How LeadNow plans to fight the "stunning erosion of Canada's democracy"

LeadNow executive director Jamie Biggar works at his office in Gastown. Photo by Beth Hong. Copyright 2012 from The Vancouver Observer.

While most Members of Parliament are taking some time to relax in the summer sunshine before the fall session in the House of Commons, three young Canadians are working around the clock to lobby 13 Conservative MPs in their ridings to become 'pro-democracy indepents' to oppose the Harper government's next ombibus bill scheduled to be introduced in the fall.

On the search for 13 brave Conservative MPs in a fight against "the stunning erosion of Canada's democracy"

LeadNow, a non-profit for progressive politics in Canada, is setting its sights on the fall session in the House and beyond, to the 2015 federal election. Jamie Biggar, LeadNow's executive director, is working with two other full-time staff, Matthew Carroll and Maggie Knight to lobby 13 Conservative MPs in ridings where they barely won, with just over 50 per cent of the popular vote.

The organization is also hosting a series of conversations like its May 2011 Declaration for Change, but focused on electoral reform and key elements of MP accountability and government transparency. 

Their final, most long term project is organizing a major national education campaign around Canada's democratic crisis, to piece together what Biggar called "the stunning erosion of Canada's democracy." The campaign will focus on underlying factors such as the first-past-the-post electoral system and how Parliament works. 

Elizabeth May, the lone Green Party MP in the House of Commons, said that internal pressure from Canadians in Conservative ridings could have an even bigger impact than an external campaign such as the 13 heroes campaign. 

"It's a tall order to some of them do that, but it isn't impossible for every Conservative MP from British Columbia to meet with constituents over the summer and get an earful about why it will not be acceptable and why people won't vote Conservative again if they bring forward another budget bill and refuse to improve it even by a handful of amendments," she said in a telephone interview with The Vancouver Observer.

However, Biggar and his team has a formidable army of motivated volunteers from two key groups with the time and energy it takes to launch national campaigns: university students and the recently retired.

An intergenerational coalition for progressive Canadian politics

Since its initial days as a grassroots community connected mostly by Facebook, LeadNow's membership has grown to over 150,000 participants, including supporters of the NDP, Conservative, Liberal and Green parties.

"There's a ton of people in their 20's to early 30's, and then plus 50, then there's a bit of a gap in the middle where people are busy with their kids and career," Biggar said in a recent interview with The Vancouver Observer.

Biggar recalled his early twenties as a graduate student at the University of Victoria, where he became very involved with campus sustainability initiatives.

One of his mentors was law professor and Eco-Research Chair in Environmental Law and Policy Michael M'Gonigle, who advocated a vision of universities and colleges as hubs of sustainability innovation.

Two examples of this are the UPass, he said, which has had a major impact on urban transit usage in the city, and university-operated agricultral projects, which have facilitated research and development about urban agriculture.

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