Reviving Democracy: a call to Canadians to step up!

Drapeau du Canada à la Citadelle de Québec
Image by abdallahh via Flickr

My interest in politics and democracy hit record levels recently. November was hope inspired with the victory of the Obama movement and then by a revolt in the House of Commons in Canada. The Governor General‘s decision to prorogue sparked a visceral anger unlike any I’ve experienced in a long time. To me it was a technically legitimate assault on the core of our democracy – blatantly ignoring the voice of the people that we voted to represent us – the members of the House.

The machinations since then with the Liberals choosing to go with Ignatieff represented the continuation of the assault and a completely missed opportunity. I see the assault now as being a political culture that is interested primarily in partisan power and division with our democracy being but a set of rules to have to operate by. The spirit of democracy is quite the opposite.

Imagine for a minute if the Liberals would have instead organized an open leadership vote among all members. What would have happened? They would have announced it – and everyone seeking to have input into the decision (everyone interested in voting for the person to challenge Harper) would have been drawn to join the liberal party simply for that priviledge. And applying a little Obama strategy at the same time by allowing people to financially contribute to the cause (the Liberal Party) would have seen contributions rise dramatically. What better way is there for the disaffected to get involved right now? I can only imagine what that could have done to change the buy-in of the people in this.

As we stand now I fully expect the Liberals to balk at the Coalition and return to making this a Liberal vs. Conservative battle. Ignatieff may well be the right leader for that and if they execute well they just might win the next election. And I would vote strategically again to try and make that happen.

But that’s exactly the problem. I’m playing political games rather than debating the merits of policies and programs.

We need to change politics in Canada. Some things that would contribute to doing that:

  • Parliamentary Democracy 101 (commoncraft style)
  • Political Culture exposes (creative examples of our politicians spouting lies and mistruths about our democratic system, fearmongering, and divisive, power hungry tactics)
  • The Coalition Movement (a movement supporting the values, strengths, and benefits of coalitions in our democratic system)
  • Electoral Reform (introducing Mixed Member Proportional Representation)

It’s painfully clear that none of these things will happen from within the system. That’s not surprising. I do think there is hope though – and that’s through a revival of civic engagement enabled by the tools of the web and our world-class creative communities.  Already there are initiatives like FairVote Canada and Those are just a couple of many (if you know one pop it in the comments). We have some of the world’s leading experts in online community building, activism, creative content, journalism, and all other things web and civic.

It’s time to step up – we need them – we need everyone – we need you. I am finding my way to do my part… and for the love of Canada, I hope you do to.

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9 thoughts on “Reviving Democracy: a call to Canadians to step up!”

  1. Michael, great ideas! We need to find the small handful of big ideas for a new progressive reform movement that can engage the imaginations of everyday Canadians, and to build that movement into something big enough that can act as an attractor of those in or aspiring to political office.

    1. And I think the creative capacity of our creative communities embedded in
      the web community is a big piece of that spark – let’s get creative, capture
      people’s attention, and mobilize the movement with practical grassroots
      initiatives. I think ChangeGovCA is the natural, neutral home-base for this
      and as much as I believe that Harper and the current conservative machine is
      causing the most damage – I also believe this is a non-partisan issue…
      something that needs to be change in the political culture of all our
      parties. What’s next?

  2. I worry that “Political Culture exposes” will turn more people OFF of politics.

    I'd rather Canadians get a much clearer view of both the bad and the good in our politicians. Give us the facts first, separate from the editorializing, to help us draw our own conclusions on what is important to us.

    I'm still searching for the Canadian version of – I've even taken a look at the Toronto City Council minutes to see how much of a challenge it would be to put together an RSS feed of how each city councilor voted. ( Anyone else out there that thinks “working on Perl scripts to spider PDFs and parsing them for councilor names” sounds like fun, let me know! )

    I realize this isn't as extreme as “spouting lies and mistruths about our democratic system, fearmongering, and divisive, power hungry tactics” but I think Web 2.0 has taught us that people really will make use of information if they can get it, share it, and build on it.

  3. Thanks. Will check out the link.

    What I envisioned with the exposes are simple verbatim (speech and
    video replays) that speak for themselves done. These could be done
    with creative flair that sparks questions and conversation. That's the
    point of that piece for me.

  4. Thanks for the clarification, I agree that that would be beneficial. Hopefully more 'citizen journalists' will also see value in this and start generating video that the large media outlets would never bother with.

  5. Thanks for the clarification, I agree that that would be beneficial. Hopefully more 'citizen journalists' will also see value in this and start generating video that the large media outlets would never bother with.

    That being said, however, this reminds me of the videos Spacing Magazine and Eye Weekly posted to YouTube in 2006 of the Toronto Mayor candidate debates. The most popular of the 15 videos got just 443 views, in a city of 2.5 million, so maybe I'm being REALLY overly optimistic about what could have an impact. The videos and stats are at:

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