13 Oct 2011

Last of Three Part Series:
What progressive groups must do
to defeat, or stymie, the Harper regime

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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 Many groups are using outdated, ineffective strategies.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.
- Nick

Part III: How a big-co-op movement could fight against income disparity

A 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. 
 In March, even the Bank of Canada urged governments to enact policies to rein in the excesses of free markets and reduce income disparities, arguing this would strengthen the economy. But Harper does not appear to be budging.

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 GreenpeaceDogwood 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.
DURATION: A series of actions scheduled over at least 12 months.

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. 
Taking part in this kind of huge cooperative campaign would not mean that individual groups would give up their regular campaigning activities. But groups might need to trim back on less productive activities for a period of time and channel those resources to the cooperative campaign. With a ‘hot’ issue such as income disparity, it should be easy to raise $1-million or more for this special program.

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.

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.

Please send me the names of organizations – large or small – you feel should be invited to take part in initial discussions. (A person’s name and email address will be appreciated.) Secondly, please indicate if you are willing to donate a few hours of your time to promote this cause. Please email me at: fillmore0274@rogers.com. You may not hear from me for a couple of weeks as I am travelling.

If you haven't already done so, please subscribe. Thanks.


  1. Great post. Bill Blaikie's Blaikie Report pages 85 and following about An Effective Electorate you just have to read. This is a cautionary tale and Bill's points are compelling to me. We want policy change? We need members in the chamber. Let me know your thoughts.

    Best wishes.

  2. It all sounds good, My only question would be focussing only on income disparity. I say this because there are so many issues from the gutting of the mechanisms of our democracy, to muzzling our scientists, to election fraud, pensions, gutting environmental assessments, the power of the petrostate....I could go on and on. When you first proposed the idea, I saw it as a way of connecting Canadians on a whole wide range of activities being taken by Harper to destroy our country. Of course income equity is important, and there's so much more. I think people need to be made aware of the extent to which the country is being undermined, and putting all the pieces together is very important, in my view.

    1. I guess I didn't explain well enough that this is just a SAMPLE campaign geared to tackle the income disparity issue. I totally agree that this movement I'm advocating would also campaign on the kinds of issues you are talking about -- provided strategies could be developed that would guarantee a reasonable chance of success.

    2. I guess that depends on your definition of success. At this point, organized resistance is required and a well articulated analysis of the big picture. Right now, people are organizing, but it feels like hit and miss to me.

  3. Well thought out plan, Nick. And focusing on income disparity to start is not a bad idea. A tight focus, with clear & deliberate actions around this, will eventually lead to other successful actions on issues.

    An apple is eaten one bite at a time; eat, chew, swallow, breathe, repeat.

  4. Keeping the Robo-call issue in the POLITICAL forefront is one way to hurt the Cons.

    Harper is a pint sized Hitler who finds "democracy' to be an obstacle to devine, royal or Presidential (for life?) rule.

    Like Hitler he never had the support of a majority but depends on and encourages, instead apathy (38% stay-at-homes)to remain in power.

    Hopefully 'robo-calling' will still be around as a POLITCAL issue in 2015. If it is the effect will be the same as the perceived bullying in Guelph was in May, 2011; there will be a backlash against the manipulators as was the case when a local Con grabbed the advanced polling booth at the University.

  5. I confess I have only skimmed the 3 part series so I may have missed this as another tactic to get rid of the appalling group we now call government.

    This can be done by the individual no matter what party they support. Post a list of all the companies known to be supportive of the Harper government and let consumers choose to NOT purchase from them or ignore them in the case of the media. This can hit their bottom line and they will realize that openly supporting Harper is affecting their income.

    Or something like that! Just an idea.

    1. I really like the boycott idea ... can you give me information on 'how' to find that out. I'd be more than happy to do the list and publicize it far and wide, but am at a loss how to find this info out... aside of course, from the msm

    2. As a starter, Bell Canada that owns CTV, G&M (soon Astral)and ???? normally have very supportive statements and appear to sideline some news, indeed the G&M chose Harper for the last two(or three?) elections.

      Don't some oil companies now owe him now that he is making environmental assessments easier?

      Where do his "followers" go when they leave? They NEVER speak out against him so they retain a favourable position I suspect. Which companies hired them?

      Air Canada owes him and I can't imagine his support is "free" of politics.

      Banks that were "assisted" when things went belly up must certainly give their support.

      Here is a site with some comments identifying probable supporters: http://babelonthebay.com/2012/03/17/the-harper-conservatives-are-selling-us-cheap/

      I just read and watch the news and statements made by individuals. Follow the inferences and those who lean towards supportive statements about clearly controversial issues!

  6. If I can make a suggestion, progressive campaigns put a lot of emphasis on social media and mainstream media, sometimes at the expense of the movement's own independent media organizations - which includes media co-ops, non-profit magazines, etc. These media outlets are really struggling to survive in recent years, with cabinet ministers picking and choosing which ones get access to grants, loss of postal subsidies, denial of charitable status, etc. Facebook is fine for mobilizing and sharing links, but independent journalists are needed to do investigations and write the stories you link to. Supporting independent media's survival should be high on the 'to do' list for unions and co-ops.

  7. davidwilliamsphd@yahoo.ca , OCCUPY Nova Scotia1 April 2012 at 13:59

    OCCUPY NOVA SCOTIA has been using our time since eviction to plan prepare and to explore and expand alliances and public support. We have begun publicly feeding all comers on the street (where we feel a responsibility to our supporters who live an the street) and on labor movement picket lines (eg The transit workers). This gains us allies and general sympathy. We are systematicly approaching churches to be invited to explain ourselves and answer questions. This has been very succesful and has led churches to offer meeting places and kitchens and to assure us they will support us as embassaries of a new democracy if we are attacked by police or in the press. Building these roots in the wider community is important to us. At these meetings and at our "Really Really Free Markets" (free exchange of goods attended by at least one thousand people) we get only smiles and affection and admiration.

  8. wow, I didn't realize how truly pathetic you wankers were until I read this blather.

    with idiots like you to oppose him, Harper is going to be in power for the next 30 years! HAHAHAHA!!!

  9. Jacqueline Ross2 April 2012 at 23:42

    I believe that the ideas you are all expounding, except "Anonymous Apr.1,2012 02:07pm", are wonderful, and heartily offer congratulations on your courage, honesty and obvious fervour in your sharing.
    Is the plan to have an influence on the 2015 election? Perhaps this is achievable, however, in my opinion, the primary aim needs to be getting all the non-voting Canadians to believe that their vote does make a difference. Many believe that one party is "as crooked as the other",so why vote? If these people can be convinced that the "gathering" of all the people in these groups, unions, independent media etc. will help save our country from Harper & his Henchmen. Many believe Harper is doing a "fabulous" job. I am not one of those folks. If we choose to remain uninformed, uninvolved, we get the government and consequently the country we deserve, this is democracy. Information sessions need to be organized, and the information needs to be consistent, understandable, true and non-alarmist or confrontational in content. This is where community will come in, with multi-media assisting. This needs to be individuals-driven. That is the way it begins, in my opinion. I'm a retired person, not involved with any groups. I love our country and the people, whether we agree politically or not, and if we do not act soon, Canadians won't recognize ourselves at all anymore. Many countries are questioning the direction Canada is going since the Harper Gov't took office. I have a feeling the education etc., will be an ongoing process, perhaps mature enough to influence the 2015 Federal Election. We need to start and continue, not give up or give in. Thank you Nick for sharing your ideas.

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