Forcing Choice


What happens when crucial public issues are decided by the people themselves?

Canadians answered “Yes” or “No” to prohibiting alcohol, conscripting soldiers, and revamping our constitution. Forcing the public to make crucial choices at the ballot box is high-stakes democracy, both here and overseas – as witnessed with Britain’s transformative 2016 “Brexit” verdict.

Forcing Choice highlights Canada’s extensive use of ballot questions at all levels of government, and weighs the benefits of having citizens make fundamental decisions for the nation. Putting an issue directly before voters is tricky, and getting it wrong — as happened in Canada — carries a high price.

This timely contribution is based on J. Patrick Boyer’s deep research on direct democracy and his personal experience advising premiers about referendums, writing books, drafting and introducing the Canada Referendum Act, and campaigning (for the “Yes” side) in the national referendum on the Charlottetown Accord.


Boyer is Canada’s resident expert on referendums.

Hon. John Godfrey

About the Author

J. Patrick Boyer

Posted by Kendra on October 21, 2014
J. Patrick Boyer photo

J. Patrick Boyer

J. Patrick Boyer studied law at the International Court of Justice in The Netherlands, served as Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary for External Affairs, and works for democratic development overseas. The author of twenty-three books on Canadian history, law, politics, and governance, Patrick lives with wife, Elise, in Muskoka and Toronto.