By Don Mitchell
April 18, 2011
It's still possible the electoral process can more actively engage the progressive organizational networks, which we (rabble readers) are all part of. Individuals and groups whose priorities are ignored by the Conservatives can become more engaged and make a difference in the results, locally and nationally.
Organizations like the Council of Canadians, health coalitions, environmental groups, childcare advocacy groups, arts and cultural groups that advocate for certain policies and priorities to be included in the political agenda have a huge investment in the election result. The emphasis on non-partisanship as a core value in organizational mandates is not an excuse to stay on the sidelines. Community bridging between issues and political parties and their process during an election time could be so much more open and productive than it has been in recent past elections!
Connecting social movements and political parties to share work on profiling key issues happened some in the 2008 campaign. For example, when arts and cultural groups were angered by the Harper budget cuts and his arrogant attack on "cultural elites", they established a presence in the campaigns of other parties, especially in Quebec, and it hurt the Conservatives.
Organizations around housing, health care, childcare, environment, universal education, gender rights, violence and gun control can broaden the voice of the anti-Harper consensus. Some examples came out of Saskatchewan recently.
- In Regina there was a locally organized childcare forum. It merged with a Liberal campaign event where Michael Ignatieff dropped in. This happened partly because Monica Lysack, a former Executive Director for the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada is a local Liberal candidate. The event highlighted the desperate need for a national childcare strategy. It exposed the emptiness of the Conservatives ‘non-plan' of cash subsidies for Saturday night baby-sitting services.
- In Moose Jaw the partnership against violence to women held a public forum last week with Brian Vallee author of "The War on Women." Vallee blasted the Conservatives for opposing the long gun registry. He stated that rifles and shotguns killed 80% of women killed by intimate partners. Police investigating domestic abuse calls use the long gun registry all the time as an essential resource. Violence against women is unrecognized and under reported by the media.
- The Moose Jaw and District Labour council is having a "Leadership Assembly" for their members this week on the crisis in public pensions. They've invited the local federal candidates to sit in. This event, also, will help expose the shallow commitment of the Conservatives on public pension reform.
- A community event in Saskatoon (this week) is an all party candidates' forum entitled "Focusing On Issues of Importance to Women." A broad range of seven local women's groups organized this. This won't be a comfortable event for Conservative candidates, if they attend, and should engage some broad public interest in social priorities.
When emphasis is focused on community needs and the destructive trend of Harper's record, informed choices and strategic voting will come more into play. People will be more ready to engage in the campaign and influence others. Strategy and tactics can include kitchen meetings, ‘third party' signs, letters to the editor, internet messages and blogs linking issues to voting for alternatives to Harper. Logical choices of preferred candidates will be based on voting history of the riding and the candidates' credentials on social priorities. This is where newly developed coalitions like "Catch 22" are providing a vital service to inform strategic voting.
The simple-minded commitment to jails, jets, and corporate tax cuts has at least 35 per cent of the electorate pretty much locked in. Yet, national opinion polls illustrate that the majority of Canadians have other priorities. We all need to promote progressive values and the issues they link to. We can't leave the partisan and traditional campaigns of the political parties working in isolation. It's our country. All of us need to fight for it!