And From Those Eating Crow

On January 20th David Akin reported that a miserable 35 people turned up to dog PMS* when he showed up in Toronto and suggested they were all Liberal or NDP staffers and not members of CAPP, expressing doubt that the Facebook group Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament [CAPP]would be able to put their members out on the street on Saturday.

From David Akin on Saturday evening:

Based on initial reports, some from independent sources, some from partisan sources, it would be difficult to call this day of rallies a failed test.  [more]

But he would if he could.

Before rally day, from John Moore who writes for, er, ahem:

Grassroots fury? Thousands of people in the streets, switchboard’s browning out with indignant calls and a tsunami of e-mails might be considered a grassroots fury. Facebook groups, on the other hand, amount to a kind of ephemeral eruption that usually passes like a hot flash or the urge to vote for the Green party.

And in response to a letter from freelance writer James DiFiore, Moore had this to say, in part:

I will absolutely eat my words if anything comes of the movement outside of the usual gang of professional protesters but if you honestly think that a bunch of people clicking a button and joining a Facebook group that they will never return to is political action then perhaps it’s the younguns these days who need a good lesson in media and action. Rosa Parks did not launch the civil rights movement by Twittering “this bus thing totally sucks”. Barack Obama was not elected by social networking. It was a means of connecting people so they could actually do the grunt work of old fashioned politics: door to door, meetings, and phone calls. Digital yakity yak is not action.

I’d recommend you take a quick look at today’s Toronto Star for an idea of how Facebook translates into action. 32 thousand signed up at Facebook to protest a possible strike by Ontario college teachers. One showed up for the protest. I know it’s a popular talking point that “old media” don’t get “new media” but as long as new media rings together a bunch of ernest do-nothings old media will continue to recognize it as a pooling of people who are all talk and no action.

Um, John?  Old media doesn’t get new media.  Really.

Yesterday, John tried to cover his ass with this post:

But as Rick Mercer has pointed out the push in the last ten days to actually deliver on the whole Facebook thing is drawing considerably upon the fact that it was originally shrugged off. So who is turning out to genuinely follow through on their button pushing and who is turning out to teach the crusty old media wretches a lesson?  [some more]

Right John.  Tens of thousands of people rallied across Canada to teach your crusty ass a lesson.  I doubt that anyone cares if you figure it out or not honey.  Come along for the ride, or don’t.

* PMS = Prime Minister Steve and he’s about as welcome to me as that.

UPDATE:  Speaking of PMS, a P.S. to John Moore – Ain’t nuthin’ ephemeral about a hot flash buddy.

UPPER-DATE:  Can’t leave out Michael Geist, who knew what was happening before the rallies  –

The new year is less than three weeks old, but the Canadian Internet story of 2010 may have already taken place. Ridiculed by political parties and analysts, the growth of the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament Facebook group, which now has more than 200,000 members, provides the clearest indicator yet of how poorly the Canadian political community understands social media and digital advocacy.  [lots more]

UPPITY-DATE:  As Antonia Zerbisias would say.  And how could I leave this irrepressible activist, Toronto Star columnist and blogger out?  The day before the rallies, Ms Zerbisias had this to say –

Still, Canadians will show up.

Trouble is, they will be spread out from Antigonish to Victoria to Yellowknife, mostly in towns abandoned by our corporate, concentrated media who plead poverty when it comes to local news, but can pony up millions and millions for U.S. series already piped in by cable.

So a true measure will never be taken, at least not by the national media ministries of truth, especially not on a weekend when newsrooms are bare-bones operations.

But tune into Facebook and Twitter and you’ll see the big picture.

I plan to help paint it.

On that, you can count.  [oh, there’s more count on it!]

FINAL UPDATE:  Finally, John Moore responds.  Not worth the wait but here it is anyway –

Well it looks like I wont be eating crow for dinner after all. Dan Cook went through the numbers for me city by city and three thousand people in Ottawa and Toronto, 300 in Montreal, 250 in Edmonton and 2000 in Vancouver doesn’t really amount to much.

It’s a numbers game. That’s why politicians monitor e-mail, protests and phone calls. And three thousand people in the streets of Toronto just doesn’t do the trick. Is it fair? yes as a matter of fact. I covered federalist and separatist rallies and protests for years in Montreal and you knew when people were fighting mad. That’s when fifty to a hundred thousand hit the streets. When it was just another “We Hate Ottawa” or “God save Canada” gathering they would muster a few thousand and it didn’t mean a thing.

I’m not celebrating this outcome. My record on this PM is long and clear. But my method as a columnist and radio host has always been to try to offer as accurate a pulse on what people are saying and thinking at the moment. It doesn’t matter how much I don’t like Stephen Harper’s pettiness. What matters is whether or not a significant percentage of the population is fed up enough to do something about it.

Of course John’s not close to correct on the numbers.  Even MacLean‘s doesn’t have it right, though they’re certainly closer.  No matter how many Canadians had been on the street I think it’s a safe bet that Moore wouldn’t have eaten any crows – he made up his mind beforehand and forgot to leave himself a way out.  As well his job is to create fake controversy so really his statement on the rallies is functional for him – it’s what he gets paid for.  I guess.

But we can talk numbers forever; contary to what Moore says, there’s more going on here than what the tally does or does not say.  Many many many people are involved in this protest on Facebook, on Twitter, on the group’s website and on so many blogs that collecting links is hard work.  Large numbers of those people got themselves out onto the streets in cities, towns and communities across the country on Saturday and many of those people are committed to continue working to affect HarperCON policies or to defeat the government entirely.  These people have dominated the national conversation for days and even weeks.  If we never hear another peep from them collectively, a great deal has been learned and some people have taken an interest in their country’s politicians and political structure for the first time.  That’s the least of what has been accomplished.  Time will tell us a great deal more about what this movement of people has meant.

Hey John Moore, if it’s so unimportant, how come you can’t stop talking about it?  Now, here’s your punishment.  Keep your promise.

By Pale from A Creative Revolution

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The Harper Agenda

Murray Dobbin points out that the Harper Agenda on the economic front is likely even more important than the prorogation:

It is gratifying to see such widespread opposition to Harper’s assault on Parliament and democracy — from almost every major political columnist, newspaper editorials, over a hundred political scientists, and constitutional experts — including a significant number of unusual suspects. It is a clear sign that Harper has overreached yet again — a character flaw that has saved the country from disaster more than once. Harper now sits at 33 percent in the latest Ekos poll, and if the movement continues to grow, Harper’s plan to force an election over his March budget will have to be put on hold. That might have the effect of postponing the worst cuts.

But the sudden support for democracy by parts of the Canadian elite will not extend to defending the legacy of public services, wealth redistribution and government intervention in the economy. Those are the things that are in Stephen Harper’s crosshairs, and progressives will have to fight the campaign to stop him on their own.  [more of this must read]

Amidst the excitement of the movement against Harper’s prorogation of Parliament, it’s not only important to keep this in mind, it’s important to strategize about effective responses.  Progressives will likely be back on their own at that point.

Tory Teachable Moments

Tory MP Brent Rathgeber’s civics lesson for the day:

“Democracy and Parliament are not being sidestepped — they are only being suspended.”  [there’s no more thank gawd]

So don’t worry y’all, democracy is safely on holiday with the HarperCONs and will return when they decide they’re up for it.

Then there’s Tory MP Gary Schellenberger who’s off to the Olympics during the suspension of democracy.  [here]

There’s something to be said for Rathgeber and Schellenberger.  They’re more honest than their fearless leader.

The Facebook movement to stop the Tories in their plot to supercede the will of the people is here.  If you’re on Facebook join us.  If not it’s worth getting an account just to join us!  95,306 members and counting as of 9:41 p.m EST with rallies planned across the country for January 23rd.  I can’t wait to hit the streets, I really can’t.

If it takes a prorogation to get Canadians on the move and paying attention to the our decaying democracy then I’m glad Harper did it.

UPDATE:  Jack Layton and NDP MPs won’t accept any free tickets for the Tory Olympic holiday.  [here]

UPDATE FROM MP RATHGEBER: 

must clarify—Parliament is being suspended–democracy is much larger and much broader and of course continues everyday in Canada.

Whew!  *wipesweatfrombrow*

More Anti-Rogueness

Constitutional law professor Errol Mendes at The Star:

This behaviour [the prorogation] by the Prime Minister is another piece of evidence of a major shift in Canadian constitutional democracy taking shape. First, there is the unconstitutional behaviour of the Harper government to deny the committee uncensored documents despite a motion of the House of Commons. Second, there is the boycott of the committee by the Conservative MPs at the committee. Third, we have seen the sandbagging of the Military Police Complaints Commission and the “yanking” of its chair, Peter Tinsley. This commission, a quasi-judicial tribunal has been stymied in its attempt to determine the truth over the detainee transfer issue. Finally, there is the unprecedented slamming of Richard Colvin for just doing his job of speaking truth to power and then accusing anybody who supports him of either being Taliban dupes or undermining our brave Canadian military heroes.

These are serious examples of abuse of executive power over Parliament, the Governor General, the public service and ultimately the Canadian voters who elected MPs to make Parliament work.

. . .

Some Canadians may not pay much attention to archaic constitutional terms such as prorogation of Parliament or even to the fate of Afghan detainees transferred to torture. Other Canadians will care greatly about both these issues. But all Canadians must care about a minority government that undermines the fundamental democratic institutions of this country while also manipulating quasi-judicial tribunals and intimidating the public service from speaking truth to power. This abuse of executive power is tilting toward totalitarian government and away from the foundations of democracy and the rule of law on which this country was founded.  [you can have more]

A bit more at The Star:

“What this is is a continuation of a very authoritarian approach to government by the current prime minister … this particular prime minister does not want to govern in an accountable democratic manner. It is extremely dangerous,” [constitutional law professor Peter] Russell told the Star.  [there is more]

[links via impolitical]

Dawg on Michael Ignatieff’s less than rousing response to the prorogation:

Leaders are supposed to lead, dammit. This empty suit has been asking for input almost since his coronation. Doesn’t he have any ideas of his own by now? Any gut reactions? Any strategy? Any vision? Any passion, for crying out loud?

I’m not even a Liberal, and I’m yearning to hear something real, just for once, come from this man’s mouth.  [always more and always worth it!]

ANTI-ROGUE UPPIDY DATE:

From Rick Mercer’s blog:

It is ironic that while our parliament has been suspended we are a nation at war. On New Year’s Eve we greeted the news that five Canadians were killed in a single day with sadness but not surprise. We are at war because ostensibly we are helping bring democracy to Afghanistan. How the mission is progressing is open for debate but this much is certain – at present there is a parliament in Afghanistan that it is very much open for business. Canada has no such institution.

In Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s government faces fierce opposition at every turn; many of his cabinet choices have been rejected in a secret ballot by the more than 200 parliamentarians that sit in the legislature. Simply closing parliament down and operating without their consent is not an option for Hamid Karzai; to do so would be blatantly undemocratic or at the very least downright Canadian. If Hamid Karzai suspended parliament on a whim we might be forced to ask why Canadians are dying to bring democracy to that country.

Stephen Harper doesn’t have that problem. The Parliament of Canada has been suspended for no other reason than the prime minister simply can’t be bothered with the relentless checks and balances that democracy affords us. He doesn’t want to have to stand in the House of Commons and hear anyone question him on any subject. I don’t blame him. Parliament is filled with jackals, opportunists and boors. The problem is, like it or not, they were elected.  [the whole thing]

Anti-Rogue

From Pushed to the Left and Loving It:

In what other democracy is it permissible for the government of the day to hide from the legislature for months at a time? To ignore explicit parliamentary votes demanding the production of documents? To stonewall independent inquiries? Perhaps the rules allow it elsewhere, but is it the practice? Does convention not still forbid it? Is it not viewed in other countries as dictatorial behaviour, and therefore, you know … not done?  [more]

Dawg:

[Stephen Harper’s] contempt for democratic process is never far below the surface. And now, once again, Parliament–Canada’s supreme elected body–is about to be flicked away like a mosquito.

We’re watching political accountability and responsible government melt away before our unbelieving eyes.  As one commentator noted not long ago, “The Prime Minister is now in such command that he can get away with pretty much anything. And he is lauded for his conquests.”

But even Harper’s fiercest supporters might want to take a sober second look about now, and put Canada before their party for once. At this point there should be no partisans–only outraged Canadians, of all political hues, who want their country back.  [more]

From Prorogue 2: The Resurrection:

Citing “national party security” and national pride, PM Stephen (“I’ll be back”) Harper is seeking emergency measures from Canada’s Governor-General to protect and enhance his power, his perks and his reputation. It’s Prorogue 2: 2010 Edition.

With the winter Olympics around the corner and all eyes on Canada, Harper is conducting a pre-emptive war against transparency and accountability (two of the early promises that helped squeak him into power in 2006) to minimize the potential embarrassment of those pesky little issues. Like living conditions in 1st Nations communities. Like Afghan prisoner treatment. Like carbon emissions. Like silencing whistle-blowers.  [more]

From Murray Dobbin’s Blog:

The second prorogation of Parliament in a year demonstrates an absolute contempt for democracy. It is, even to the compliant and conservative media pundits, a transparent effort to cool off the Afghan torture issue which threatened to regain momentum, lost when Parliament recessed for Christmas.  The arrogance of the government was further demonstrated in its half-hearted effort to even come up with an excuse – saying that a new Parliament is needed now that the economic crisis has moved to the recovery stage.

Perhaps the even greater contempt for Parliament lies in the fact that some 35 pieces of legislation – the true work of the House of Commons – has simply been wiped from the map. Even Harper’s favourite bills, those getting tough on crime, go down the drain in this crass assault on democracy. Nothing is more important than staying in power and by taking the Afghan scandal off the table Harper can introduce a March budget so draconian that the opposition will have to vote against it. Harper will get the election no one wants and for which he will not be blamed.  [more]

I’ll update this post.

Here’s an UPDATE:

It is becoming patently obvious Harper now presides over a minority government that can all-too-readily be characterized as a not-so-benign dictatorship. Harper successfully exploits the first-past-the-post electoral system — which he and Flanagan denounced as immature — and the ideological and political divisions within the opposition parties, to impose his unflinching will on his cabinet, caucus, and what he characterizes as an utterly dysfunctional House of Commons, one made so by the government itself. With his appointment of yet more Conservatives to the Senate, Harper will exercise full and unfettered power over Parliament, a power which he will readily use to cow the judicial branch of government with his so-called tough-on-crime legislation.  [more from Michael Biehels]

Susan Riley at The Ottawa Citizen:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to shut down Parliament for his own partisan convenience — no more nasty questions about Afghan detainees, no more challenges from a “Liberal-dominated Senate” — is shocking, but hardly surprising.

It is an expression of this prime minister’s contempt not just for Parliament, but for government.

So much for those urgent Tory crime measures that will die on the order paper; so much for an adult debate on the deficit, or pension reform, or Afghanistan after 2011. The assumption is that we will be so wrapped up in the Olympics we won’t notice the long silence from Ottawa. We will, in fact, welcome it.

If Harper is right, we deserve the government we aren’t getting. This is a richly-blessed country with a well-educated, relatively prosperous population and a degraded political culture. And until its citizens move from apathy and cynicism to outrage and involvement, nothing will change.  [read the rest]

James Travers at The Star:

… 

the timing could hardly be worse for a dark Parliament.While Canadians struggle with recession’s aftershocks, Harper risks being seen as more interested in maximizing a sporting spectacle Conservatives are doing everything possible to make their own.

Less likely to be noticed but no less important, the Prime Minister is piling on fresh evidence that accountability is a fiction, an election promise easily made and forgotten.

Whatever else it achieves, suspending Parliament first and foremost blinkers oversight. Having tried and failed to blame abuse reports on a bureaucrat just doing his job, Harper is now trying to push it under the carpet for two critical months and perhaps much longer.  [choke on it]

QotD +

From Bob Beal at the Globe and Mail:

I would not presume to tell Her Excellency what she should do. She will make her decision, and it will be a good one. However, I do think that simply refusing prorogation is the option that carries with it the most minimal Crown interference in the affairs of the elected representatives of the people. And I do think it is irresponsible for a prime minister to place a governor-general in this situation. There is no need, except in a narrow political context.  [emphasis mine]

There’s a short article by Beal and a good Q & A here

[Beal] grew up in southern Ontario but moved to Edmonton in 1970 and considers himself a westerner. He was a newspaper reporter and editor, mainly with the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal.
 
Among his historical specialties are: the laws of treason, North American Indian treaties, constitutional development especially in the colonies, Métis society and economy, the North-West Rebellion of 1885. He has been retained as an expert in several constitutional cases, particularly those concerning treaty and aboriginal rights.

UPDATE:  Here’s a Q & A on coalition governments at The Star

and an article by Chantal Hebert on Tory and Alliance efforts to build coalitions in the past

UPDATE II:  A lesson in parliamentary democracy from Peter H. Russell at The Star

via Dawg’s Blawg

purtek has a great post on this too

UPDATE III:  CBC.ca has a good Q & A on coalition government with Carleton University’s Jonathan Malloy and here and here’s a good piece on the role of the Gov-Gen in a parliamentary democracy, such as ours