The People’s Mandate


A mood of anger with the political system has been stirring across Canada; yet rather than turning away from the system, many Canadians are actually seeking a greater say in matters that affect them. they want to become more effective participants in the political process.

In this timely book, Patrick Boyer examines the important role that direct democracy — through the occasional use of referendums, plebiscites, and initiatives — can play in concert with our existing institutions of representative democracy.

This concept is not alien to our country, says Boyer, pointing to the two national plebiscites (on prohibition of alcohol in 1898 and conscription for overseas military service in 1942), some sixty provincial plebiscites (on everything from sovereignty-association to abortion, medicare to women’s suffrage, prohibition to ownership of power companies), and several thousand at the municipal level.

Direct voting is an important instrument in a truly democratic society, Boyer argues, and it has a more important role in the current reformation of Canada than some in the comfortable growing governing classes want to admit. In addition to clarifying an issue, it is an educational tool, as the plebiscite campaign becomes a national teach-in. Canadians can become participants, rather than mere spectators, in the major changes and transcending issues that affect the future of our country.

The People’s Mandate is a helpful guide to understanding the distinctions between plebiscites and referendums in a purely Canadian context. It addresses some of the concerns about this unparliamentary practice, and makes a powerful and logical statement about democracy. In sum, Boyer believes it is essential to govern with the trust of the people.


The People's Mandate is a fair and engaging polemic. The arguments both for and against referendums are put with disarming candour.

Globe and Mail

Mr. Boyer's book is thoughtful, searching and engaging.

Etobicoke Life

At a time when Canadians are as mad as hell about the process of government, [The Peoples Mandate] offers the nourishment that comes with engaging ideas that go to the heart of what life in a free democratic society could really be like.

Politics Monitor

A fully researched and well-written study of a range of issues associated with direct democracy, the history of referendums in Canada, and the problems associated with effecting constitutional change...[The People's Mandate] will be of interest to advanced undergraduates, graduates, faculty, pre-professionals interested in public participation and constitutional practice, as well to Canadianists.

American Library Association

In addition to clarifying an issue, [The Peoples Mandate] is an educational tool...a guide to understanding the distinctions between plebiscites and referendums in a purely Canadian context.

Etobicoke Life

The author's detailed analysis of the various electoral mechanisms that come under the heading of referendum is worth the cost of the book alone...I am looking forward to his next book on the subject.

Victoria Times Colonist

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.