Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Future Is In Our Hands


There was a time, Murray Dobbins writes, when Canadians were highly engaged with their governments. We possessed a high degree of civic literacy:

That was the so-called golden age of capitalism and it wasn't just because of expanding government services. It was so-called because of a much broader and well-informed citizen engagement -- both through social movements and as individual citizens. The level of trust in government was much higher than it is today. And absent from the picture were the factors that today dominate the political conversation: fear and economic insecurity.

Demagogues like Stephen Harper know how to play on fear and economic insecurity. That is why they do their best to promote both. And, using these tools, they can destroy a democracy. Consider Harper's record on that score:

It's a familiar list, including Harper's bullying of Governor General Michaëlle Jean to force the proroguing of the House, his guide book on how to make parliamentary committees ineffective, the use of robo-calls and other election dirty tricks, his attempt to break the rules in appointing a Supreme Court judge and his neutering the House of Commons question period through a deliberate strategy of refusing to answer questions -- a practice that institutionalizes a contempt for Parliament that spreads outward to the general public. At a certain point it doesn't matter who is responsible -- the institution itself becomes risible and irrelevant to ordinary citizens. Which is, of course, exactly what Harper intends.

Now, with Bill C-51 -- which Dobbins dubs The Secret Police Act -- Harper stands on the threshold of bringing the whole democratic edifice down. And he's doing it with the cooperation of the media establishment. But things seem to be changing:

Given our shamefully biased media, Canadians still manage to resist Harper's continued assault on our political sensibility. The first polls on the Secret Police Act (don't call it by any other name) were alarming, with upwards of 80 per cent agreeing with the need for tougher anti-terror laws. But things are changing very quickly as the result of a determined fight-back by civil society groups, a phalanx of heavy-hitting experts and the NDP. A Forum Research poll this week showed support for the Act was down to 38 per cent with those disapproving at 51 per cent -- an amazing turnaround. The highest levels of disapproval were amongst "the youngest (64%), New Democrats (77%), the best educated (65%) and the non-religious (70%)."

Now is the time, Dobbins writes, for Canadians to take their democracy back. Unless we renew our civic literacy, we will lose what we used to hold most dear:

Yet a huge effort will be needed to completely immunize Canadians against the next wave of Harper fear-mongering. That's the only lasting solution to voter manipulation and a healthy democracy. Until we realize that, progressive politics will remain crisis management and we will continue to pin our desperate hopes on coalitions and proportional representation. But without a high degree of civic literacy these institutional fixes will be ultimately dissatisfying.

The future of Canadian democracy is in our hands.


Lorne said...

And time is indeed short, Owen. I wrote about the same topic on my blog this morning, and in reading the Dobbin article, i was struck both by the immensity of the problem and the fact that there are no easy ways to reengage our fellow citizens.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Lorne. It's a huge hill to climb. Harper has done an effective job of destroying the checks that were set up to stop him.

Rural said...

Canadians Government, their Democracy, exactly! There seems to be a gradual realization that these things are OURS not Harpers (or any other individuals or cabal) and its far past time for all of us to take ownership of it. Even if we do and turf the current regime even with the best intentions it may take decades to get back where we were a few short years ago and undo all the damage done.

Owen Gray said...

Sending Harper back to Alberta is the first step, Rural. But it will take years to undo the damage he's done.

Kicking Mr. Harper out of 24 Sussex is no quick fix.

Anonymous said...

My cynicism at being only one of maybe 15,000 demonstrators last weekend against C-51 was lightened a little when media reports said support was dropping for the bill. Hooray.

I keep waiting for the tide to turn = Canadians waking up.

Maybe, maybe, maybe. Failing this awakening, we simply have to deal with whatever electoral fall-out transpires after this election. The best we can hope for is a messy minority with plenty of political crises. Canadian politics becomes interesting again vs. the current funeral dirge.

Vote Harper Out.


Owen Gray said...

It seems that taking to the streets is the only way to focus public attention, Anon-A.

Let's hope enough people are paying attention.

Anonymous said...

"Kicking Mr. Harper out of 24 Sussex is no quick fix."

But it would be a good start.

Owen Gray said...

Agreed, Anon. It has to be the place to start.

ron wilton said...

The 'Conservative' machine is so well financed from persons and corporations inside and outside of our borders that we can hardly comprehend the effects on our lives that wealth commands.

Sure, we cling to the belief that the harpercons have a solid base of old time Conservative Canadians rooted in the prairie provinces that may lend some credibility to the harpercon agenda, but on their own they are not enough to generate the kind of dominance the harpercons have gained.

The massive financial flow from the corporate 'community' to the harpercon agenda has allowed them to amass a virtual army of quislings that have disseminated across this country and have infiltrated every aspect of our socio-political life.

They appear as experts in myriad guises and infiltrate 'think tanks', chambers of commerce, universities, media, municipal and provincial governments and even police forces and security services.

If the harpercon agenda (corporate desire and intentions) appears threatened in any of these venues, their operatives slither in and nullify the threat.

The last provincial election in British Columbia is an example of a very successful harpercon interference.

When it appeared the 'so called' ruling Liberal government, (because they are not even close to being what most Canadians think of as Liberal), appeared destined to be rightfully sentenced to purgatory for their crimes, a wave of Manning Institute trained hard core right wing harpercon quislings were dispatched to BC and became 'employed' in the BC government and BC Liberal party and 'miraculously 'turned the tide' of citizen contempt and the Liberals were re-elected with an increased majority.

As much as this may sound like sour grapes or tin hat railing one can easily identify the infiltrators via internet research.

The harpercon quislings are ready, willing and able to infiltrate any riding, any municipality, any province and employ every Manning Institute dirty tricks practice in the book to avert any and every perceived threat to their candidate and they have the skills, the desire and the unlimited resources to do it.

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link, Ron. We should not kid ourselves. The Neo-Liberal coup which has overtaken Canada was a long time in the making and has been carefully planned.

The folks who are now in power will not go quietly or easily. But it's imperative that they go.

The Mound of Sound said...

I've concluded, Owen, that we're now past neoliberalism and have entered an era of illiberal democracy and authoritarianism. We have only to look to America to see where this path leads.

Owen Gray said...

Certainly, Harper seems to have rendered Parliament irrelevant, Mound.

The only option appears to be taking to the streets -- which, if Bill C-51 passes -- could be declared illegal.

Anonymous said...

Parliament isn't important for Harper. He is setting Canada up as, his Thousand Year Fourth Reich. Harper is having a dictatorship, totally under his control.

Perhaps if, Alberta does join the US, Harper goes too.

Owen Gray said...

I have a hunch they wouldn't want him down there, Anon.

Anonymous said...

"The future of Canadian democracy is in our hands."

Let us stick handle it well Owen let us defend future generations from the crime ridden Harper-con party. It is time to end their partying on parliament hill.

Mogs Moglio

Owen Gray said...

Absolutely true, Mogs. And that means getting out the vote.