The Protest Process

I have to say that I was extremely disappointed to learn that the head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Council was fired yesterday, primarily for having the guts to do her job properly. Moreover, the decision by the Minister of Natural Resources, Gary Lunn, to continue to act like a jerk has forced me to come off the fence.

Asked by the NDP’s Catherine Bell if he would resign if censured by parliamentarians, Mr. Lunn replied, “No, I serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister and I have his confidence.”

No, you twit, you serve at the pleasure of Canadians. Don’t forget that.

Up until now I was mostly pleased with Stephen Harper’s tenure as prime minister. Yes, there were some rough spots, but by and large the business of government was getting done, and getting done well. I felt that, as long as Harper was constrained to a series of minorities, he could govern as long as he wanted, and have a record comparable to that of Lester B. Pearson. But no longer. Stephen Harper’s dictatorial tendencies are becoming more and more plain, and are no longer being constrained by this minority parliament. The man doesn’t respect the will of Canadians, he doesn’t respect the parliamentary process, he doesn’t respect democracy, and he needs to be slapped down.

As an average Canadian, I will do as much as I can, little though that may be, to slap him down. I don’t want a majority government of any stripe at the moment, but putting somebody else at the helm for the next two years would be a good thing, in my opinion.

Speaking of the political process, Cory Doctorow drew my attention to this petition being run by an individual in North Carolina who wishes to preserve his family homestead in the face of a freeway that set to push through the property. The venerable homestead is over 150 years old and hand built by the man’s great-great-grandfather. Unfortunately, modifications made to the house in the 1950s (when it was still a living farm) prevented the home from being designated a heritage property.

Despite the fact that the North Carolina government appears to have ignored an alternate proposal to route the freeway along a different right-of-way, things remain surprisingly cordial between the family and the governor. The family and the government are having talks about moving the home to a different location. But there are complications, which is why Aaron has set up this petition. In Aaron’s words:

…though we’ve managed to convince all the parties that it should move, they need some sort of public “outcry” to be able to rubber stamp the change (and to cover their asses).

Which is why I’m setting up this petition to get signatures. Signatories don’t even have to live there. The don’t even have to have ever visited. I’m currently located in San Francisco and it doesn’t matter. They just need “the public” to demonstrate the need for the change in plans.

Well, it does sound like a petition worth signing, but I find it curious in North Carolina at least, there is a need for the government to hear a “public outcry” in order to justify its actions. People are being told to protest on cue, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Government: “Okay, we can move the freeway over to this right-of-way, sparing this ravine and some heritage properties. All I need you to do to justify it is yell.”

People: “AAAAAA!”

Government: “Very good. Motion carried. Next?”

It just feels odd to see the confrontational dance between people and power so choreographed. It makes the act of government seem less… natural.

Mind you, at least the government of North Carolina is listening to people’s suggestions. Which is more than I can say for some governments up here.

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