Photo by Michael Chrisman from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.
How the tides have changed in Canadian federal politics. Much like the right-wing votes the Reform Party and the Progressive Conservatives split in the mid- to late-1990s, the Canadian left now faces fractured support split across multiple parties. With an election just two weeks away and polls showing that the Conservatives are on the brink of a majority government, the concept of uniting the left is starting to receive the media’s attention. To the dismay of some Canadians, the left-of-centre party leaders haven’t taken the bait just yet: announcing their support for unity could result in political suicide only fifteen days away from the election.
Faced with this political gridlock, Avaaz Canada, a group of 300,000 individuals working to fight poverty, advance human rights and democracy, and stop climate change, has taken the matter into its own hands. On Thursday of last week, the group launched its “Save the Planet: Stop Harper!” campaign, which seeks to ensure that “Harper pays the price at the polls for his reckless and un-Canadian climate policy.” Echoing the media’s attention on uniting the left, Avaaz Canada is urging Canadians “to come together across party lines for the sake of our planet.” Their plan is simple: target three electoral ridings in which Harper’s top MPs are running, and support the candidate who has the best chance of beating the Conservative. The campaign currently supports Green Party leader Elizabeth May in Central Nova, New Democrat Mike Bocking in B.C.’s Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission riding, and Liberal David Pratt (running against Environment Minister John Baird) in Ottawa West-Nepean.
Photo by ayndroid from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.
The tri-party campaign is raising money to distribute ads that will inform the targeted ridings of just how environmentally irresponsible Avaaz Canada believes the Conservatives have been. To date, the response has been overwhelming. Upon launching the initiative, the group hoped to raise $50,000 in total; that goal was met in less than 24 hours. Without missing a beat, Avaaz Canada has continued to fundraise and has decided to spread its campaign to more ridings across Canada. This approach just might affect some GTA ridings, considering Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda is the MP for Durham (Ontario) and Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty represents Whitby-Oshawa. In line with Avaaz Canada’s intentions, both of these ridings could have new MPs if the Greens, the NDP, and the Liberals work together on October 14. Based on last election’s results, a combination of just the Liberal and NDP votes in Durham would have beaten Bev Oda, while Jim Flaherty is at an even greater risk of losing his riding. In 2006, Flaherty won his seat by 5% of the total vote and it would have taken only half of his riding’s NDP votes to give the Liberals the win.
With two ads ready for distribution in the ridings that were initially targeted, the group is moving quickly and asking for all the support it can get. A new fundraising goal has been set at $100,000, and as of Tuesday afternoon, over $96,000 had been raised. If you happen to live near these ridings, or you just generally believe in putting party pride aside because the environment is more important to you, donations can be made online. Although the campaign is being run without the explicit approval of Jack Layton, Elizabeth May, or Stéphane Dion, the operation demonstrates that an online community’s directives may just trump the top-down instructions from political parties. Power to the people.