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Canada’s progressive community, which includes labour and grassroots groups, needs to make some significant changes if it hopes to slow down the assault being carried out on the country by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and their right-wing allies.
Our Canadian progressive movement is not strategically organized to be able to take on Harper’s majority right-wing government. Many groups are using outdated, ineffective strategies.
The first article explored the reluctance of a handful of groups to form a cooperative network to track and pursue the robo-calling scandal. The second article explored how a new, powerful movement could come together, and also looked at some of the movement’s weaknesses.
This piece below puts forward a case study of how a cooperative network could use a mix of tactics to stymie or even defeat Harper and his allies in some key areas.
After you have read this third part, there is a role for you. Please see the comments at the end of this article.
Part III: How a big-co-op movement could fight against income disparityA massive, well-thought-out campaign involving hundreds of groups from the progressive community, labour, grassroots organizations and individual Canadians would have an excellent chance of handing the Harper regime a significant defeat on a hugely important issue: income disparity.
The public outrage over income disparity, brought to light by the Occupy Movement last year with its ’99 vs 1 per cent’ slogan, is a strong indication that Canadians would support a huge campaign to totally discredit and hopefully eliminate “supply-side economics”, the policy mostly responsible for income disparity.
In January 2012, an Environics Institute poll revealed that more than eight in 10 Canadians suggested their governments have a responsibility to do something to reduce the gap between the wealthy and the rest of Canadians.
This failed “trickle down” policy has made Canada’s rich even richer, while many millions of other Canadians have lost ground:
- More Canadians than ever before are shamed into going to food banks to feed their families;
- While the official unemployment rate is 7.4 per cent,the real rate is closer to 14 per cent;
- The number of working poor has increased to the highest level ever in many parts of the country because many new work opportunities are McJobs; and
- Ordinary Canadians have seen their real wealth stagnate over the past years. In the period between 1980 and 2005 the median earnings for workers in Canada rose by just $53.00 annually.
Groups should mount a huge campaign
At present, a number of groups, such as the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) and its branches, have income disparity on their agenda. However, no substantial campaigning appears to be planned. In addition, while the newly-charged New Democrats will no doubt protest loudly, the party will not have its chance to win an election for another four years.
Flaherty will release a partial federal budget on March 29 2012. If there are no tax changes to lessen the ever-increasing income gaps, then organizations need to mount a massive campaign to force the Conservatives to take appropriate action to relieve the burden placed on many Canadians by the time of the 2013 budget.
An inspirational, huge campaign with thousands of groups involved using hard-nosed tactics would be a fair test of the theory that, with proper planning and effective strategies, the Conservatives can be defeated or nullified on key issues.
Here is what could be carried out in an all-out campaign: (The names of just a few of the hundreds of public minded Canadian groups that could be involved are mentioned – so we can begin to gauge our own potential.)
THE ISSUE: In organized campaigning, leading groups need to identify the weakness of the targeted organization(s). Given the Conservatives’ vulnerability around “99 vs 1 per cent” issues, income disparity seems to be a good choice.
THE TARGETS: The federal government as well as the symbol of ill-gotten wealth: the Canadian bank employing the executive who had the highest income in the sector in 2011. In this case, the targeted bank would be the Toronto-Dominion Bank, which posted a record-high profit in 2011. Its president, Ed Clark, was the highest paid bank executive, earning $11.28-million during the year.
STRATEGY: Choosing the right strategy and tactics is hugely important. Member groups with the best track record of developing effective campaigns would be best suited to identify the proper tactics to be used. An interesting mix might bring together Greenpeace, Dogwood Initiative, and the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), and the Council of Canadians.
THEME: Canadians want the Harper government to end its immoral theft of billions of dollars from ordinary Canadians, which ends up in the pockets of the wealthy.
RESEARCH: Research groups such as the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), Canadians for Tax Fairness and similar groups could produce reports documenting the implications of wage disparity and recommending what changes could be made to create greater fairness in the tax system.
ACTIVITIES: To be successful a giant cooperative movement would need to deploy a wide variety of activities – some of them more aggressive than those normally used by the highly conservative Canadian progressive movement – is there an oxymoron in there?
First, a huge communications campaign, perhaps spun out by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Friends of the Earth Canada (FoE) and others, would make use of the mailing lists of hundreds, possibly thousands, of progressive groups and unions to reach out to millions of Canadians. Snappy, well-written, reports on why and how the campaign would be conducted would be circulated.
If the majority of Canada’s more than 15,000 progressive groups and unions with more than 4-million members signed on for the action, it would be possible that the number of people supporting the campaign would exceed the 5,832,401 votes received by the Conservatives in the 2011 election.
A Social Media program would be put in place. Leadnow has strong skills in this area, and there are others it could work with. A huge Facebook effort could be organized, with the strong participation of Fire the Liars and other groups such as Operation Maple. Mailing lists and other mechanisms would be used to ask Internet users to both promote the campaign and send protest emails to the TD Bank and the Conservatives on specific dates.
Moreover, to head off the backlash that can be anticipated from the Conservatives and the right-wing community, the new cooperative movement would want to take advantage of its size and newly-won power. It would need a strong group of leaders who could pressure mainstream media to provide fair and accurate coverage of the campaign. Dozens of op-ed pieces, media interviews, and letters to the editor would need to be planned during the campaign.
Partner groups, particularly unions as well as prominent individuals, would be asked to create a fund of at least $500,000 that would be used to buy strategically-placed ads.
When the campaign is officially launched, ideally six or eight branches of the Toronto-Dominion would be targeted for a series of actions. As a first step, Canadians would be asked to close their TD accounts at those particular branches and move their monies and business to a credit unions or other banking institutions.
From time to time, picket lines, perhaps organized by unions such as the United Steelworkers and the huge United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCWC) would be set up on public property in front of the six or eight TD branches. People would be asked to move their business elsewhere. At the same time, pickets would talk with bank employees and provide them with literature explaining why the action is taking place. A variety of prominent people would be asked to be pickets.
The Occupy Movement could play a “front line” role by carrying out disruptive protests that would involve “hit-and-run” occupations at the target branches, closing them down for an hour or two at a time.
Acting within legal boundaries, rotating teams of Internet users could occasionally flood TD Bank and government websites and email addresses with messages requesting that the bank urge the government to implement progressive tax policies.
At some point, campaign organizers could assess whether it would be possible to stage a huge rally in support of fair income distribution on Parliament Hill. A rally of 10,000 or even 20,000 people would not create enough impact. But if just one rally drawing perhaps 100,000 people were held, that would definitely send the right message. Shutting down Harper’s phoney majority government in the House for a couple of hours would be a nice bonus!
Two other possibilities:
- The cooperative movement could ask a comedy troupe to come up with some comedy routines that would mock the way the Conservatives and the rich collaborate to keep all the resources for themselves.
- The movement could ask legal experts to see if they feel there are any possibilities of taking legal action concerning any aspect of income disparity.
VARYING DEGREES OF SUCCESS: If supported enthusiastically by a wide range of organizations, such a campaign could be successful in a number of ways. It could:
- pressure the Harper government to use the tax system to decrease and eventually reverse income disparity in the country;
- possibly embarrass the banking community to the point that some banks would be inclined to behave socially responsible in the future;
- politicize and educate hundreds-of-thousands of Canadians about the need for them to actively support progressive change and to vote for change in the 2015 election, and
- demonstrate to the progressive community, unions and grassroots organizations themselves that, if they have the courage to act as a unified force, they can be highly influential in bringing positive change to the country.
We can only hope that community leaders from the progressive, labour and grassroots sectors have the courage to explore an idea that could have significant rewards for the country.
ATTENTION ALL READERS: A ROLE FOR YOU -
If you believe that progressive groups, unions and grassroots organizations should take a good, hard look at forming a big cooperative movement, you can help support The Campaign to Create a Campaign.
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