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National Petition Drive Kick-Off!

This past Saturday, energetic volunteers kicked off CAPP’s national petition drive in support of Question Period Reform in Fergus, Ontario.  Now, for many out there (myself included!) the first question that might come to mind is, where is Fergus, Ontario and why would CAPP kick-start its petition drive there?  Fergus is a lovely and historic town (founded by freed slaves in the early 1800s) in Wellington County, just north of Guelph, Ontario.  It also happens to be home to many constituents of M.P. Michael Chong who is leading the calls for Question Period reform through his motion (M-517).  With that in mind, we thought it would be the perfect place to begin speaking to other Canadians on their doorsteps about restoring faith in our democratic institutions – beginning with Question Period.

Bright and early Saturday morning, CAPP volunteers from Toronto jumped into their cars and made the 1 ½ hour trip from the city into the more rural surroundings of Wellington County.  En route, there were opportunities to discuss the logistics of the petition drive itself as well as more philosophical musings on the concept of democratic renewal and Question Period reform’s role in that process.  Once in Fergus, we met up with other volunteers, including CAPP’s National Petition Coordinator, Patrick Beatty whose family has had strong roots in Fergus for several generations.  Our meeting location itself was typically Canadian, of course – Tim Horton’s.

Following a quick briefing session in which we distributed “walk packs” including clipboards with petitions, a “Learn More” backgrounder on QP reform and maps of residential areas to focus on, we divided into teams of two to head on out to the doors!  Our mission was simple: knock on doors, explain to folks that we were collecting signatures in support of MP Chong’s motion to reform Question Period and ask for their support!

The first few doors are always the most difficult as you learn what is effective and what is not in terms of articulating the nature of reform that this motion proposes.  However, it was immediately apparent that the notion of needing to tackle the incivility plaguing Parliament, and especially Question Period, really resonates with Canadians.  I don’t think I can count the number of times that day I heard phrases like, “They behave worse than children!” or “I’m a schoolteacher and I would never take my class to Parliament” because of the lack of decorum and incivility currently on display.  The vast majority of individuals I spoke with were keen to sign the petition and expressed a strong hope that this reform would serve as a wake-up call of sorts to our elected representatives that Canadians deserve better.

So after a full day of knocking on doors in the cold (and even snow!), we re-grouped at Tim Horton’s to compile our signed petitions and de-brief on our experiences of the day.  Upon Patrick’s suggestion, we all went around the table and shared the day’s best/worst/most humorous moments.  We shared laughs and commiserated over cold feet and hands, but also felt a shared sense of momentum and energy in the strong support Canadians were already demonstrating for QP reform.

In this, our first day at the doors, a small group of 5 volunteers were able to collect over 250 signatures in support of QP reform!  And who knows how many of those we reached will tell their friends and encourage them to get involved by contacting their M.P., writing their local newspaper, signing CAPP’s online declaration or perhaps, organizing a petition drive of their own!

Here’s hoping that this successful day is just the first of many ahead as Canadians from coast to coast work together to fix Question Period.