Leadnow.ca: Change to federal politics is going to come from outside Ottawa

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The need for change in Ottawa is urgent. Our federal government is dividing us, damaging our democracy, and failing to address the major challenges that face our country.

Whether we're talking about the lack of action for our environment, the unequal economic recovery, or the erosion of democratic values, this government is either failing to take action on the issues that matter to a majority of Canadians, or it is acting against our values. And all of this is occurring as the need for profound change rises in the face of the interlocking crises that define this young century.

We need independent political organizing to break out of the political status quo that is dragging our country away from its historic values and the will of the majority of Canadians. Many of Canada's youth have disengaged from a political system that does not speak to them, while many from older generations fear that the country they grew up in, the country that they helped build, is slipping away.

It doesn't have to be this way. It's time for Canadians to break out of a divisive and uninspiring era. More and more people want change, and they are looking for new ways to achieve it. Today, on March 3, we're launching a new initiative, called Leadnow.ca , to bring generations of Canadians together to take action for our future, hold politicians accountable, and strengthen our democracy.

And our democracy must be strengthened. The problems with Canadian politics are not just about substituting one leader with another and hoping that things will work out. The logic of minority governments in particular, and of a fragmented electorate in general, suggests the need for political cooperation to achieve progress on the major issues facing our country. Yet, our political system creates powerful incentives for the parties to fight each other and focus on short-term issues that will help them in a few swing ridings during the next election.

Worse yet, as the parties focus on the older Canadians who are more likely to vote, younger voters don't see or hear much that they like. This creates a vicious cycle that is keeping younger Canadians alienated from our politics, even as those young Canadians work to make the world a better place in many other ways. The status quo maintains itself by discouraging younger Canadians, and dividing older Canadians.

Fortunately, around the world, a new kind of organization has emerged that leverages technology to build powerful movements. At Leadnow.ca we hope to learn from these organization to build a new democratic infrastructure that is customized for Canada's political realities.

There is a new kind of organization that uses technology as tool to help people organize themselves for change. The organization that pioneered this strategy was MoveOn.org, which launched as an online petition directed at the American Congress in 1998. Now, their five-million strong member base has organized over 100 thousand local events and contributed $200 million to progressive candidates, including over $88 million and 20 million volunteer hours to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. GetUp! then repeated MoveOn's success in Australia by attracting more members than all the political parties combined and achieving many electoral and issue-based wins within a mere five years of launch. 38Degrees, the UK-based version, launched in 2009 and already has over half a million members.

With a potential spring election around the corner, now is the time to bring this new method of movement organizing to Canada with a strategy that has the potential break the political deadlock.

To break out of the status quo in Ottawa we need an independent call for cooperation on a few key issues between political parties that can represent a majority of Canadians, and we need to increase the number of people who will go to the polls to vote for politicians who will answer this call.

Today we are launching Leadnow.ca with the first step in a process that will create a Declaration for Change. The process will bring Canadians together online, and in local get-togethers, to find the values and priorities that can become the foundation for federal political cooperation. The Declaration for Change will challenge federal politicians to cooperate for progress on major issues identified and chosen by the participants. Leadnow.ca will then ask Canadians to back the Declaration for Change with a commitment to vote for the politicians who will rise to the challenge. Our goal is to create a strong incentive for political cooperation that can shift the election results in a few key ridings around the country.

You can be part of this today by going to Leadnow.ca and answering a few key questions in an online survey that asks you, and Canadians like you, what kind of country you want to live in.

The process ramps up next week with a nationwide event called (Re)Generation: Voices for Canada. From March 6 to 12, people from across the country are participating in face-to-face gatherings to discuss their hopes and goals for Canada's future.

Citizens from Whitehorse to St. Johns, and from Victoria to Antarctica are participating in (Re)Generation because they know that a different type of politics is possible -- one where people are listened to, and our politicians cooperate. People have already signed up over 50 events, and we welcome more people to sign-up at Leadnow.ca.

The results from the online questions and small-group discussions will lead to a round of voting during which Canadians will complete the Declaration for Change by choosing their highest priorities for action. We will then ask Canadians to back the Declaration by committing to vote for the politicians who will rise to the challenge in the next election -- which may be right around the corner.

We hope that from today there is the beginning of a new type of politics in Canada. We will no longer wait to be told who and what we should vote for. We want to enable people to take politics into their own hands -- by coming together around shared values, and telling our politicians that we want to vote for them to cooperate for progress on the issues that matter. We will be a united force in the next election, strengthening the voices of thousands of Canadians who want a different type of politics in Ottawa.

We want to work with you. We would be honoured if you would consider adding your voice at Leadnow.ca.

Leadnow.ca's full-time co-founders, Adam Shedletzky and Jamie Biggar, are working with a multi-partisan network of volunteers and advisers that have a wide range of passions and expertise. Both Adam and Jamie started organizing and campaigning in Canada's youth climate movement, Adam with expertise in strategy & finance and Jamie in environmental policy & politics.

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