The purpose of this website is to identify which specific goals the Occupy movement is trying to achieve in Canada regarding policy.
Those who want to help with the research by polling the Occupy sites, translation or other means are invited to do so. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Issues to be Concerned About:
More detailed descriptions can be found in the "Issues" tab on the left side of this page.
The Occupy movement believes that the government is responsible for the protection of its citizens and the environment and that it has a duty to remain sovereign. The Occupy movement also believes that the government should derive its policies only from the will of the people and the rule of law.
* Hon. Eugene A. Forsey explains this principle in How Canadians Govern Themselves,
"It means that everyone is subject to the law; that no one, no matter how important or powerful,
is above the law — not the government; not the Prime Minister, or any other Minister; not the Queen
or the Governor General or any Lieutenant-Governor; not the most powerful bureaucrat; not the armed forces; not Parliament itself, or any provincial legislature."
Upon the corruption of these responsibilities, we believe that it is the duty of the public to demand a government that follows this model of governance.
We believe that private companies are responsible to stakeholders (including nature) for their actions. In the event that the actions of the private sector cause undue harm unto stakeholders, it is the duty of the government to step in and enforce responsibility. As markets are inherently profit-based, we believe that it is the duty of the government to ensure that the free market does not cause undue harm unto certain groups of people or the environment in its pursuit of profit.
We also believe that the government has a duty to provide basic social services for all its citizens, to ensure that universal human rights are met.
ISSUE ONE - CAMPAIGN FINANCE:
While contributions from corporations and unions are banned in federal elections and individual contributions are limited to $1 200 a year, provincial elections show a much different picture. The provinces of Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Alberta all allow corporations and unions to contribute large sums of money to political parties. Some provinces cap the amount of spending at around $10 000 a year, while other provinces have no cap on campaign contributions. Perhaps it is time to ban contributions from corporations and unions and to limit the amount of money that an individual can contribute in a year.
(How about no campaign contributions at all, back to a per vote subsidy, if the government wants media coverage, let them earn it with good policies.)
ISSUE TWO - DIRECT DEMOCRACY:
The current Swiss system of direct democracy allows citizens to trigger referendums on bills which are unpopular. Any citizen group which can collect 50, 000 petition signatures within 100 days of a bill being passed can trigger a referendum, which allows citizens to repeal bills. Bills are rarely repealed, but the threat of public action adds a "check" to democracy. Canada should adopt a similar system.
In general, the term "direct democracy" usually refers to citizens making policy and law decisions in person, without going through representatives and legislatures. The classic example of this is the New England Town Meeting where anyone from the town who wants to show up to debate and vote on town policy can do so. Until recently, this worked for scores of communities, but low attendance at many modern town meetings has raised questions about whether they are truly democratic.
More recent direct democracy proposals tend to focus on voting schemes (usually high tech) that would allow widespread, virtually continual voting by millions of citizens on whatever proposals surfaced. While useful in building up a buffet of voting methodologies for possible use in other contexts, the lack of organized public deliberation about the issues in question makes such proposals look more like opinion polls than exercises of citizenship. Wise solutions to public problems won't likely come off the top of a hundred million heads.
A third approach to direct democracy -- the "initiative process" adapted by a number of states -- allows anyone to propose a law which, if they can get enough of their fellow citizens to co-sponsor it (usually by signing petitions), can be voted on by the entire electorate in the next election. While apparently empowering the grassroots, this process has in many instances been co-opted by special interest groups, especially monied interests who put initiatives on the ballot to increase their wealth and power in the guise of public benefit -- or to confuse voters about competing initiatives that actually come from the grassroots. Since the monied interests have more resources to hire petition-signature-gatherers and to run powerful advertising campaigns based on extensive marketing surveys and expert PR advice (sometimes very devious, last minute blitzes that can't be answered before the election), there's a real question about how democratic existing initiative processes are. Furthermore, such processes offer no more deliberation than the unproductive media debates that characterize most political campaigns.
So each of these approaches to direct democracy raises questions about how wise or democratic they actually are, in practice. Democracy requires participation by the broad citizenry or at least those affected by the decision. Wisdom requires thoughtful, informed consideration of the issues and consequences involved with various options.
DIRECT DEMOCRACY AND DELIBERATIVE DEMOCRACY
So where do we get wisdom? One of the most important -- and probably indispensible -- sources of collective wisdom in a democracy is informed deliberation among people whose diversity approximates the diversity of their community or country. (Such a group can be large or small, as long as it meets that criteria. See the deliberation page on this site for democratic innovations that embody this understanding). Such deliberation produces public judgment, a far higher form of collective intelligence than mere public opinion. (See A Call to Move Beyond Public Opinion to Public Judgment..)
Broadly recognized citizen deliberation and public judgment bring public wisdom to the public power that is bestowed by direct democracy. Such a combination of power and wisdom begins to approach an ideal democratic form. An example of an effort to actually practice this level of advanced democracy is British Columbia's experiment with a Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform, in which 160 randomly selected citizens explored different approaches to electoral reform and the outcome of their deliberations was submitted to British Columbia's electorate for a direct vote. Citizen deliberative councils, of which the above Citizens Assembly is one example, are a particularly potent source of deliberative wisdom.
ISSUE THREE - CETA
The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) is a recent issue that has largely been ignored by the Canadian Press - possibly due to the Harper government's secretive stance on any specifics of it. CETA is a free-trade agreement between Canada and Europe which, if passed, will likely export Canadian jobs to Europe and privatize many public municipal services. Services which would normally only be open for contract in Canada (in order to ensure the creation of Canadian jobs), would now be open to European private companies. While Canadian companies will also be able to bid on European contracts, research shows that in similar situations in the past, Canada has lost many more jobs than they have gained in such ventures.
Many municipalities in Canada have already passed resolutions stating their will for their province to opt out of CETA. Other organizations, such as the Council for Canadians and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have also voiced their concerns about possible Canadian job downgrading and loss if this agreement comes to life. Talk to your municipal and provincial representatives about opting out of CETA, to ensure to prevent the privatization and exportation of Canadian jobs.