Forcing Choice


The Hill Times: Best Books of 2017

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

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

Forcing Choice dissects Canada’s extensive use of ballot questions at all levels of government, and weighs the benefits of citizens making fundamental decisions for the nation. Holding referendums is tricky, and getting it wrong carries a high price.

This hard-hitting book draws on Boyer’s deep research on direct democracy and his experience advising governments about referendums, writing books, drafting and introducing the Canada Referendum Act, monitoring foreign referendums, and campaigning in Canadian ones.


Patrick Boyer is without doubt the doyen of referendum scholars in Canada.

Professor Peter Russell, University of Toronto

In Canada no one has given quite so much thought to that now-popular democratic instrument as former MP Patrick Boyer, who has written about referendums for a half century.

Jim Coyle, Toronto Star

Canadians involved in the working of democracy – and many beyond Canada – have reason to be grateful to Mr. Boyer.

Professor David Butler, Oxford University

Patrick Boyer has earned a reputation as one of the most thoughtful members of the House of Commons.


How Patrick Boyer finds the time and energy to be an active parliamentarian, an amateur historian, and a political theorist all at once escapes my understanding, but I am glad he does so.

Patrick Watson, CBC broadcaster and author of The Struggle for Democracy

Mr. Boyer has been carrying on his campaign to modernize our political system at a time when most of his colleagues, their consultants, and large chunks of our academic and media communities, were still imprisoned by the orthodoxies of the old politics.

Professor Michael Bliss, University of Toronto

Patrick Boyer is Canada’s resident expert on referendums and plebiscites.

John Godfrey, Financial Post

A passionate defence of referenda … meticulously researched

Blacklock’s Reporter

About the Author

J. Patrick Boyer

Posted by Kendra on October 21, 2014

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.