Leslie on Denver / Nashville

Aside from the cultural education we received while in the States, the interns learned a great deal about the American political process, as well as the political culture.

There were two differences between Ontario and Colorado that I found of particular interest because they indicated not only procedural differences but also a difference in political culture. Colorado has a system that is more akin to direct democracy than representative democracy. Citizens of Colorado, if they collect the appropriate amount of signatures on a petition (on the order of 150,000) can propose citizen legislation. Ontarians, on the other hand, cannot directly propose legislation in this way. Another interesting difference between these two states: any piece of legislation that affects taxes (either increase or decrease), must go on the ballot at the next election. In other words, every tax change is a referendum issue that must be directly decided by the people. Both these examples show that the people of Colorado feel that they are entitled to have a significant role in affecting legislation, should they feel an issue important enough to bring to the attention of their legislators.

The other most interesting difference between the Ontario legislature and the American model was the role of the legislators. America has a bicameral system at both the federal and state level: there are senators and legislators at both levels of government. Furthermore, the legislators in Colorado and Nashville are part-time, have term limits and are paid significantly less than our Ontario MPPs. This leads to a difference in how business is conducted in the legislatures—there is more emphasis on conducting the business of the House, because there is such a limited time in the Legislature during a session.

All these observations discussed demonstrate that the OLIP trip was very educational and informative as to the political differences between Ontario, Colorado and Tennessee.

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