John Duncan – “That’s social media, so we’ll just have to see where that goes”

Idle No More

John DuncanTHUNDER BAY – Editorial – Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan is quoted in the British media referring to the Idle No More grassroots movement stating, “That’s social media, so we’ll just have to see where that goes.”

It is a statement that demonstrates that the Harper Conservatives are following an ages old adage – Democracy is where the people don’t vote in a new government, they vote the old one out. Governing is hard work, it is exhausting, and it wears out the people in power. The longer a government is in power, the more tired, and the more distant it gets from the very people it was elected to represent.

A government as it gets tired, gets increasingly out of touch, increasingly arrogant, and eventually in many ways almost seems to be longing for a rest on the opposition benches, to allow it the time to completely re-fresh and rebuild itself. It is a message that voters send when they vote in a new government.

In the case of the Conservatives, the voters sent a message for several elections to the Liberals that their term as the ‘National Governing Party’ was over and that the party needed a complete overhaul. The initial degree of trust in the Conservatives was not that high so the voters gave them a pair of minority governments before finally kicking the Liberals to the curb.

That John Duncan could utter the idea “that’s social media, so we’ll just have to see where that goes” is a demonstration that the Harper Government has in only a very short time in office already hit the point that the Liberal Government before them were at after eight years in power.

Social media today is the fuel of grassroots political action. The Conservative Party itself was fueled by the four to eight page ‘grassroots activism’ of the Reform Party of Canada’s flyers.

John Duncan and the Conservatives in their understanding of the new medium of social networking and Facebook are showing their ‘best before date’ and a representation of being a little too far out-of-touch with today’s Canada.

People who have never before thought  there was a need to get political, people who were once content to sit on the sidelines are now rallying to the cause. Apathy is being presented as no longer and option. It is the First Nations rallying cry and growing numbers are rallying to their call.

For those able to understand how effective the use of ‘new media’ can be in politics, Thunder Bay is home to the best example of how a new medium was used to chop down a titan.

Douglas Fisher Wins
The News-Chronicle Headline on one of the biggest political upsets in Canadian history!

The infomercial was invented in Thunder Bay. Douglas Fisher a member of the CCF, the forerunner of the New Democrats in effect invented the infomercial and used new media of television to chop down a Liberal titan when he won a seat in the House of Commons over C.D. Howe.  (Read more here…)

[pullquote] By the time the nomination meeting was held, we had a very active organization and had worked out our strategies to concentrate our money and skills on the use of television, which was new in the riding and easy to book,” wrote Fisher on his Internet site, “I began a series of fortnightly 15 minute appearances on CKPR, right after the local evening news, when the audience was high. This became weekly, then as the campaign went on, we were on every second evening. This garnered a very positive response. I did the ‘blackboard thing’, dealing with issues one by one. [/pullquote]

The Conservatives appear under the current circumstances to be ignoring the power of the ‘Arab spring’ where social media, Twitter and Facebook along with blogs, and websites were a key tool to organize opposition groups who opposed the regimes in the Middle East. Now to be very clear, I am not saying that the Harper government is like the regimes in Libya, Eqypt or Syria, but in their actions the message to Aboriginal groups has built a solid wall of growing opposition that is growing in winter faster than anyone could have imagined.

Likely Duncan and the Prime Minister are expecting that Idle No More and Chief Theresa Spence are going to take the Christmas season to go home and celebrate. Most likely they have that wrong too.

Chief Spence has become a focal point for action and prayer.

The sad thing about this current situation is that once the Conservatives made it into power, they could have taken actions over words and built solid relationships with the First Nations. In many ways the western base that elected the Reform Party MPs who were sent to Ottawa to change the way Ottawa worked had far more in common with First Nations people than maybe they both realize.

Both groups western Reformers and First Nations had spent years getting lip service rather than action from Ottawa. Smart political strategists would have forged solid and lasting bonds with potential supporters that would have helped both sides.

Today, likely many of the original Reformers might now be slowly starting to see in the current Conservative government, the very same symptoms that started the growth of a grassroots movement that started to change Ottawa. For the Conservatives elected to power in Ottawa, likely the majority would never see how far from their roots they have gone in the past eight years.

Idle No More is showing Canadians a side of their Prime Minister and Government that they will not like. Likely in the political history of Canada, Idle No More is the political equal of World War Two’s ‘Battle of Egypt’ as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called it.

After that battle, Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”.

For Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada, Idle No More may well prove to be their ‘Battle of Egypt’ and the end of their beginning.

They say those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The Conservative Government appears willing to accept a D-Minus in history.

James Murray
Content and News Director

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