Thursday, 20 December 2012

Rise of the extra-parliamentary Opposition

Top: Harper at Buckingham Palace
Bottom: First Nations child poverty
Image Sources: Top - Sean Kilpatrick/CP
(obtained from Chronicle Herald)

Bottom - Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press
(obtained from CBC)

After receiving his mandate of less than 40% of the Canadian electorate, Harper and his CONs decided to institute wide-ranging deforms to Canada's social contract through various monstrously large omnibus bills. Debate was hindered in the House of Commons as the parliament became a rubber stamp for the Harper CON agenda.

The Harper CONs used the heavy hand of the state to intervene and bully unions, both  in the case of Canada Post workers locked out of the office by their managers and in the case of private sector Air Canada workers. They deformed Employment Insurance and Old Age Security. They pushed through dumb on crime laws. They've terminated the democratic vote subsidy.

The Harper CONs have fought against equitable funding for First Nations Child Welfare and have effectively spat in the face of Attawapiskat First Nation. They've even brazenly pushed a monster bill to redefine the Canadian State's relation to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada.

The Harper CONs' fight against the needs of the majority in favour of the plutocratic elite should truly make their deep-pocketed country club Conservative donors proud. This under two year reign of a Harper Majority has featured wildly successful legislative accomplishments for the hoity-toites. They've been a nightmare for workers, aboriginals, nonviolent drug users (if they aren't rich and can't afford the best lawyers), and the jobless, though.   

It seems that Harper believes that he's acquired political capital and must spend it. 

May 2, 2012 Canadian
Federal election results.

Image Source: Wikipedia
Following what some progressives (yours truly included) viewed as a disastrous election result, then federal NDP leader Jack Layton fielded questions about how relevant an Official Opposition the NDP could be. After all, the Harper CONs had a solid majority of the seats (despite losing the popular vote) in the House of Commons.

Layton's answer was that he'd channel extra-parliamentary pressure.

"It's a question of working with people all across the country to apply as much pressure as we possibly can to the Harper Conservatives. I think Mr. Harper, I'll take him at his word that he wants to work with other parties," said Layton.

("Layton promises to apply pressure". Kristy Kirkup (May 3, 2012). Edmonton Examiner.)
A lot of the media seemed incredulous (at least from my memory of the press conferences). In some respects, that scepticism was quite warranted. This post started off, after all, with the list of policy changes the Harper CONs rammed through in various monster bills. But the professional punditry's incredulity was also a function of just not understanding that people exist and act outside of the Ottawa bubble. That is to say, that other channels exist aside from electoral politics to affect changes.

When Evan Solomon interviewed Brigette DePape, for instance, he was flabbergasted that anyone could dare consider anything other than involvement in elections when it came to political action. When DePape mentioned the extra-parliamentary organizing of Arab Spring as something that could inspire civic protests at home Solomon lost it (or, more likely, never had it).

Millions of people did just decide to take action, we call it a federal election, and those are the results. That's how we take action here, uh, you know, we don't have bombing like in Libya. We have a federal election, which ... is the way to do it. 
(Evan Solomon, Power and Politics interview with Brigette DePape)
When the Occupy movement started up, the pundit class also seemed oblivious as to what this extra-parliamentary thing was. It's not like interest groups such as corporations lobby outside of elections, right? How dare people other than plutocrats pressure a government!

But the Occupy movement gained steam, having a tremendous effect on the (inter) national conversation. The IMF and OECD started expressing concerns over inequality, as did Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney who called the protests "constructive". Positive policy changes did not materialize in Canada, but the right tone was set: jobs, equality, and shared prosperity rather than austerity.

Image Source: Idle No More
And now, following serious changes the Canadian State's relations with First Nation in the Bill C-45 monster bill, Idle No More emerges. While it's hard to tell how long the movement will last and what it's enduring legacy will be, the movement has grown explosively. Starting out with just four women, Idle No More rallies have sprung across the country, with solidarity rallies in the American cities of San Francisco and Los Angles. Already it's focused the conversation on the plight of aboriginal communities, something conspicuously absent from the 2011 election campaign. Increased consciousness over issues of First Nations rights may have even contributed to the resignation of Manitoba PC Youth President Braydon Mazurkiewich following his racist social media posts.

Closing off debate and ramming through changes by the Harper CONs has lead to an extra-parliamentary Opposition. We'll find out how successful this Opposition is at changing policies and removing unfavourable politicians within the next few years. But one thing is certain: Harper underestimates the ingenuity of the Canadian peoples.

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  1. Now we know who put that coal in Harper's stocking

  2. "Rat faced whores" about sums it up.