Thursday, January 15, 2015

Toward Democratic Renewal

I'm sure that all progressive bloggers are disheartened and bedeviled by the devolution of democracy in Canada. Not only has it been under consistent and sustained attack by the Harper regime, but it has also (perhaps as a result of those attacks) seen a substantial rise in the number of disaffected and disengaged citizens, attested to by the abysmal turnout in recent elections.

In today's Star, Bob Hepburn has some suggestions on how to reverse this deplorable situation, posed in this way by Hepburn:
How can Stephen Harper and other political leaders be prevented from running roughshod over our democracy?
Hepburn suggests that Harper's egregious contempt for our democratic principles and traditions are sparking a backlash among a growing number of Canadians.

It is a suggestion with which the founder of Democracy Watch, Duff Conacher agrees:
“There will be huge competition on this issue among the political parties like we haven’t seen in more than 10 years,” he says.
So how can we, as concerned citizens, contribute to this push for democratic renewal?
First, you can write, email and telephone Harper, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, as well as your MP. In the past, many people have written to Ottawa, but have received unsatisfying responses or no replies at all. Don’t give up, though. Politicians will change direction if enough people write to them, Conacher says.
Next, Hepburn advises joining
a non-profit community group engaged in a public issue ... [that] can provide a chance to share your views with elected officials or public servants.
Third, spend $10 and join a political party. As a member, you can try to influence candidates and the political agenda at the local or national level.

Fourth, talk about political issues with your family and friends. [Alison]Loat [of Samara]says one of the biggest challenges for anyone interested in restoring democracy is getting others engage. Barely 40 per cent of Canadians report they have talked with their friends or families or work colleagues about a political or societal issue in person or on the phone in the last year.

Fifth, sign up with pro-democracy efforts and petitions that are being launched across Canada. For example, the Ottawa-based Council of Canadians is urging its members to take a vote pledge, with a promise to challenge two more eligible voters to join them in taking the pledge. As well, Dave Meslin, a Toronto organizer who co-founded Spacing magazine, is seeking ideas for a book he is writing, titled One Hundred Remedies for a Broken Democracy.
Hepburn also points out that Duff Conacher is
the driving force behind Democracy Education, a coalition of national groups that operates the website that strives to get voters to encourage non-voters to turn out for the coming election.
The idea is to extract a promise from as many of your friends and acquaintances as possible to Make the Vote Promise.

Taken separately, perhaps none of these will cure our political malaise, but in the aggregate, they may, with the proper effort, result in a return to healthier numbers at the ballot box.

We have our job cut out for us. The challenge is daunting, but I refuse to believe it is insurmountable.

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