I agree with Tim’s analysis of what is going on in Ottawa and in Alberta.  People are circumventing the ways that make a functioning democracy work, and it should be a serious concern to everyone.

“It has been said, often, during this crisis that you can’t live in downtown Ottawa without becoming very, very familiar with protests and demonstrations. They are a regular thing here. It’s the seat of government, after all. For me, they are a feature of the place, not a bug.

Demonstrations and protests (they are different but related, but we’ll save the details this time) are a critical part of a functioning, pluralistic democracy. They allow particularly contentious issues to bubble to the surface, to gain exposure and, potentially, drive change.

Successful demonstrations grab attention but more importantly, they focus that attention on solving a particular policy problem in a particular way. They succeed by highlighting actions that *can* be taken and usually suggest *how* they might be taken.

It should be crystal clear by now that what is happening in Ottawa is not that. The *demands* that are being made are like a ransom note from a B-grade thriller. They are unintelligible in the extreme. Even if a government wanted to comply, where would they begin?

In our system, each geographical district elects a representative who goes to Ottawa and participates in policy development and law-making on our behalf. Once we choose them, they are free to do as they please, governed by the rules and foundational laws of our country.

If we don’t like the job they are doing, we pick someone better the next time. And so on, and so on. But what about mid-term? What if we hate what the government is doing? What can we do? We can get together with like-minded people and demonstrate.It lets the government know we’re displeased and want a change. If the ask is doable, and popular enough, demonstrations can move minds… because representatives want to get re-elected, yes, but also because the willingness of people to protest, en masse, is compelling.

But there are rules. The constitution lays out the form and function of government… including rules on how to change the rules. A protest that demands changes to *that* has a huge hill to climb. It’s complicated stuff. (For reference go read up on Meech and Charlottetown).

Which brings us to where we are. The manifesto of this occupation makes myriad, confusing, incompatible demands. They make no sense at all, really. There is no effective way to act on them, even if we wanted to.

Even the simplest, “end the mandates” (which ones? For whom? Which level of government?) is far from simple. It would require careful policy work and balancing of interests. But there, exactly, is the problem. These occupiers are not interested in balance.

This occupation wants its way. And only its way. Not compromise. They are a large, violent toddler thrashing about on the kitchen floor of our democracy. “Give it to me, or I will break shit,” they are telling us. They don’t care about me or anyone else in downtown Ottawa.

They don’t care about you, or anyone who disagrees with them. They want *it*. And they will smash stuff, people, and institutions until they get it. And that is what they are doing. With each thrash of their chubby, spoiled, toddler limbs, they are chipping away at us all.

Which brings us to the cries for toleration and appeasement. Those cries are cowardly nonsense. It’s basic to democratic principles that you need to be tolerant of widely divergent views. It’s essential. But…

It’s vital to understand that the one thing that cannot be tolerated is intolerance, itself. Democratic governance breaks apart when intolerance takes over. It needs to be stamped out, marginalized, disregarded. It should not be given centre stage and the keys to the city.

Which is what we have done. Almost literally. Our officials have cleared out the kitchen to make as much room as possible for the rampaging toddler. They are fanning the flames of intolerance by giving it deep, rich oxygen. They are failing us.

Our officials are failing us because they do not understand the limits of the system they safeguard. We have reached those limits. They must begin to push back—hard—or we risk losing it all.”