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Prorogation leads to ongoing pro-democracy movement

The Victoria chapter of a national group that sprang up to oppose prime minister Stephen Harper’s proroguing parliament is morphing into an ongoing pro-democracy movement.

“Ironically, the extreme cynicism of Harper’s original action created the opposite result, bringing people who had been disengaged back into the discussion,” said Craig Ashbourne, one of the Victoria organizers of Canadians Advocating Political Participation, which has grown out of the group Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament.

The Victoria group gets between 20 and 30 people at its weekly organizing meetings and is planning a monthly NightCAPP get-together at a local bar starting on March 22.

“Democracies only work as long as the people in them are engaged and involved,” said Ashbourne. “It is that piece about showing people that democracy is a hell of a lot more than voting. It's conversations you have in a grocery store. It's conversations you have in a bar.”

Democracy also includes joining groups, writing to politicians, joining political parties, working to develop party policies and marching in protests like the one CAPP organized in January, he said. People want to be involved, but sometimes aren’t sure how to go about it, he added. “We’re not apathetic, we’re just rusty.”

Group member Wendy Bergerud, who previously served on the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform that recommended the BC-STV, said she hopes CAPP will help educate people about how our political system works. People need to understand that coalition governments are a healthy part of our system and not treasonous, she said.

Ashbourne has worked with the New Democratic Party, but said CAPP involves a diverse group of individuals including people from all the major parties. CAPP groups across the country continue to meet, he said, and are planning a national day of dialogue for May.

“What we’re trying to encourage here is a discussion of how we can begin to address the very real problems that prorogation has exposed,” he said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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