By Rick Salutin, Toronto Star, Friday, February 18, 2011
The trouble with elections as we know them is they tend to skip that organizing stage: there are only leaders and individual voters. So we miss out on the exhilarating phase where people come together, realize that they share concerns, and decide to act. The real democratic trick would be to combine the phases so the tedious business of choosing a government gets done but individual citizens aren’t largely sidelined in the process.
Most of the coverage here (Cairo) seemed to assume that Egyptians were just trying to get to where we already are: democratic elections. But I think it would do us as much good to go where they’ve already been: through Tahrir Square.
(First, congratulations to the Toronto Star for finding and uploading the outstanding writing that always emerges from Rick Salutin's mind!)
Now, let's look at what a trip through Tahrir Square would look like for Canadians.
Such a trip would need an organizing drive, a principle for which all, or at least a large number of Canadians, demand change to address. And that would require a significant wake-up call since, currently, of the 33 million people in the country, there are a meagre 2%, who even belong to any political party. That is a very small number of people. The large contributor number is even much smaller.
So let's imagine, for the moment, that Canadians do come to the (legitimate) view that Harper and his band of political aardvarks needs to be replaced because they have lost the confidence of the Canadian people.
Now, someone with tech savvy, likely in his or her twenties, would twitter a few friends, suggesting that they meet on parliament hill on a Saturday morning in April, after the winter storms, and before any vote in an election could be held. They would, in their note, comment that the oppression of the poor, the homeless and the unemployed, at the hands of the rich establishment (that demands law-and-order and a new military jet to solve non-existent problems but to satisfy their ego needs), has to stop and the only way to stop it is to remove the current leaders of the government. And the only way to do that peacefully and democratically is to demand a termination of the current parliament, through a trip by Harper to the Governor General to issue an election writ.
And first, the people on the hill, in April, would have to demand that the opposition leaders vote both to censure the government (goodness knows there are so many reasons to do this, the latest one being the behaviour of Bev Oda, Minister of International Co-operation) and then to vote lack of confidence in the government in the House of Commons.
Now, unlike Egypt, where Mubarak "held" power, through the support of the military and the U.S., Canadian leaders seem stuck in an archetype of leadership that renders them powerless, poll-driven and incapable of the final thrust that demonstrates their capacity to lead, including their capacity to face the electorate in a general election, so frightened are they of the polls which even the pollsters acknowledge are no longer reliable, given the difficulty of generating a representative sample of the electorate, now that millions have no home phone but only a cell phone.
So we have leaders running from their responsibility based on information that is admittedly unsound, and failing to lead, because they are moved more by their fears than their courage...
And, that notion just might be included in those tweets attempting to generate a crowd on parliament hill.
And then, of course, those tweeting would need to tweet a few reporters, and a few people to speak to the crowd (of at least 100) who would gather, after driving through Tim's for their Saturday morning mojo, to demand a change of government....
On second thought, there is more likelihood of a tsunami of protest through vandalism against the Mayor of Victoria because he refused to allow the homeless to camp in the neighbourhood where many other homeless people live....than there is of a crowd forming on parliament hill to demand the removal of the Harper-cons even with the tweets and the facebook messages and the blackberries in the hands of a highly educated electorate....sleep on a Saturday morning appeals to far more Canadians than walking up parliament hill and taking back the government....nice idea, Rick, too bad it wont work in Canada!