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article imageOp-Ed: Canada — Protesting page a symptom, not a saviour

By Justin Crann     Jun 8, 2011 in Politics
Ottawa - In the Canadian media, there has been much discussion about Brigette DePape, a Senate page who disrupted the Speech from the Throne in protest.
Last Friday, DePape, 21, smuggled a hand-crafted "Stop Harper!" sign in to the Senate and, while Governor General David Johnston was delivering the speech, walked into the centre aisle of the chamber and presented the sign. There she stood, for twenty seconds, before being removed from the Senate by the sergeant-at-arms, the Canadian Press reported.
Then came DePape's press release, which was distributed while she was still in custody, the Toronto Star reported. It urged for an "Arab spring" in Canada, a "flowering of popular movements" contrary to the Harper agenda. DePape reinforced this message in an interview with the CBC's Evan Solomon on Power & Politics.
The day after DePape launched her one-woman war against the Harper government, news agencies across the country were abuzz with commentary. The CBC asked if the protest was appropriate. The Toronto Star ran two separate opinion pieces, taking the pro and con side of the debate. Even John Ivison of the National Post weighed in, writing:
There's no doubt such dull objectives pale next to the romance and excitement of taking to the streets in a "flowering of popular movements," to borrow from Ms. DePape's press release. Yet, call me an old fogey, a traditionalist or even a typical taxpayer, I like dullness in government - it is a good indicator of success and competence.
Filmmaker Michael Moore  no stranger to controversy  waded in to the discussion and offered DePape a...
Filmmaker Michael Moore, no stranger to controversy, waded in to the discussion and offered DePape a job.
Kai Schreiber
It was a historical moment in Canadian politics, and it's sparked plenty of conversation from journalists, politicos, and even American filmmaker Michael Moore, who offered the former page a job after she was fired from the Senate.
DePape's motivations notwithstanding, however, it seems there has been a profound dearth in discussion about why the protest was necessary in the first place.
The former page said that three quarters of Canadians didn't vote for Harper. That's true. But then, almost 40 per cent of Canadians — more than half of the 75 per cent of voters DePape speaks about — didn't bother to vote at all. Among Canadians who marked a ballot, 39.6 per cent voted in favour of the Conservative candidate. Under Canada's first past the post (FPP) electoral system, that constitutes a win by popular support.
DePape's argument must be with the electoral system, which has placed a party in a majority government without true majority support. If this is the case, the former page is barking up the wrong tree: referendums on electoral reform at the provincial level were rejected twice in British Columbia in 2005 and 2009, and Ontario voters rejected reform in 2007. It would appear by the numbers that voters are decisively opposed to electoral reform, and the majority of decided voters — by nine per cent — support Stephen Harper.
So why, then, was DePape's protest so captivating to journalists and politicians, and why is she so concerned about the direction Canadian politics has taken?
DePape said in her press release that "Harper's agenda is disastrous for this country and my generation." She argued that Harper's military spending and corporate tax cuts need to be curtailed, and that, "Most people in this country know what we need are green jobs, better medicare... and a healthy environment."
But, by the numbers, most people clearly don't. The majority of Canada's decided voters went Conservative. But a large portion of Canadians didn't even bother to vote.
DePape is not a saviour, and she's not a figure to rally around. She's a symptom of an ailing system of government in a country whose citizens have become far too complacent about political matters. And until Canada finds the means to energize the electorate, Canadians will continue to deal with the same issues that drove DePape to walk to the middle of the Senate chamber and hold up her little paper sign.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Brigette DePape, Brigette Marcelle, senate page protest, Canadian Politics, Throne Speech 2011
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