A powerful grassroots movement for democracy is building in Canada
Am I the only one who saw Stephen Harper's nose grow on the National last night? As he responded to Peter Mansbridge's question about how he had changed, he said that partisanship was now really the terrain of the Opposition. Perhaps he hadn't consulted with his old pal Tom Flanigan who explained in today's Globe in a piece called Polarization, Ad Hoc Alliances and Fear of Election how completely partisan Harper's strategy is. Harper is in perpetual campaign mode, says Flanigan. Maybe this time, Harper has outsmarted himself.
Growing public opposition to Harper shutting down Parliament is being felt at every level of Canadian society. Whatever you are doing, whatever your issue, however cynical you may be about electoral politics, please join this profound grassroots rebellion against Stephen Harper's assault on democracy. If Harper behaves in such a highhanded way in minority, closing Parliament whenever he is worried about losing the so-called confidence of the House, attacking anyone who disagrees with him with all the power he has - from cutting off funding, to attack ads, to firing civil servants - what's he going to do with a majority?
The Facebook groups opposing the proroguing have well over 85,000 members now, and there are rallies being planned across the country for Jan 23. If you are not on Facebook you can go to Citizens for Democracy and see all the events as well as several videos, and sign a petition too. A la 350.org, if your town is not included on the growing list of rallies then add it and let the organizers know by posting it on one of their pages. In the meantime, or if rallies are not your thing, write your MP or vote in one of the many online media polls about the questions, all of which so far are running at least 8 to 1 against proroguing.
This is a truly grass roots uprising. In an article entitled "Grassroots fury greets shuttered Parliament" Susan Delacourt finds that an Anthropology student at University of Alberta who does not see himself as an activist started the Facebook page, and similarly, students at campuses across the country are taking up the call for the rallies. I am hoping that unions, ENGOs and other organzed groups with staff will come out to the organizing meetings and provide support to this grass roots leadership organizing under the slogan, "Get back to work!"
But it isn't just a grass roots rebellion - the media has turned against Harper on this too. The Globe ran a full page editorial against proroguing. The Toronto Star is on what looks like a campaign against it. And columnists and op-ed writers are filling up pages with denunciations of Harper's varous assaults on democracy. Rick Mercer is up to his old brilliance with a rant also published in the Globe and Mail that includes, "This prime minister has gone from the promise of an open, accessible and accountable government to a government that is simply closed."
The Opposition parties are also angry of course, but the Liberals have announced that they will go back to Parliament as scheduled on Jan 25. Continued organizing might convince them and the NDP to enter the Parliament buildings and insist on being seated.
In some ways, this is like the grassroots opposition to Elizabeth May's initial exclusion from the Leader's debate last year, and the brief but powerful grassroots organizing that supported the coalition attempt, but it seems to be much broader and more powerful. What's more, it has media support, which is rare for any grassroots opposition to anything these days.
Given the weakness of the opposition, this is our best chance to deal the Tories a body blow, and let them and every other government know that Canadians will not sit still and watch the erosion of our democracy.