Time to join the democracy movement

Stephen Harper is the classic political gambler – he takes chances where others would hold back. It often pays off (like proroguing Parliament in December 2008 to stave off certain defeat by the opposition coalition). But his arrogance often leads to spectacularly bad judgement – such as his attack on culture before the last election which lost him the seats in Quebec that might have given him a majority.

I recently suggested that Canadians may have become too cynical about politics to care about arcane notions such as prorogation. I was wrong. Canadians care enough about democracy to spend the time thinking about what their dictatorial prime minister has done. And they are pissed. There are many signs, as Judy Rebick points out in her recent rabble article, including a rapidly growing petition (now over 80,000 names) and planned nation-wide demonstrations for January 23rd.

The latest Ekos poll shows Harper at just over 33% – the furthest he has been from majority territory in six months.

In what is an almost unprecedented development, even the media has taken up the cudgel against Harper, rightly sensing that this man is not just arrogant and contemptuous of anyone who disagrees with him but actually dangerous. Even the Economist magazine – barely able most of the time to admit that there is any role for government – has denounced Harper for displaying “naked self-interest” in shutting down Parliament. The Globe and Mail has had two editorials attacking Harper and even Andrew Coyne, the neo-liberal editor of McLean’s magazine, referred to Harper’s actions as “dictatorial behaviour” on his blog.

Perhaps these normally complacent free marketeers are worried their complicity in Harper’s rise to power has created a monster that they must now try to reign in. There are many examples in history to name where the economic elite has miscalculated in their support for a politician only to find that he no longer needs them – or thinks he doesn’t. The result can be real dictatorships.

This may well be the best chance progressives have had in the four years of Harper government to deal him a decisive blow and frame him and his government as unfit to run the country. He has clearly been hurt by this but Harper will not go away quietly and if we do not take advantage of this moment and take the next two months to press the issue of democracy (and the Afghan detainee issue which prompted Harper’s move) we can count on Harper to recover – especially given the current weakness of both the Liberals and the NDP.

So long as we show an interest in the issue the media will keep covering it – once our interest wanes, the media will move on.

Here’s a few things you can do:

Take part in any on-line poll you see on the issue and send it to your friends. There’s one on the CBC The National site now.

Check out the site listing the towns and cities where demos will take place and get involved. If there isn’t one in your location – get some friends together and organize one. Join the local Facebook groups associated with the rallies.

Some newspapers allow you to vote thumbs up or down on stories and/or recommend the stories. Reporters pay great attention to these – use them always.

Sign the petition organized by Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament and send it on to your friends.

Join my Word Warriors letter-writing project if you haven’t already. Or simply write letters to your local paper – and copy the letters editor at the Globe and Mail: letters@globeandmail.ca

Keep on top of the CBC – send emails to national@cbc.ca – complimenting its coverage so far and expressing your anger at Harper’s actions.

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