote on complex issues not often given such freedom of decision by other countries. That latter includes Canada – where it does not even permit referendums, either nationally or provincially, to be initiated by citizens – upon any subject. .
The newest issues in Switzerland included one where they voted to permit quicker citizenships acquisition by younger people (under the age of 25) if their parents and grandparents had been living in the country. This is similar to fast-tracking citizenship to foreign spouses of Swiss nationals, according to a recent Sun Media story. This may be far-reaching to a country where non-citizens apparently make up one-fourth of the population. Normally to obtain citizenship in Switzerland requires 12 years of residency, mastery of at least one of Switzerland's four national languages, and honouring the “fundamental values” of the Swiss constitution (such as equal rights for women and men, and freedom of conscience).
But, at the same time the Swiss rejected a complex tax reform which would have gotten Switzerland more in line with international standards – according to the report. This would have scrapped a two-track tax system that offers lower rates to foreign firms to lure investment. Proponents of the current laws felt that in a country of few exportable natural resources such laws were needed to keep their country competitive.

 These recent referendums supplement the democratic processes followed by California (see last blog on that subject) and other US states in allowing citizens to vote upon complicated matters where enough of them want to be permitted a say. Both areas do very well in most aspects of freedom and productivity. Why cannot Canada move forward in such a fashion? Does any federal or provincial political party have that far-reaching right as part of their policy? Only one person within the dozen running for federal Conservative Party leadership has that as part of their proposed platform, and that is Kellie Leitch. Personally, I wish her luck!

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