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Our challenge, democracy

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(Last of a four-part series)

The politics of fear helped define the 2011 federal election.

For all of its darkness, fear also drove a lot of voters to consider new possibilities, to make new choices, including jumping on the orange wave.

The challenge for progressives wanting to ensure Canada maintains the promise of social justice that we briefly coalesced around post-war is to begin work immediately on a reframe: Our challenge is to change the conversation, rather than get trapped in the conversation that has been set for us (economy in peril).

Rather than play into divisive politics, our challenge as progressive change-makers is to expand our circles of influence. Think of yourself as an agent of change and a connector to new people -- because change won't happen by having the same conversations with the same people.

As progressive change-makers, our challenge is to let new people in -- give them voice. The generational transfer is just beginning. Facilitate it. Practice kindness, empathy, caring. Leave the next generation with something better than what we found. Start that project now.

As progressive change-makers, one of our tasks is to make it safe to challenge our own orthodoxies: if we only seek to educate, to appeal to reason, we fail to connect. Because human cognition works like this: We seek out and accept information that confirms our values and beliefs; we reject information that doesn't.

Persuading through the use of reason alone (facts, myth busting etc) only encourages people to dig in their heels. Our challenge is to go deeper, and to soothe the worry we know is out there. To find common cause.

We live in insecure times. We have common cause with all Canadians to find sustainable economic and political practices.

As progressive change-makers, our challenge is to promote change that is pragmatic but also aspirational. Now is not the time to play small. Condition the field for progressive governance to stick as a natural way of doing politics.

Don't leave it just up to the politicians (though feel welcome to throw your support behind politicians when they do take a progressive stance).

Don't stay in the familiar comfort of critique and opposition. We Canadians ask more of you. Democratic government should be of and for the people. That's you and me. It's up to us to build the Canada we would be proud to hand over to the next generation. Starting now.

That takes our active engagement. It takes you and I getting out of hyper partisan mode, talking beyond the converted and doing new things in fresh ways. The more people we bring into the progressive fold, the easier it is to face our deepest fears and move forward, together, to secure and build the Canada we want.

Also, the more durable our democracy. Democracy doesn't run on autopilot. Democracy has to be fought for and won, constantly renewed, in order to remain thriving.

As progressive change-makers, that is our task. The future of our democracy, the future of Canada, is not only in the hands of the politicians. The future rests with each and every one of us.

Democracy is a wheel. Let me roll it to you.

Thanks for your patience.

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