Excerpt From Bill Freeman's latest book: Democracy Rising: Politics and Participation in Canada
In 2016 two political events have been like an earthquake, shaking the waters of public life. The
first was the Brexit vote by the British people to leave the European Union, and the second was
the long campaign of Donald Trump and his election to become the president of the United
Many political leaders, the corporate elite, and the media have been in a panic. All of their
predictions have been wrong. Trump was dismissed at the beginning of the primaries as being a
lightweight, and yet he went on to win the presidency of the most influential and powerful
country in the world. Britain's exit from the E.U. was thought to be so remote a possibility that a
referendum was called to put the issue to rest. It was believed that ordinary people would not
leap into the unknown and vote for political options that could lead to chaos and disaster, but in
both instances the public defied the elites.
The media is still puzzling over what happened. They blame those who have been economically
left behind and say that these votes point to the rising influence of right-wing politics. Age,
ignorance, and gender are other factors, apparently. In both Britain and the United States, it was
older males lacking post-secondary education who voted for these marginal candidates and
causes. In fact, the roots are much broader and deeper than this.
There is a common element that runs through both of these events. Vast numbers of people are
fed up with the elites who control the political process and engineer government policies for their
own interests. Decisions are being made that threaten their jobs, their families, and their
communities, and no one is listening to their concerns. They want it known that they are hurting,
and that the political system is not working for them. People are struggling, and their children
face a diminished future. They don't like it one bit.
But above all, they are tired of prosperous members of the elite telling them what is good for
them and how they should be voting. They have rebelled in the only way they can – the only way
the system allows them to rebel – by voting for a know-nothing, self-centred political
demagogue, and by rejecting the E.U., a political power centred in Brussels that they know little
There is a deep dissatisfaction among the followers of the left, right, and centre, and it goes
through all parts of the developed world, Canada included. People are not happy with the cozy
relationships their governments have with elites. The message that they have delivered is that
they want something done about the way that governments are run, or there is going to be hell to
That is what this book is all about.
In Democracy Rising, award-winning author Bill Freeman, examines the political malaise that
has gripped Canada by showing how economic elites have created a political system that benefits
them, and how it can be changed. Other groups have challenged elites and have made the
political system respond to their concerns and it can be done again.
Democracy is rising in this country. People are becoming engaged in politics and public life, and
that is a good thing. It is only when our representative democracy becomes a truly participatory
democracy that we will have "government of the people, by the people, for the people."
Bill Freeman is a writer of eighteen books on Canadian life and urban issues, including
Shantymen of Cache Lake, which won the Canada Council Award for Juvenile Literature. He
was the script-writer for the popular Mighty Machines; television series for children. Two of his
recent books won awards from Heritage Toronto.
Bill holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from McMaster University, and is a past chair of the Writers'
Union of Canada. He lives on Toronto Island.
Democracy Rising: Politics and Participation in Canada was published by Dundurn Press in 2017
and is available in bookstores and online.
A Note from Bill Freeman
Whether I write fiction for young people, theatrical plays, adult non-fiction, documentary film scripts, dialogue for children’s television shows or educational videos, I struggle to make issues come alive in a way that is true to the time and the people.
I describe the Bains Series of books, written for young audiences, as the “real history” of Canada. These are adventure stories featuring ordinary kids in the 1870s who work in logging camps, fishing outports, railways and farms, just like the children of this period.
My non-fiction books follow a similar theme. They describe people involved in community groups and unions. Often the books provide the background to the growth and development of cities and industries. These are not books about the rich and famous. They are about people building their communities or creating organizations that will improve their lives.
I am interested in people and how conflict around work, community and politics shapes how they live. My books, in fact, reflect my own life because, like millions of Canadians, I have struggled to shape the communities where I have lived and the places where I have worked.
Today I live on Toronto Island – A Magical Place – as I call it in one of my books. The Island lifestyle, of a close-knit community where people work to strengthen relationships and the quality of their lives, has influenced my work. People, work, community – these are the essential elements of my writing.
I devote myself to writing full-time. As well as a variety of community activities, I am active with The Writers’ Union of Canada, and for many years I have been a judge of literary awards for Ontario high school students sponsored by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation.