Kelsey Ehler: Prorogation showed participatory democracy is needed in Canada

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      By Kelsey Ehler

      On December 30, 2009, Stephen Harper decided that Canadians didn’t care about democracy and accountability. He shut down parliamentary debate because he wasn’t winning the day. But Canadians, in an incredible display of participatory democracy, organized themselves through Facebook, and translated those connections into community-based engagement. The energy was palpable.

      I remember those heady days of January. The prorogation. The protests. Canadians were furious over the actions of Harper and the situation in Ottawa, and decided to take action. Over 2,000 people took to the streets in Vancouver alone.

      But the passage of time took the teeth out of the issue, especially as it drew nearer to the resumption of Parliament. Once the MPs were back in their seats and the prorogation was over, why care? It would be like getting upset that the sun rose that morning.

      The problem with that stance, practical though it may be on the face of it, is that the problems demonstrated by the prorogation have not been resolved. Prime Minister Harper called for prorogation because he assumed that Canadians would not care. We demonstrated that we did, but happens now?

      We have no guarantee that a non-binding resolution passed in the House of Commons will prevent a future prime minister from using prorogation in an egregious fashion. Nor are we guaranteed that voter turnout come the next election will be higher than 2008’s abysmal numbers (59.1 percent) or that our apathetic selves will hold politicians—federal, provincial, and municipal—to account the rest of the time.

      But there seems to be little motivation for individuals to get involved. To their eyes, their single vote doesn’t account for any more than $2, give or take, in public campaign financing. Newspapers are replete with examples of politicians behaving badly, from sponsorship scandals to tantrums at the airport. If we don’t respect and trust our elected representatives, and the institution of government which they serve, then how can we have confidence in their ability to deliver?

      The more alienated individuals become, the more governments can run roughshod over them. But if you’ll pardon the cliché, there’s strength in numbers. The more we do to reduce alienation, increase critical awareness of the issues, and increase participation, the more we’ll create the government we deserve.

      On January 23, a group called Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament organized a nationwide protest. It is continuing to advocate for participatory democracy, but under a new name. CAPP has changed its name to Canadians Advocating Political Participation to better reflect its new mandate: to defend and restore Canadian democracy, to educate Canadians on their political system, and to encourage greater political participation by all citizens.

      CAPP has planned a National Week of Dialogue, which will take place throughout Canada between May 8 and 15. Vancouver’s own Day of Dialogue is planned for May 15 at the Unity Church (5840 Oak Street). This event will give the public an opportunity to engage in dialogue on the subject of participatory democracy and voter apathy, and move toward real solutions for fostering citizen participation.

      CAPP remains a grassroots, nonpartisan organisation. We welcome Canadians of all political affiliations, from Liberal, Conservative, NDP, and Green, to none of the above. We welcome the politically active and the politically apathetic alike.

      Kelsey Ehler is a volunteer for Canadians Advocating Political Participation, whose Vancouver chapter may be found on Facebook and Twitter.




      Apr 13, 2010 at 10:31pm

      What good will it do? Until we get rid of half the partys that are running we won't have a majority goverment who will run the country like it's suppose to be run.

      0 0Rating: 0


      Apr 14, 2010 at 4:51pm

      The Canadian Constitution, is no longer observed. Our Civil Rights and Liberties, mean absolutely nothing, our voices were ignored, about the HST. The fraudulent governments, did it anyway, irregardless of the fact, the number of Campbell's most hated people, the homeless, will double. Democracy and Freedom is, null and void. Canada is becoming communist, if the people can't afford to buy food, because the government takes all your money, we are to live on the streets. 9 months of the year, of your salary, the government takes in taxes. BC pays much more tax, than the other provinces, because of the, terrible budget and the HST. Campbell and Hansen, are low in character, honesty is not their forte.

      0 0Rating: 0

      Brian Marlatt

      Apr 15, 2010 at 10:20am

      Canadians are becoming disengaged from democracy in Canada because they see politics as concerned mainly with the interests of political parties and politicians and not concerned with the people or the country.

      Political parties have become too powerful because of excesses of party discipline; the prime minister and party leaders have become too powerful within parliament and political parties for the same reason; and too much power has been assumed to lie with individual provinces to serve the interests of all Canadians equally.

      The influence of the individual Member of Parliament has been significantly eroded in Canada, especially under the current government.

      We need to empower our representatives, our Members of Parliament and Members of the Legislative Assembly, to act according to their best judgment on our behalf, aware but not slaves to party positions or ever-changing constituent opinion. Our representatives must be allowed to exercise their responsible judgment, not just to act in fear of being held accountable by party or populist.

      In short, what we need is to remember that when we elect a legislature in Canada, we elect a parliament and that parliament is about reasoned debate.

      We live in a parliamentary democracy and we should allow the principles of parliamentary democracy to be our guide - after all, that was what Canadian protest against the extraordinary prorogation of parliament was all about.

      0 0Rating: 0