This past week we released our campaign's labour policy, along with an endorsement from prominent Regina labour lawyer Juliana Saxberg. As is customary, we pulled the first line from the statement and used it as a lead-in for tweets and facebook posts to grab people's attention.
The line we chose was "Unions are the frontline of democracy," which provoked some interesting responses. For example, one tweeter (@DarrenSproat) wrote: "What about lunkhead citizens like me as the 'frontline of democracy'. I guess I don't fit into Ryan's democracy." Another comment came from CKOM talk show host John Gormley (@JohnGormleyLive): "Rule of law, Parliament, Courts, a soldier?"
This minor blowback to my statement was not surprising on a number of levels. The popularity of trade unions, despite their numerous benefits to society, both historical and present day, is at an all-time low. But it is more than that – this sentence was missing a preposition. It should have read, "unions are on the frontline of democracy." Whether one of oversight or hyperbole, that was my mistake. Regardless, I stick by the intended idea: unions really are one of the most tangible examples of citizens organizing together for a common goal. They really are democracy – the rule of the people – in action. They aren't the only example. Of course all citizens, including Darren, have a place in a democracy.
I found the list Mr Gormley presented of "frontline" elements of democracy very interesting. Autocratic states, totalitarian states, oligarchical communist regimes – these also have courts, soldiers, and their own version of the rule of law. They sometimes even have parliaments. Yes, the items he listed are important institutions in the protection of a democratic state. But are they elements of democracy itself? What about the autonomy and freedom to make our own choices, the power of the citizenry to direct its own destiny? Aren't these things the core of democracy? Isn't active engagement the true frontline?
With that autonomy and engagement in mind, I thought we could open a discussion about what we see as being at the #frontlineofdemocracy, to see how people view democracy in their lives, what they see as necessary for a functioning system led by the people, and how they experience democracy on a day-to-day basis.
Here are a few examples, to seed the discussion:
- Free and fair elections unmanipulated by election fraud #frontlineofdemocracy
An education system that prepares people for more than just a job #frontlineofdemocracy
Freedom to assemble peacefully, even with a mask on #frontlineofdemocracy
An objective and fair judicial system #frontlineofdemocracy
- Workers exercising their right to organize for safe working conditions #frontlineofdemocracy
Ability to join a political party without fear of losing one's livelihood #frontlineofdemocracy
- Neighbourhood associations, church councils, coffee row #frontlineofdemocracy