Time to Come Together Around Democratic Reform
Today I’m going to tell you my vision for creating a national discussion about Democratic Reform.
If you’re a regular reader of PopTheStack you know that one of the things I’m really passionate about is fixing our democracy in Canada. There are lots of things wrong with the way that voices of Canadians are heard, or rather not heard, by the people and institutions that run our great country. I’m also very interested how the web and social media can be leveraged to affect change in our society. So I’ve started a lot of mini campaigns online, some have stuck (Anti-Prorogue Twibbon) and some haven’t (FixVoting Twibbon, #fairvotevendredi tag, Electoral Reform wiki, …, many more). Alright, most haven’t, but that’s the nature of the beast.
One thing that causes some of these things to fail is that it takes a lot of work over time by many people to build momentum. Unless you have buy-in initially from a significant group of people then these things will fall flat. The other way to make something successful is to be really famous and spread the word wide, then on simple randomness you’ll quickly get a lot of people trying it out. The other, other way is to make something lightweight, that doesn’t require a lot of commitment, automatically generates useful content and provides a real value-add to the discussion or promotion of the issue you are working on. Since I’m not famous, and don’t have an organization to work with, this third approach is the one I am following today.
The new site is called Democratic Reform in Canada, catchy eh?. It’s not a new organization, its not a wiki, it’s just a website, a feed aggregator. The inspiration is the fantastic Progressive Bloggers website which is a go-to source for lots of great, progressive bloggers in Canada. The goal with DemoReform is to create a similar aggregator, of quality bloggers discussing what’s wrong with our democracy and how to fix it.
I hope the website can fill a gap in the national discussion by providing a place where anyone who blogs about fixing Canadian democracy can be heard. All sites will be approved manually and the broadest possible definition of Democratic Reform will be used when approving sites. But this won’t be just an aggregation of blogs by people who happen to support some kind of reform, it will be focussed on posts by only including feeds for particular tags or categories on the feeds of included bloggers. So if you submit your blog, don’t be surprised if I ask you for a feed with a narrower focus.
For the reader, this little bit of upfront work will mean that all articles on the site are on topic. So if anything is happening from Senate reform, to PR referendums, to lack of elected leaders on environmental issues to disenfranchisement of voters in minority communities; you should see it on the site. But what you shouldn’t see are partisan attacks that have nothing to do with the causes or solutions to the problem or issue pieces that have nothing to do with democracy per se.
Why do we need yet another site?
There are several fantastic organizations out there such as Fair Vote Canada and CAPP that organize protests and lobby government for reform. So, why do we need this site? Well, I’ve found that some people feel excluded from these organizations. Others, claim that they are too focussed narrowly on particular issues or solutions (respectively: Electoral Reform through Proportional Representation and Limits on Prorogation Powers of the PM).
Meanwhile, a continuing string of minority governments and decreasing voter turnout indicate that many Canadian Voters are not happy with their democratic choices. Canadians are also increasingly realizing that it isn’t just the choices themselves that are the problem. The problem runs deeper than that, into the way we choose our leaders, the way some leaders aren’t chosen at all, the way campaigns are financed and many other structural reasons.
But where does one find people who discuss Senate reform, campaign finance reform or direct democracy? Rather than yet another organization to champion each cause we need to have all the existing groups, activists and average citizens who yearn for democratic reform to have a place to find the broadest possible discussion. One thing we all have in common is that we agree that democracy is broken in Canada and there is a lot we can do to fix it.
The real debate seems to be, which reform should come first, rather than which reform is the perfect answer that will fix all our problems. We all need to work together to overcome the inertia of the status-quo in government, but we can’t work together until we know each other and read what others are saying.
So, it’s time there was a place where everyone who cares, can be heard. Hopefully DemocraticReform can be that place. The only requirements are civil discourse, rational debate and mutual respect for all who want reform. Even if we disagree, and we will disagree, about which reform is needed most urgently.