Fulfilling their Deliberative Potential? A comparative analysis of Irish and Canadian Citizens’ Assemblies
Deliberative theorists such as Habermas, Barber, Elster, Fishkin, Young and Dryzek argue that democratic processes and institutions should be built around ‘reasonable’ political judgement and focus on improving the quality of democracy by enhancing the nature and form of political participation, as opposed to just increasing it. Agreeing on its normative ideals of supporting inclusion, equality and reasonableness (Mansbridge at al., 2010; Steiner, 2010; Held, 2006), deliberative theorists contend that collective decisions made through reflective public reasoning encourages more informed rational decisions, fairer and more publicly oriented outcomes as well as improved civic skills (Hendriks, 2006).
Deliberative democratic innovations, such as citizens’ assemblies, participatory budgeting and citizen juries aim to move beyond aggregation of preferences and representation of group interests to engage citizens in preference transformation and collaborative decision making on political issues.
This paper examines focuses on one such democratic innovation, citizens’ assemblies. Using Smith’s framework of six ‘goods of democratic institutions’: inclusiveness; popular control; considered judgement; transparency; efficiency and transparency (2009), this research compares the deliberative approaches of citizens’ assemblies in British Columbia, Ontario and Ireland. It concludes that the Irish assembly was closer to a deliberative opinion poll and posits a seventh ‘good’, responsiveness.