Democracy vs Harper Government

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James Brown
Democracy vs Harper Government

How Peter Julian changed the NDP narrative with his budget filibuster

I was listening to CPAC Monday at work, listening to Peter Julian's filibuster speech on the budget, at points more intently than others, and I decided to tweet the following:

@MPJulian great job in the house right now! Content FB and Twitter is a great way to show #ndp is a party for the people #cdnpoli #bdgt12

I was enjoying the filibuster, as they happen infrequently. But this one was different. Peter Julian was reading Tweets, Facebook messages and emails from regular, concerned Canadians.

And then he read my Tweet. Well, paraphrased actually, but there it was. I was participating directly in the democratic process. Now, I'll be honest - I didn't send it with the expectation that it would be referenced - nor did it contain anything profound or terribly partisan, but then I started listening more intently to what Peter Julian was saying.

Peter Julian was reading Tweets, Facebook messages and emails from regular, concerned Canadians about the budget in the House of Commons - specifically from Conservative-held ridings.

From Hansard, April 2, 2011

Mr. Peter Julian

Mr. Speaker, we are hearing more comments. I certainly encourage people to provide their comments. If they would like me to read them into the record, they could send them to me on Facebook or Twitter or send an email to an NDP MP. I must admit the vast majority of the comments we are getting are from Conservative-held ridings. People in Conservative ridings are saying they disagree with their Conservative MP. They may have sent this information to their Conservative MP as well, but very clearly they are saying they want to ensure the NDP brings forward these points of view, which is what we are doing. In the spirit of back and forth, that is members' right and I would not discourage them from doing that. However, since the vast majority of comments I am reading are from Conservative ridings, it behooves those members to listen to Canadians who are speaking out. These Canadians who live in Conservative-held ridings are saying that they think Canadian families deserve better than the budget the Conservatives delivered. Canadian families deserve better. That is what they are saying.

NDP speaks for the people - the government listens

And there it was - the NDP was literally speaking for the people, not just for their ridings but for Conservative-held ridings. And doing it in real-time. It gave 'the people' an unprecedented amount of power, well beyond voting in a first-past-the-post democracy. It gave people the power to say their two cents to the government and the government had to listen. The government was, for a fleeting moment, our captive audience.

Some people complained that Peter Julian's filibuster was just an annoyance in the face of an insurmountable majority government, but it was much more than that. He spoke, quite literally, for the people, and the people responded. Emails, tweets and messages flooded in.

In my opinion he changed politics today - by giving literal voice to the concerns of the nation Mr. Julian has tapped into a source that has been for too long far removed from the direct political process: The electorate.

The Conservative narrative is in shambles

While the Conservatives are floundering under the weight of Robocon, the F-35 procurement debacle and the budget that removes many traces of the national Canadian identity and is being criticized by left and right alike, their narrative is in disarray. The Conservative narrative is talking points now and nobody believes them anymore.

The Conservative narrative also includes attacking those who disagree with you. It includes name-calling and besmirchment. It includes calling the Official Opposition 'high-tax' and 'job-killing'.

The NDP narrative is surging

As the Conservatives flounder and try to mitigate the damage of the scandals, they cannot focus their attention on the NDP right now. And as a result, the NDP have an unfettered opportunity to define their own narrative. And this filibuster was a critical part of that process.

The shadow government in Conservative ridings

Today the NDP became the party of all Canadians who believed their voice doesn't matter or can't be heard. Today the NDP became the shadow government in Conservative ridings. If you are in a Conservative riding and you don't feel like you're being represented, the Official Opposition will bring your concerns forward. They may even represent you, verbatim, in the House of Commons.

Tapestry of Canadian voices

With the filibuster of tweets, posts and emails, the NDP has proven that it will take Canadians' concerns seriously, even getting some of them on the record. They are the party of the people and the narrative is interwoven with words from everyday Canadians. Telling the Conservatives what the NDP think about the budget is one thing - but telling the Conservatives what Canadians think about the budget cannot be fobbed off with 'talking points'.

Kings and queens of social media

This innovative approach to the filibuster also places a rather long peacock feather in the NDP's cap. They are the most approachable through social media, and being the guardians of the social media realm is a coveted, enviable position. As the Conservatives and Liberals fight about @vikileaks30, the NDP is using social media to redefine the relationships that citizens have with governments. Organized online communities are powerful energies to harness, and the NDP has proven it can be done effectively.


By invoking his right to filibuster and then using his time to reflect the views of everyday Canadians, Peter Julian gave voice to the concerns of many people who believed that their voice would never be heard in Ottawa.

The NDP has become the party of Canadians who thought they had no voice. Until now. If you don't believe your Conservative MP is representing you in Ottawa, you can still have your voice heard by the NDP. That's a story I can get behind.

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