What options do we have in a constitutional democracy?
Voting. Abstaining. Non-registering. Declining our ballot. Boycotting the process. Complete non participation. What options do we truly have as “Christians” and citizens in our nation? Depending on your denomination, or church background, you will have varying views on the relationship of the Christian to the state, and the issues of how the Church relates to the state, and issues of what patriotism and political engagement and participation will look like as a Christian in a pluralistic democracy.
What process do you go through determining who you will vote for in the election?
Depending again in what kind and type of democracy you live in and under, you will have a variety of processes for engaging in politics or for participating in voting in elections. No matter the type of democracy, at the end of the day each citizen has the right to cast a ballot to express their support for a political party or cause or politician they feel best represents what they believe their country or their constituency needs. Casting the ballot is your option as a citizen, as much as not casting a ballot is also a valid choice to make.
In Canada, voter participation has continued to decrease across the board, and the only blips of an increase in participation is when the electorate are angry, and it seems that is the case during this 2015 General Election. It seems Canadians are getting angrier by the day, and the ones feeling the brunt of it is the incumbent, the Conservative Party of Canada.
In the days prior to the advent of the Internet, Canadian voters depended on the paper media, news magazines, radio and television, and in particular national debates, where leaders came together to discuss the issues facing the nation in that particular election. The impact of TV debates are well remembered by the Liberals, whose leader, John Turner lost the election on his performance in the debate between himself and the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, Brian Mulroney. That led to a demise of the Liberals and led to two back to back majorities for the PC party. The leadership of the Liberals suffered until Jean Chretiens came to the leadership of the party, to eventually return the favor and sweep the PC party out of power in 1993, and he too would then have three consecutive majority governments. He too knew how to use the TV debates and it showed in the polls.
Now the parties have had to adjust to the social media and Internet realities and their impact on the ebb and flow of elections, where one story on the social networks can blow up your campaign and elevate your opponent to a position of influence and power to determine the outcome. Twitter and Facebook and Youtube have fast become the vehicles of news information, and soundbites of candidates, platform promotion, and getting the news out there to the populace. So the parties who maximize the effectiveness of the social median arsenal will likely reap the greatest rewards from it.
We have already seen in this 2015 election, Candidates who have been forced to resign from the campaign, whose social media posts and comments have made their political careers short circuit for those things which they posted which was against the vanilla positions of their respective parties. From what I have seen, these posts while some would be viewed as inappropriate, it should also not be the cause of their withdrawal from the campaign. Appearance and perception seem to rule the day, and the parties are not taking any chances with public opinion.
As a voter who is returning to full participation since 1993, where I am not only going to cast a ballot for my local candidate, but will actually be actively supporting and engaging with the candidate as she canvases and goes about the riding speaking and engaging with voters, I and asking any Canadian that will listen, to become involved in this very important election. There is a great deal at stake in this election. I will not force feed you what I believe are the issues, but will ask you to become informed and involved.
What should a voter do?
- Become informed. Find out why the election is taking place and what each party has to offer as a vision for the country.
- Find multiple sources of information. Scan the Internet and news magazines, TV channels, and get your news from more than one source. Do not be swayed by those that promote one party over and against another. Learn to differentiate the propaganda from the facts.
- Find out the candidates for your riding and get their vision for the riding and how their particular party is going to handle the issues facing not only the nation but the riding, where you live, work, and enjoy your life.
- If there are local debates by the candidates, then find out where they are and go and see and hear the debates that matter to your region and riding. You can learn a great deal by just taking in the debates and this will make it easier to form an opinion about which party should get your vote on election day.
- Fight against complacency and procrastination. This may be the longest campaign in Canadian history, but even by this past weekend, there were many ridings that had yet to complete their nominations for candidates. Sure there are eight more weeks until the election, but some candidates are getting a head start and are actively campaigning and increasing the visibility of their candidate and party vision. As a voter you need to get ahead of the game as well, and becoming informed takes time, work, and energy, so that you will become not only an informed voter, but one who can dialog and discuss the major issues intelligently with others. The effect of voters who are intelligent and informed and who engage with other voters is huge. The power of influence should never be minimized. You can help people make a better informed choice that will affect the outcome of the election in your riding, and across the nation.
Living with the choice that we make as voters?
I know of many Christians who would like to vote for the New Democratic Party (NDP) but are reluctant to do so, as to their way of thinking it would endorse the party’s social views on marriage equality, LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, education, and a host of other views. I can understand the hesitation.
Ultimately every voter has to live with their conscience and the choice they make, no matter how they make it.
My own journey to making my choice was a simple one. It is “political mathematics”. I made a list of all the major parties (I did not explore a party that will not have the opportunity to form the government, simply due to the fact that until there is a form of proportional representation in Canada, it makes no sense to not vote for a major party. Your ballot will be nothing more than a wasted ballot with the one past the post system). On that list I listed all their positions on the issues that they were promoting on their election platform, and I made check marks for those I agreed with and stroke the ones that I disagreed with. At the end of the exercise I found myself left with the New Democratic Party (NDP).
So at the end of the day for me, it is a matter of who cares about working families. It is about the party that cares about a working wage for all citizens. It is about a decent retirement plan for all Canadians. It is about taking care of the poor and about education for all. It is about revising Canada’s role in the world, and support the UN more than supporting NATO. It is about Canada recovering its international reputation in matters of renewable sustainable energy, the environment, helping poorer nations, peace keeping and other worthy and noble values and practices.
I had to move beyond “party ideology” to the issues that mattered to me. Each voter will have to do the same thing, whether or not you are a person of faith. It is a matter of personal conscience and choice. It is something each voter will have to live with.
What is an active participatory democracy?
My vote is going to the New Democratic Party (NDP) for one major reason. It seeks to bring electoral reform, from the top down in our constitutional democracy. For the electorate to be able to better participate in not only the electoral process, but in the actual administration of democracy, from the constituency on to the Parliament, through plebiscites, MP recall, and other democratic mechanisms and tools, the constituents in a riding will have an ongoing role to play in the political life of the nation. The voter will not be reduced to the votes needed on election day and then not heard of again for another five years. This will lead to greater ongoing engagement for all citizens. This will make our democracy better and more effective by having more participation by all citizens.
How will you make your choice?
Now it is up to all of you now. You have a choice to make. You have the power to make that choice. You have within you the power to change the direction of our nation and see our democracy renewed and transformed. You have that power. Not the government. You, the voter have that power. You will help send people to Parliament Hill who will best represent what matters to you. Choose wisely. Hold that candidate that you voted for accountable. After all they are there because you put your trust in them and cast a ballot for them. That how much power you wield. Wield that power wisely.
Elections Canada: http://www.elections.ca/home.aspx
New Democratic Party of Canada: http://www.ndp.ca/
Liberal Party of Canada: https://www.liberal.ca/
Green Party of Canada: http://www.greenparty.ca/en
Conservative Party of Canada: http://www.conservative.ca/