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Does it matter how big the CAPP crowds are for the movement to be a success?

Many people have asked whether the tremendous success and growth of the Facebook group Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (now at just under 211 000 members as of this AM) would translate over to the street in the form of today’s protests that are being held. That seems to be the question more then a few media pundits, politicians and pro-Conservative Harper folks are asking, and they are asserting that the CAPP movement will be judged a failure if massive amounts of people don’t show up at the rally (as an aside, most of these folks I’ve read haven’t put out a number of people showing up for them to judge it a success).

Other folks think that CAPP still has and potentially will make an impact, regardless of the numbers of folks that end up coming out today. First, the Rideau Institute’s Terry Killeen, which did a small survey of the folks at the Facebook group to see who they were:

(Rideau Institute) Study author (Terry) Killeen also offered this caution: “I think maybe this is a tipping point. … What we might be at now is where this (social media protesting) gets taken much more seriously by decision-makers.” In this new world, some people participate politically on line, and some in the physical environment. “So it’s not an either/or — it’s a cumulative thing. I wouldn’t see the protests as a validation of this. The ultimate validation will be in the ballot box,” he said.

Prior to that, Professor Michael Geist, he the creator of Fair Copyright For Canada’s Facebook group:

Skeptics have pointed to rallies planned for this week as the litmus test for the effectiveness of the anti-proroguing Facebook group. But with polls finding mounting interest in the issue, the battle has already been won, suggesting it’s long past time to cast aside doubts about the importance and effectiveness of digital advocacy.

If you are one of those still not convinced that anything but large numbers will show that CAPP is a populist grassroots movement that many folks in Canada agree with/are angered at Harpers (mis)use of prorogation, consider the anti-coalition Facebook group of last year. It had 127 000 members join that group, yet according to unscientific estimates, it’s rallies across the country got just under 10 000 folks out. Nobody argued back then (that I can remember anyhow) that the fact under 10% of the FB group showed up to rally was a sign no one cared – instead, everyone pointed to the polls that saw the Conservatives surge into the mid-40’s and the other opposition parties slump. You’ve seen a similar result here this year with the polls showing a significant drop for the Conservatives in the wake of prorogation.

To answer my title’s question, my view is that regardless of the number of people that show up, it’s already been a huge success. It has drawn public awareness and given an outlet for people angry at Harper’s unnecessary action (and angry at the multiple excuses his Conservative caucus has been giving). Another thing to point at for me is the fact that the Conservatives polling numbers have dropped so dramatically (“down 15 points in 15 days”, as Rick Mercer pointed out in this past week’s show); I’d assert that slide wasn’t caused by anything but Canadians angry at prorogation, and CAPP helped focus that anger.

The next important question will be what happens for the CAPP group to maintain momentum/keep the focus on the misuse of prorogation after the rallies, and a group for that has started up at Facebook as well – still small, but that’s to be expected I think until after today happens.

UPDATE @ 10: 03 am: The first CAPP rally to take place did so in Oman, it appears! 🙂

8 comments to Does it matter how big the CAPP crowds are for the movement to be a success?

  • I don’t think the actual numbers of Facebook members alone or anti-prorogation rally participants matter so much as how these are used and intertwined with other media and non-media elements of Canadian society. I will guess that within a couple of months, Harper will ask for an election from the governor-general and get it. He will be going to towns and cities across our country. He might even appear in Toronto. If he does and only 200 people show up out of 2,000,000 show up to hear him, that won’t mean that his event in Toronto will be deemed a failure. The audience might (will probably likely) be pre-selected. The media will be present to record his speech. The television will likely replay his speech several times during the day. Harper might consider the event a positive experience.

    We should not use the rallies themselves to measure if the anti-prorogationists were successful or not. The Facebook membership increase, the ability to organize multiple events across the country, plus the participation of a good number of people–all indicate that these had an effect on the Conservative Party’s declining popularity.

    We pro-democracy supporters must not stop our activism. We must consider our next steps and think of creative ways to reach the Canadian population. It’s an on-going process.

  • Big Winnie

    Oldschool…thanks for the laugh.

    Let me explain the fallacy of your ways:

    1) A PM with a minority prorogues parliament because he refuses to answer questions about his government’s handling of the Afghan detainee issue. Don’t forget that the Conservatives rewrote the agreement pertaining to Afghan detainees after they assumed power.
    2) Yes, prorogation has been used 105 times since Confederation but the question is: Why was it used so often, so early in our country’s history? Personally, I feel that it was used to allow MPs to travel to/from their constituencies so with that being said, proroguement was used for bipartisan purposes.
    3) Chretien had majority governments (I believe)when he prorogued parliament and government business was finished. 37 bills (52%) now need to be reintroduced thanks to Harper.
    4) At a cost of approx $3 million a day, Harper’s proroguement is going to cost taxpayers $66 Million. A special thanks goes to Scott Ross for his report on the costs.

    Lastly, I was at a rally today and was happy that it was well attended, bipartisan, and speakers, for the most part, were passionate and on topic. I’ve also read about potential sabotage at the Winnipeg rally:

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=260348091419#/topic.php?uid=260348091419&topic=13877

    If Conservative supporters are prepared to stoop that low as to attempt to discredit a bipartisan rally, this, in my opinion, speaks volumes about the kind of party that is currently governing.

  • Oldschool

    Prorogation has been used over 100 times since Confederation.
    The Cretch used it FOUR times . . . and no one noticed!!! PET used it more than a DOZEN times . . . and no one noticed!!!
    This is a politicizing a non-issue, because the opposition leaders, krazy Jack and the nutty Professor have NOTHING to contribute. They still sing the Gorebull Warming song . . . even though the globe has been cooling for a decade, the IPCC cooked the books, almost all the data was Fraudulent.
    It is the PM’s discretion to delay Parliament for a few weeks, the Afgan thing is nonsense. If you don’t like the way the Afgans treat their prisoners . . . go there and protest if you like. The prisoner transfer was set up by the Cretch and lieberals back in the day. If you like terrorists so much, they are looking for homes for the clowns in Guantanamo, do you have a spare bedroom???

  • djn

    Of course the numbers will matter and will be held, because of their oppositional nature, to a higher standard than those of the pro-Tory demonstrations in December 2008. These rallies were portrayed by the media as quite large and “proof” of a grassroots movement, even though these demonstrations were quite small compared to some of the organized labour, anti-war and anti-globalization demonstrations over the past decade which have dwarfed anything this country’s right-wing “grassroots” has managed. It’s a double standard.

    The question is whether small numbers at these rallies will dissuade this grassroots campaign from sticking with it in the long run, and beginning to see itself as a potential decisive force in the next election to defeat Harper. In this respect, CAPP seems to have more potential than the opposition parties to actually damage Harper because of its cross-party composition.

    I fear that small turnouts will lead a lot of people to return to their bunkers. I hope this is not true.

  • rural

    Indeed it is a success before it even takes place in that so many more citizens are “engaged” but let us not forget that this is but the first major reaction to a long list of actions (mostly but not all by the Harper regime) that have been gradually diminishing our democracy. This must be the start of persistent public pressure for democratic reform not just a one shot rally.

    Democracy requires dialog, please join us at http://democracyunderfire.blogspot.com/

  • I too agree that this is already a huge success. It is not just the numbers on the Facebook group but the engagement: the comments and links and discussion.

    We need big numbers out today, but I’m not worried about that. Today is not the end: it’s just the beginning, the kick-off to a long and difficult campaign.

    Harper seems to be angling for a spring election, and likely will present a budget that the opposition parties can’t support.

    Harper has more money than anyone else, and his base seems even more energized by this debate. Plus, Ignatieff is just a year into his leadership, and even Harper couldn’t win an election after just one year.

    If Harper wins that election, even with another minority, he can claim that he got a mandate from the people to prorogue, duck the Afghan inquiry, and follow his other anti-democratic methods.

    So, long story short: I’m not concerned that we have insufficient numbers now, but that many of those people think that today is the end of it, and that big numbers today mean we’ve won. We don’t win until we boot Harper out of parliament.

    All the same, I’m looking forward to today! My signs say “I support parliament” and “Stop Harper’s war on democracy.”

  • CAPP is a success in its own right. Even if not a single person shows up to a rally, it doesn’t negate the reality of CAPP and what that means in a world that is increasingly communicating via this medium. Older folk, such as myself, have a hard time understanding the nature of a Blackberry and iPhone world of instant messaging on every conceivable topic.

    That said, anything over 10,000 in total across Canada will make the rallies a significant statement as this number is larger than either the anti-coalition or pro-coalition rallies. But, if you want to dismiss the rallies, wait until the numbers come up and then set the bar higher – sort of like Harper dismissing Canadians’ attitudes to prorogation. Thanks, Scott.

  • Big Winnie

    I agree that the group has been a success. Last night, CAPP received media attention here in Hamilton on CHCH and a few were on Politics and Power. We have people talking about proroguement and I also think Scott Ross’ article in the NP will put a cost to what Harper has done.

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