For the longest time, Canadians either weren't engaged or didn't really care what went on in Ottawa and while I doubt every household in the nation is discussing prorogation at the dinner table today, there is more discussion out there than we have seen in some time.
At this moment, the Facebook page, Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament, boasts 141,000 members. That is not an insignificant amount of people who are at least aware of the state of affairs on Parliament Hill.
So with that as a backdrop, the Liberals released some print and radio ads today. I've read some reaction to the ads and of course you see the expected cynicism, some praise and some condemnation. I have yet to see anyone hit on what I think the ads are designed to do though.
The cynics and critics comment that these ads are unlikely to change someones vote. That may be true, but I don't think that is the point. I believe the point of the ads is to strengthen the sentiments of those who are noticing what Harper is up to. Building on the growing distaste for his arrogance toward our system and the will of the people. I think it's an ad designed to reinforce what many people have previously thought of Harper but couldn't quite translate it to an issue that they connected with. Taking away their voice, in what seems to be an arbitrary and undemocratic manner is something most people connect with.
For those of us who follow this stuff, it is of course in keeping with what we know of the PM, but for those who don't, shutting down parliament without any logical rationale except to avoid scrutiny, well that is not something that many would take lightly. These ads sanction those feelings.
Suggesting that the ad should sway votes, when we are not in an election period, is rather foolish in my opinion.
During this period of prorogation, Ignatieff has said that the Liberals will be in Ottawa, working. Ignatieff himself will be travelling across the country holding Town Halls on University campuses. Given that the Facebook page was originated by a University student and there seems to be new interest in political goings-on in those circles, I see this strategy as a good thing, though I believe it was planned before movement took hold.
The Town Hall's will of course be open to more than just students and I think it is a great opportunity to maintain public engagement in the political process.
Ignatieff says he is arriving with a simple message for young Canadians: "Don't fall for all this cynicism. Get involved in politics."
These speaking/listening engagements can and should be used to discuss not only the prorogation issue, but as a means to tie many examples of similar behaviour by Harper together, into a comprehensive narrative.
That said, I don't think we should solely be out there attacking Harper. In spite of a rather constant chorus that suggests the Liberals haven't put any ideas out there, we have and I think it is important for Ignatieff to speak to these ideas and highlight how they contrast with the current government.
Parliament may have been closed down, but something tells me that the upcoming months are not going to be quiet and I for one am glad to see apathy turning to antipathy.