With Parliament resuming tomorrow, you might expect that Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament would simply disappear back into the woodwork, their job done. Instead, the grassroots movement has instead chosen to evolve into a new form, and taking a new name, albeit one with the same acronym.
Canadians Advocating Political Participation was born today, with a new website launched at midnight, and a press conference on the Hill at noon. Sticking to their non-partisan roots, CAPP has decided that their mission is now to inform Canadians about the political process.
“As political activists, we feel we have a duty to embolden the nation, the media and the government to wake up,” says the group’s PR strategist, Jonathan Allan. “Apathy on the part of the public has led to a condition in which it has become normal for politicians to create sound bites of falsities, to abuse power, and to manipulate the innocently unaware masses with fallacious, mendacious, disingenuous imagery and otherwise propagandistic information.”
“I think a lot of apathy has a lot to do with lack of education, lack of understanding, and when Canadians understood about the prorogation, understood what it meant, understood the reasons behind it, they were interested,” says National Rally Coordinator Shilo Davis. “It’s that momentum that we’re going to use to carry on.”
Organising from the grassroots, local chapters are organising activities like a national day for discussion, and weekly “Democracy Café” discussions taking place in Toronto, or “food drives for democracy” in Hamilton, where people get easy-to-understand pamphlets when they come to donate food to the local food bank.
CAPP has three main goals – educating Canadians on the political system, strengthening and defending Canadian democracy, and encouraging political participation, which is more than simply voting.
“Your civil obligation doesn’t end at the voting booth,” says coordinator Justin Arjoon. “We want to make sure that Canadians understand what’s going on with their government so that they can act in between elections to hold our government accountable.”
Given that this kind of civic engagement is something that I am very interested in, I was curious about how some of these discussions will work – especially because they mentioned how Fair Vote Canada has attended one of their discussions. Are they going to educate people about the system as it stands, or will it degenerate into the kind of fantasy voting system hand wringing that groups like Fair Vote Canada engage in?
“We’re not going to take any advocacy positions ourselves,” Arjoon says. “We’re just going to says this is how the system is, these are alternatives, and you guys have a conversation about where it should go. We’re not going to say that we wish it should be this.
“We’re presenting the facts and letting people make up their own minds,” Davis adds, while Allan adds that they don’t plan to become a think-tank.
And what about getting people involved in political parties on the grassroots level as a means of getting engaged?
“We are non-partisan, so no matter what, we’re not going to be supporting any party that they join,” Allan says. “But if they want to join the Conservatives, or the Liberals, or the NDP or the Greens or whoever, this is something that we encourage because at least if they’re going out and joining a party, they might be more inclined to learn about the political economics about certain policy positions. We could definitely encourage that.”
It’s a lofty and ambitious goal in order to keep this momentum of engagement going. But let’s hope that CAPP can succeed.