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Canada 2.0

January 23, 2010

Today’s protests around Canada against the Conservative’s reckless abuse of power were a great success, look here, even the Globe and Mail is impressed.

So, how did a little ‘internet protest’ turn into over 25,000 feet on the ground in over 60 locations across the country today? Two reasons. First,  Canadians are awesome!  Second, Facebook is not some silly little internet toy in Canada. Di you know that around 45% of Canadians are on Facebook.  That’s not 45% of Canadians on the Internet…its 45% of all Canadians!  Think about that.  That mean half of Canadians can go look up this strange “Facebook group” thing the media talk about, in fact, they don’t even think its that strange or inconsequential because they’re on Facebook.  Twitter is another matter, apparently only about 1% of Canadians are on Twitter. But Facebook is a particularly effective way to reach out to a large number of Canadians.  Consider that if half the country is on Facebook, then every Canadian is either on Facebook or probably has a spouse, sibling, child  or parent on Facebook.

Look at the graph, its not just young people either. Half the Canadians on Facebook list their age as over 25. And its probably more than that because there are more Canadian 18-24 year-olds on Facebook than there are actual Canadian 18-24 year-olds, so someone is lying about their age, and they’re probably low-balling.  Regardless, statistically, if you are a child and have parents under 45, one of them is on Facebook.  You of course are also on Facebook.  And at least one of your grandparents is on Facebook.  So the reach of this tool in Canada is unparalleled.  There is no other way to reach so many Canadians so easily.

Maybe today, after the largest, decentralized national protests our nation has ever seen, people will wake up to that fact. Hopefully they’ll realize that its not actually that easy to create a Canadian Facebook group that has hundreds of thousands of members.  You have to really appeal to them, people think about what it will look like to their friends when they join a group.

Today we saw the impact of that. 200,000 motivated people, having discussions and sharing their support publicy online can have.  Each city spawned off a separate group and event. A call went out to get organizers. Only motivated people with experience and determination showed up and still many of these meetings had hundreds of people!  Each group independently organized events, sent messages to their followers with advice on clothing, how to behave and where to meet. Maps went up on Google to show the real, stunning extent of the protests. And it all went off without a hitch, no violence, no trouble and minimal partisanship.  It was a wonder to behold and it makes me so proud to be a Canadian.  It gives me hope that reasonableness is not dead in this country and that people are willing to take action to defend it.

Now it is up to us to continue putting the pressure on our ‘leaders’ to listen to us all.   The governing party thinks they only need to represent those who voted for them, a fundamental misunderstanding of representative democracy. One for which they will be punished. The opposition parties have been reluctant to commit too strongly to the cause of fixing what ails our democracy.  They each (sorry Green’s, I know you’re on side) make tame proposals and argue the real solution is that they should govern and they would never do this.  But they are missing the big picture.

At today’s rally in Vancouver there was chanting and applause and jeering for all kinds of reasons.  Anti-Harper, pretty loud jeeers.  Pro NDP? The NDP section of the crowd cheered loudly.  Pro Liberal?  The little official Liberal corner cheered loudly.  We failed the world in Copenhagen?  Good general applause and loud cheering from the Green and environmental section.  But I think the most widespread, consistent applause, where everyone was clapping and cheering and going “Yah!” was reserved for the following kinds of statements:

  • “we need to fix our democracy”
  • “our MPs got to get back to work”
  • “we need proportional representation so the people who go to Ottawa have a real mandate”
  • “we need to reform democracy so that the government actually represents the majority of Canadians”

Stuff like that, you know, crazy stuff. Crazy, democracy stuff.

Not at all the kind of thing a largely regional minority governing party with no possible allies wants to hear.  Not something a non-regional party with delusions of being the ‘natural governing party’ want to hear either.  Apparently not even something a pro-labour, pro-social justice party who’s leader thinks he’s “running for Prime Minister” wants to hear.  The NDP want to talk about specific solutions to the specific problem of prorogation.  Fine.  The Liberals want to talk about increasing voter turnout by improving the tone in Ottawa, which of course only they can do. Fine.

But those are not the real issues.

The real issue is that our democracy is broken and none you are listening to the people who hired you because they didn’t really hire you.  You know you only need a solid 40% of the country, spread around the right way to win an all powerful majority, and you just can’t turn down the possibility of absolute power.

Well, the time is past where the only people who can organize a crowd in this country are the political parties and labour unions.  We don’t have to stand for it anymore.

In Canada 2.0 around 45% of Canadians have a very convenient tool for organizing whenever they want to, and now they know it actually works for real world stuff.

So, national opposition parties, you’ve got a little time to work out a real solution that gets to the root of the democratic deficit in this country, before people start organizing new parties and coordinated voting to bring you all down.  A little time.  But remember, Canada 2.0, measures progress in internet time.

So, I figure, you’ve got about 2 months, or until the next election. Which, if you’re smart, will be the same thing.

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