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CAPP’s next moves

Via Kady O’Malley, we see that CAPP is thinking of doing several things; changing what its acronym stands for, becoming incorporated as a non-profit organization, and more substantively, trying to educate people about democracy and activism:

Following the resounding success of the nation-wide rallies held January 23rd, CAPP organizers have begun planning the future of the movement. Hoping to maintain the momentum achieved by those demonstrations, organizers have begun initiating plans in support of a greater long-term strategy. The strategy involves educating the public about democracy and their rights as citizens through the creation and administration of an independent database of information.

Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament is in the process of structuring itself as a non-profit entity, likely to be known as Canadians Advocating Political Participation (pending a vote by supporters). Organizers hope to leverage the brand recognition achieved through the acronym ‘CAPP’ and grow the organization into the vanguard defender of citizen democracy in Canada.

To achieve this, the organization is planning on establishing various chapters throughout Canada. These chapters will provide local-level concerns and guidance to the central organization; the chapters will also exist to provide public educational forums meant to strengthen the base of democracy in Canada.

CAPP has also initiated a new month-long campaign called ’31 Days of Action’, where participants are encouraged to individually achieve a set of 31 goals relating to political activism. On March 2nd CAPP will hold a special press conference in Ottawa and present
a brand new website, which is currently under construction.

I personally think that CAPP could be taking a more activist role right now in what it does to stay in the public eye (for instance, publicly denouncing these new 10 %’er ads from the Conservatives we’ve been hearing so much about as another instance of them trying to use a red herring to escape public accountability on the Afghanistan Detainee question), but it’s encouraging the group is not just standing still.

I do like the idea of a name change while keeping the original acronym, because once Parliament eventually resumes, that original group will have lost its effectiveness, since prorogation will have ended. Whether the one they have chosen now is the one I’d use, I’m not so sure about. I’ll be following the discussions on this closely.


17 comments to CAPP’s next moves

  • AnnieS

    I don’t see what’s wrong with being partisan. Have the conservatives made a rule that only non partisan people can voice their opinions on something like prorogation. After all the prorogation was a very partisan act.

  • bull caller

    What every detractor of the CAPP movement fail to recognize, is the fact that many ordinary non-affiliated people (such as myself) participated. Not only did they participate but they educated themselves about WHY they felt it was wrong and more importantly about the many other reasons not to support the conservative government or Stephen Harper.

    Those people now are engaged and taking their own initiative to move forward with other activities. If conservative apologists continue to try to explain it away as a partisan group full of anarchists and commies, by all means let them do so. On this issue, as i’ve said before, the cow has left the barn. The only hope harper or any of the conservatives have with reference to their credibility (which clearly is in tatters), is to come up with substantive policy and seismic level shifts in their attitude towards democracy and accountability. I’m not holding my breath. Neither is the media.

    Effectively the spin and discredit methods employed have now backfired to the point where conservative talking head == complete fabrication of anything remotely resembling the truth. Good luck trying to change that.

    You reap what you sew, boys.

    • Frank

      Bull said:

      “I’m not holding my breath. Neither is the media.

      With that statement alone, you manage to elegantly descredit the faux-protests as well as the rest of your comment. A real media outlet does not have opinions, it does not prejudge, its purpose is to report the news, not to create or promote it: is that not your understanding of news? The faux-marches were planned and promoted by the media for their own political purposes, and the “talking-head” lefties (to coin your worn-out phrase) were easily duped into being puppets by their intense, irrational, Harper-hating … at least that’s how I see it. On the bright side, it was a nice day for a faux-march/stroll.

      • bull caller



        Yeah frank thats it. We all are just big meanies and we hate harper – us bobbleheads are mere pawns to the awesome power of the left. Good god man, get a grip!!

        Did you ever stop to think that perhaps the media and the general public have caught on to the outright lies from harper and his ministers, and therefore view their talking points with skepticism? Nah, couldn’t be that now could it?

        This has nothing to do with partiality, it has to do with the old russian saying “trust, but verify”… everyone has finally decided to verify. Apparently this is lost on conservative apologists. Why not tell the truth and actually govern for a change? That might stop the protesting, yah think?

      • Jim Vincent


        Frank’s comments are just outright nonsense. The media did implicitly promote the rallies through its constant coverage of CAPP’s growth and the general editorial stance against prorogation. They did not, however, urge people to make it out to the rallies.

        If you were at all involved – and clearly you were not – the rallies were organized by the CAPP chapters which brought together all sorts of people, but not the media or media organizations. They were not part of CAPP, they did not participate in the organizing meetings, put up posters, leaflet, go on the demonstration, write letters to MPs, etc.

        Frank’s comments describe a very wrong view of how grassroots politics operates. He collapses in to the sort of nonsense conspiracy theory-esque crap about people being duped by the media. This was not the case at all. Had you been involved, you might know that. But clearly you are not.

        • Frank

          @Jim Vincent,

          I’m not sure we disagree. My point was that the media were biased in favor of this event taking root. I didn’t make this up, please re-read the quote I took from the original comment. If you need to take a strip off of anyone, it should be “Bull”, he is the one the clearly stated the media is biased against Harper. If you organized one of the meetings, I’m impressed, good job, and I apologize for insinuating that you received any encouragement from the media coverage.

          That said, it’s always enlightening to visit Scott’s blog were its readers view any opinion outside of their own small comfort zone as “fail”, “crap”, and “talking-head” lies. Makes for great discussion.

        • bull caller

          @Jim Vincent,

          Frank, what are you smoking? Seriously….

          “My point was that the media were biased in favor of this event taking root”

          This is hardly the case. In the early days as the facebook group was nearing 100,000 members the media and the pundits that appeared regularly discounted it as “slacktivism” and “a bunch of disaffected university students”. It was only when the group had exceeded 200,000 and the rallies were imminent that the media picked up the stories in earnest, and even then for the most part underestimated the crowd sizes until official numbers came in.

          Secondly, nowhere in ANY post I have EVER made have i intimated that the media has shown any bias against Harper. In fact, there could be a compelling argument towards the contrary and one only has to look at recent chubby senate appointments to make that call.

          You are certainly entitled to your opinion my friend – but attempting to revise what I say is stretching the foil hat just a bit too far. I’m sure that others here respect other opinions, provided they are based in fact and have some connection to rational thought.

          You may have also failed to notice in my original post that I am not affiliated with any political party, and that I had participated with the rally on my own.

          Tell me “frank”, did you attend the anti coalition rally last year? If so, were you on the buses provided courtesy of the Conservative MP’s? Do you feel that there was a ‘media bias’ towards those rallies that garnered a few thousand people nationally? I’d love to hear your opinion – I need a good laugh today.

        • Jim Vincent

          @Jim Vincent, The media is not anti-Harper. Editorially, a number of newspapers opposed the prorogation and much of that opposition was couched in so much qualification as to undermine the force of their objection. Even the early January front-page anti-prorogation editorial of the Globe and Mail has been undercut by their subsequent editorials praising, for example, Harper’s call for ending a couple of parliamentary breaks in spring amounting to a mere two weeks.

          In short, much of the media was anti-prorogation, but not anti-Harper. The media gave widespread and generally unhostile coverage to the CAPP rallies but never explicitly endorsed the rallies.

          And let’s not conflate the editorial line with the politics of a few columnists in the mainstream media who have long opposed Harper and openly supported (and even attended) the rallies. But that’s what columnists do – take positions. The editorial lines of the mainstream newspapers did not come close to the open anti-Harper, pro-rally politics of some of these columnists.

          And simply because a section of the media was vocally anti-prorogation – which does not automatically equal anti-Harper – it does not mean, as you say, that the CAPP rallies on January 23 were “faux-protests” and “faux-marches”. They were organized at the grassroots by spontaneous coalitions of many different political stripes at very short notice which explains, as exciting as the rallies were, the actually quite small numbers (which indicates how little influence the media actually has). January 23 didn’t come close to how many marched in Quebec City in April 2001 against the FTAA (80,000), the largely ignored rally a few years ago organized by CAW in Windsor (40,000), or the 500,000 Canadians who marched against the looming war in Iraq in February 2003 – and in all cases the mainstream media was editorially aloof or openly hostile.

          So don’t get your balls in a knot over words like “crap.” Describing what happened on January 23 as “faux” is, in my opinion, crap.

        • Frank

          (Long post ahead)

          Your argument that the events were anti-prorogation, and not anti-Harper, on the surface seems sound, and if this were the case I don’t think we would be having this discussion.

          But, are you not overlooking a critical piece of history that betrays your reasoning? Your argument unravels when you consider that this PM was not the first prorogue the government (under almost identical circumstances), yet he was the first one to enjoy relentless media coverage, commentary, and demonstations because of it. How do you reconcile that with your argument? I can’t see how it can be done.

          I would have much more respect for protesters, organizers, and the media if their professionally printed, identical, grass-roots signs read “Down with Harper”, or “Harper is Hitler”, or “Gotcha on this one Evil PM” then the baloney “Democracy is Lost” type-of-signs. That to me, seemed ridiculous, insulting, and childish. There’s an old saying that comes to mind when I think of this episode in Canadian politics: “Don’t pee on my foot and tell me it’s raining”. I think this applies here, if you have a problem with Harper, say-so, trying to channel this through some fabricated scandal makes everyone involved look very small and petty. I hope you can follow my argument, and see why I and other see this as strictly classic Harper-hating, that why I still file this under: Faux-protests and Faux-marches.

        • bull caller


          OK, I’m just going to drop a quick line here and let this thread finally jump the shark.

          You’ve descended into stale talking points from the war room now. Harper’s proroguation is NOT routine due to the fact that most of the work done by Parliament was not complete, and even his trusted long time advisor Tom Flanagan clearly stated it was to avoid the Afghan Committee, among other things. This is what was so offensive to many ordinary canadians, and that is why the argument for why it has garnered both support and media focus does not unravel at all.

          Secondly, your comments regarding “Down with Harper” or “Harper is Hitler” signs is a red herring. Everyone knows that in Winnipeg conservative youth prepared signs and attempted to appear as though they were part of the CAPP protests, sadly and rightly it backfired on them. To this, Frank – you are full of baloney. Canadians have a problem with harper, one thing being proroguation of parliament before the legislative agenda is complete – that was the lightning rod for the litany of complaints that many canadians have about this government. Frank, do not forget that 2/3 of canadians DID NOT vote for Harper, and ideologically are not even remotely close to holding similar values.

          Having said that, I encourage you and your conservative friends to continue to ignore these movements and believe they aren’t real. In the words of Dr. Phil, “how’s that workin’ for ya?”….

        • Frank

          @Jim Vincent,

          Sorry “Bull”, my comments were to Vincent who seems to be a bit of a thinker. You on the other hand seem the classic Harper-Hater so any discussions with you are pointless .. no offense.

  • Jim has a lot of interesting points.

    I will mention to Scott, Jim, and others that I think the local chapter groups will get getting people together to figure out the priorities. Obviously, the prorogation issue will disappear once parliament resumes. As supporters, we will need to figure out what gets included and excluded in our priorities.

    I am a member of Fair Vote Canada. One thing I like about this organization is that it is multi-partisan. We don’t try to hide our own partisan affiliations if we have any. We have Liberals, NDPers, Greens, and a few Conservative supporters. We do have a focus on improving democracy by changing the voting system. At the same time, it is non-partisan in that we do not tell each other how to vote. We don’t tell people to vote for the Liberals, NDP, Greens, or Conservative. I think CAPP could have a similar philosophy of letting people show their own political colours while not telling the supporters how to vote.

    I do think CAPP needs some sort of mission statement and goals that include different objectives for improving Canadian democracy. Once these are achieved, then we can talk about issues such as 10 percenters in relationship to our goals.

    • Jim Vincent

      @Skinny Dipper, I know Fair Vote is a coalition, but I don’t know how it works and how effective it is. Unless Fair Vote is organizing its supporters within as many political parties as possible – provincial or federal – to adopt policy resolutions in favour of PR, I’m not sure how Fair Vote thinks it will accomplish its goals. It strikes me that unless a party like the Liberals (federally or provincially) endorses PR as a policy and actively promotes it, then we’re going nowhere with PR. Even the NDP has been fairly weak on pushing PR even though they nominally support it (federally and in Ontario).

      I think this sort of approach is what CAPP needs to do. CAPP already has, I believe, a general consensus among its 225,000 members that the proroguing procedure should be reformed so that it requires the consent of parliament. I’d wager that most of the membership are also for reigning in the power of the PMO and restoring the power of parliament.

      This, it seems, is the sort of reform program that CAPP should be campaigning on. But it should do so within each political party within riding associations and working on up to party conventions.

      If CAPP can pressure both the NDP and Liberals to endorse these policies, great. If not, then I think we should go from there. But more likely, the NDP will endorse them and there will be substantial resistance in the Liberal Party. CAPP could then use the opportunity – through a press conference, for example – to threaten a public rebuke the Liberal Party leadership. I know my Liberal friends would hate this idea, but they’re the ones who have to concede that their party is really the party that can make these necessary democratic reforms to prorogation, the PMO and parliament. But I would imagine the pressure from CAPP, the Liberal party base, but also the threat of the NDP gaining from any Liberal leadesrhip foot-dragging on CAPP’s proposed reforms, would ultimately force the Liberal leadership to endorse the reforms if only for purely opportunistic reasons.

      The point here is to come up with a plan to win and as far as I can tell, that’s the only way to do it at this point. The direction CAPP is now going is a total dead-end.

      CAPPers have to organize such campaigns within their respective parties, recruit those non-affiliated CAPPers into riding associations, and fight the good fight from the bottom up, taking on party leaderships if they have to and, if required, making those unsavoury threats of allying with another pro-CAPP party to win the battle within their own party. Putting the principle of democracy before party loyalty – that would be non-partisan!

      The question for Liberals, in my opinion, is how far they would push this within a party that we all know contains a number of old school, anti-democratic elites? Do they have the cojones to take them on and become a thorn in the side of their own leadership? And the question for NDPers is, knowing their leaders would likely endorse such reforms, how much they are willing to take on Layton and Co. in actually pushing them to campaign actively, openly and consistently on a policy which the membership actually supports as opposed to something cooked up by the unelected advisors that really call the shots in developing the campaign policies.

  • Jim Vincent

    Oh boy, another group promoting political participation! Whoopee! How exciting!

    Yes, you are right, it should have taken a more activist stance and pushed for another day of protests for the return of parliament. But even that would have been difficult because it would have required a more explicitly partisan stance against the Tories, or a more concrete position on becoming some sort of activist version of Democracy Watch.

    It strikes me that many of the bloggers wrapped up in the CAPP movement are quite uneducated on the ups and downs of protest movements. There seems to be, especially among my (big L) Liberal friends a belief that the “partisan” displays on January 23 were somehow undermining of the “non-partisan” CAPP.

    First, I think this reveals a rather naive understanding of CAPP itself. While uniting a wide range of people from across the political spectrum with its pro-democracy demands, it was nonetheless clearly partisan in its goals: it was anti-Harper and anti-Tory. Everyone who participated knew that galvanizing public sentiment against Harper was precisely why CAPP and January 23 mattered.

    Second, the implied claims that CAPP was internally “non-partisan” is also a fiction which is why there is a confusion as to why CAPP lost its élan after January 23 and why there is some spilled Liberal milk over the partisan displays at the rallies.

    The movement was always a coalition of Liberals, NPDers, Greens, the radical left, student groups, social movements, labour unions, etc and was never the preserve of one or another party. The concept of a non-partisan CAPP only made sense in relation to keeping the coalition together through a clear, effective uniting pro-democracy principle and the brilliantly simple slogan “Get Back to Work.” But there is nothing actually wrong with partisan displays during the rally. Everyone knew that the rallies were partisan, everyone knew what the rallies were about, and everyone knew that NDP and Liberal activists, among many others, were knee-deep in the organizing. To imagine that an NDP banner, some socialist placard or union flag undermined CAPP is nonsense.

    The problem with CAPP was not partisan displays but its spontaneous nature. At first, this was its advantage: it galvanized thousands of people and mobilized them towards January 23 around a clear slogan that summed up a deeper, more developed criticism of what Harper did. It caused a sensation, even gaining tacit support from the mainstream media which itself has a bit of a fixation on Facebook and was genuinely upset (if often mealy-mouthed) about the prorogation (which is why CAPP got the sort of coverage that other protests and social movements of equal or bigger size never get).

    The downside of spontaneity is the “what next?” factor. For CAPP it was “what next” after January 23. This always happens with spontaneous protest movements. In addition, the political parties brought out their positions in the lead up to January 23. The political situation is always changing and always bringing up new problems, obstacles and challenges. This requires new ideas, new strategies, new methods all of which leads to debate and discussion. When this happens, the pre-existing ideas and allegiances resurface as those involved bring forward differing perspectives over what’s next. And CAPP at the national and chapter level simply doesn’t have the coherence, let alone organizational structure to facilitate a proper democratic debate. This is not something to lament, but simply accept – hell, CAPP is little over a month old! No wonder people are returning to their camps, maybe a little wise, a little more inspired, a little more confident.

    In one sense, CAPP’s demise was inevitable but hopefully it has forged political networks that did not exist before – especially in the numerous smaller cities and towns that don’t have an activist political tradition. CAPP’s greatest accomplishments – which we should celebrate – were standing up to Harper and playing a decisive, indispensable role in taking his support down a number of points, creating a broader (but still fragile) culture of political activism, and initiating a richer political discourse of democratic engagement.

    That’s why it’s bloody unfortunate that CAPP is moving in the direction it is going. I’d much rather see it bury itself instead of going down what appears to a be a cul-de-sac of promoting abstract ideas of political engagement and activism. The only way I think CAPP could keep the broad coalition together is by becoming a large-scale activist version of Democracy Watch organizing around concrete policies. In this way CAPP could have been really non-partisan and started turning on the Liberals and NDP to hammer out a deal on ensuring that any future prorogations would require the consent of the House. But alas, that might reveal that my Liberal friends hiding behind the idea of a “non-partisan” CAPP would have to concede that Iggy’s proposed prorogation reforms are quite toothless.

    So, if CAPP cannot exist, then I hope that people can at least take the focus on activism back to their political parties – Liberals or NDP – and start bring these electoral machines back down to the grassroots and begin mattering again to their base instead of suddenly showing up at our door every time there is an election. The two major opposition parties organizing partisan grassroots campaigns in between elections – now that’s political participation, activism…and democracy.

  • Um, that shoulda been “part-y- based….”

  • I think many partisans can look beyond their own party’s banner and see that a non-partisan, not-for-profit education-centric and advocacy-based organization like CAPP would be worthwhile. Democracy is not something to be taken lightly but all too often it is cynically subverted in the name of partisan politics. The Harperites are masters at this.

    Scott – you are partisan and make no bones about it but in your notes, I often see you standing back to see the full landscape. And in a part-based democracy, partisans are indeed needed. But that impartial judgment is required as well to guide sound policy decisions.

    It will be interesting see to where CAPP is steered.

  • DavidA

    I think it would damage their credibility as non-partisan if they failed to mention ALL parties use of 10%er BS. It’s the one thing they want to stress the most.

    You’re a partisan Liberal, don’t try to co-opt a citizens movement like the NDP, various unions, anti-globilizationists and handful of marxists that showed up to an otherwise legitimate protest.

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