Keith Beardsley Headshot

Too Occupied to Vote?

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OCCUPY TORONTO VANCOUVER CANADA MEDIA PROTESTS
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Did anyone other than the media know that Canada was occupied over the weekend? I woke up to that realization as the media were out in full voice to tell me so. At first I thought we had been invaded by hoards of War of 1812 re-enactors, but no we were "occupied" by copycats of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

All in all, not that impressive a turnout by demonstration standards, poorly organized and good luck if you can find a coherent message in any one city, never mind coast to coast. There were less people than many demonstrations we see in Ottawa have on a regular basis. They couldn't come close to matching the demonstration that the Tamils put on in Ottawa a couple of years ago, but the media breathlessly reported every moment as though it actually mattered to the majority of Canadians.

Protests against "the system" or "the establishment" aren't new. Remember the 1960s?

However, I don't think too many Canadians were paying attention this past weekend. Farmers were in the fields, fishermen were at sea, thousands went about their weekend chores and on Monday morning, millions of Canadians went back to work to earn a living while a few protesters occupied a couple of intersections in Toronto or camped out in parks.

Right on cue, the federal opposition parties warned the Harper government not to ignore the protesters as they tried to grab a tiny bit of the media and political spotlight for themselves. Then again that is pretty normal behaviour for them.

The Liberals seem to have forgotten a bit of their history. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s they did little to assist homeowners against the big banks who raised mortgage interest rates above 20 per cent. Plenty of families had to walk away from their homes or turn the keys over to the banks. We got through that with a lot of hard work, long hours and perseverance and few thanks to them. While they now tell tell Harper to listen to the demonstrators, former prime minister Chretien was rather infamously known for how he treated a protester who stood in his way. Up until the law was changed, the vast majority of the Liberals political funding came from corporations. Today these same Liberals who relied on corporate funding and political donations which came out of corporate profits are telling Harper to listen to the "occupiers" and their concerns and frustrations, some of which include corporate greed and corporate behaviour.

At least the NDP is being true to its history. Having their origins in the old socialist CCF and the union movement, the NDP's support for the demonstrators is more consistent with their party roots. Although today they prefer to be called social democrats, they have been protesting against capitalism and big business since their founding. Ed Broadbent was vice president of Socialist International in the 1970s and the 1999 congress that seven NDP members participated in focused on problems with capitalism, big business, globalization and "... extreme increases in inequality, within nations and throughout the different regions of the world." NDP support of those protesting against the system is pretty normal as they reflect their traditional pro-labour and anti-business bias. I wonder if the present NDP leadership hopefuls consider themselves to be socialists, democratic socialists or social democrats as the party keeps trying to change how Canadians see them. Has anyone asked these leadership hopefuls if they are in favour of removing any reference to socialism from the NDP constitution?

The "occupiers" would accomplish more if they would show up on voting day and cast a ballot. They would accomplish more if they financially supported and participated in a political party of their choice. The odd protest down our streets will do little to rally the vast majority of Canadians to their side. Down the road maybe they will be better organized with a few solid and well-framed issues to promote, but until then I doubt that either Harper or Canadian business leaders are quaking in their boots after this weekend.

We should give the protesters some credit for exercising their democratic right to protest. They were peaceful and unlike the G-20 they tried to make their point without violence.

For the vast majority of Canadians, we hardly knew they were there. Let them sit on the ground and occupy a few intersections, as it is their right to do so. Soon the rain will change to snow and the temperatures will plunge and we will see how many want to sit on the ground when our roads are a foot deep in slush. I have a feeling that when that happens the cars of working Canadians will be able to drive through the intersections without interruption.

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