The Facebook group, Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament, had almost 83,600 members when I checked this morning at about 11:00 a.m. That’s a lot of people regardless of how one looks at it. But does it really mean anything other than that a lot of Canadians surf online? Is this a real grassroots movement, or just another Liberal prank to garner a few lines in the media of the nation?
Time will tell, of course, but I’m inclined to believe that serious political activists act seriously, and joining a Facebook protest group is not a serious act. I join many online groups without being passionate about them. It’s so easy to do, so why not?
According to a Harris-Decima poll of 1,000 Canadians, which was conducted between Dec. 17 and Dec. 20, 2009, 46 per cent of Canadians polled were indifferent to the prime minister’s decision to prorogue Parliament, 34 per cent were unhappy with the proroguing decision and 15 per cent were happy with it.
Based on this poll, I’m not inclined to take the Facebook group too seriously. It doesn’t seem to have the “smell” of a groundswell of public opinion about it—nor the “energy” of such a movement.
Remember a year ago when the three opposition parties threatened to bring down the government and replace it with a Bloc-backed Liberal-NDP coalition? And remember the sharp, angry reaction that prospect faced? Folks across the nation were quickly outraged and made their feelings clear enough that the then new Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, was quick to back away from the precipice of constitutional crisis. “Coalition if necessary, but not necessarily coalition,” was how Michael Ignatieff phrased his furious backpedalling.
I’ve no doubt many Canadians are genuinely angry with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for ducking out and avoiding the daily verbal abuse over Afghan treatment of former Canadian detainees. Many were as angry when the Jean Chrétien Liberal government cut short the Somalia Inquiry in the months leading up to the 1997 election. But, at that time, Liberal cabinet minister Art Eggleton suggested that the events had happened four years earlier, and it was time to “move on.” And, of course, we did.
It’s become really easy to be an activist these days: log on to Facebook and click on a button. Presto! Instant activism.
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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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