The utopia we thought we had...
The dystopia we are heading for...
We still may have some say in the matter. It's up to us.
Tuesday, 19 June 2012
I am suggesting some actions we can take this summer to (1) voice our disagreement with C-38, (2) build on our past experience to prepare for Harper’s next onslaught on democracy and (3) prepare for the elections required to defeat this government.
My suggestion for action this summer is based on the following assumptions:
(1) Protesting as we have been doing is limited in the pressure it can put on Harper.
(2) Harper’s self-confidence has not been seriously diminished by the C-38 experience so his next initiative will be even more noxious to democracy.
(3) Citizen action (as opposed to partisan activities and legal challenges which remain important) is the only means available to defeat Harper now or later. The Supreme Court of Canada, the Senate and the Governor General have the power to reign in the Harper government but there is no sign of an opening for them to do so. Legal challenges remain a wild card over which we have no control.
(4) Citizen engagement is not yet strong enough to defeat Harper now or at an election in current conditions.
The opposition parties did all they could in the fight over C-38 and could not stop it. This has raised public esteem for the opposition parties and helped fuel opposition among citizens, but it shows the limits of parliamentary opposition in the current system. This encourages Harper to repeat the exercise and go even further in dismantling our institutional foundation, thus keeping opposition off guard, disorganized and ineffective.
Objective 1 - engage Conservative Party (CPC) MPs: Until the next election or some other intervening event, the weakest link in the Harper onslaught is his caucus MPs, especially those that come from the old Progressive Conservative (PC) ridings as opposed to Reform ridings. The hypothesis is that there may be a weak link that could split the CPC. This tactic was tried in the unsuccessful 13 heroes campaign, but there are indications that there are cracks in the party. With more time and organization, we may be able to exploit these cracks and divide the government support.
Objective 2 – citizen engagement: Although citizen opposition to C-38 was vocal and substantial, it was not enough. A large majority of voters seems to remain unaware of the direction and character of the Harper government. The failure of citizen engagement in the democratic system is probably the most significant cause of the crisis we are facing. Since political parties have effectively made a practice of avoiding this key ingredient of a democracy, it now falls to citizens to find ways to re-engage our fellow citizens.
Objective 3 – planning to win the next election: Our main opposition parties – NDP and Liberal – dropped the ball completely in opening the door to a Harper victory in 2011. They must be held accountable in providing a solution to the crisis of democracy they allowed. Their failure to act in concert to provide a single progressive alternative to the united forces of conservatism suggests a preference of ego and self interest over the public interest that should be their primary goal. The nation has been seriously harmed by their excessive partisanship and backroom dealing. Citizens must engage these parties to(a) welcome citizen participation in events moving forward, (b) devise an effective process to resoundingly defeat the Harper government at the polls, (c) revoke the harmful legislation passed by the Harper government, and (d) permanently revise our electoral laws to prevent an illegitimate defacto dictatorship from recurring.
We must become knowledgeable about C-38. This will be a challenge since our parliamentary opposition has indicated there are still parts f the legislation that are not fully understood. We must work with opposition MPs and other groups to understand the legislation. Recently, Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page stated that “effectively, MPs will go back to their ridings for their summer without any idea of how the budget bill affects their constituents, “and that’s just not right.”
We must engage our CPC MPs and ask that they explain C-38 and how it benefits our community and our country. We can do this individually or in groups, but we must insist that our MPs make themselves available in the riding for meetings on this important government initiative.
We must engage our fellow citizens to think about C-38 and its consequences.
With organization and planning, we could be extremely effective in meeting all of our objectives. I am proposing that we hold community “town hall” meetings so that all citizens have an opportunity to become informed by the process and to motivate them to become involved in what our MPs are doing in Ottawa.
I believe many citizens are now curious about the contents of C-38 having heard so much in the news about it. They will also wish to know how it affects the community. We should involve as many stakeholders in the community as possible to organize and carry out effective meetings.
These meetings should be strictly non-partisan and unbiased, but we should ask all political parties to assist in publicizing and organizing. We can also ask local organizations such as Rotary clubs and church groups to spread the word. If we are effective, we will get media coverage.
The meetings should be informational , open and provide for questions and discussion I would suggest inviting local “experts” in various subjects to form a panel and speak to the various topics affected by C-38. In every case, the CPC should be invited to participate on the panel, and it should be the MP if there is one.
In this way, we could begin to establish a new paradigm for democracy that is not dominated by political parties. Citizens are engaged and informed as they need to be. We draw on community experts for information and knowledge, and politicians are relegated to the role of participants, welcome to share their views as equals but present more in the role of apprentices to the will of the people.