By Darius Hunter
“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
― Abraham Lincoln.
President Lincoln said it best. Elections are the opportunity to have your voice heard. Unfortunately many people turn their backs to the chance. This year is election year, the time to make the decisions, and not turn our backs to “the fire.”
Understandably, many people feel intimidated by democracy and its election process. It can get heated, it appears messy, but what is always key to remember is that it is run entirely by people just like you. This doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable to jump in and expect a campaign team position with little experience, but it does mean that your time and volunteering is valuable to anyone running for public office.
The key is to make sure you know who you want to get involved with and why you want to get involved. When Winnipeg’s mayoral election took place in 2014, the incumbent mayor had left a vacant seat. This lead to many candidates coming forward; some were expected, a number were fringe. Many Winnipeggers, including me, were in a predicament because we were not familiar with a lot of the candidates; most were new or had no party affiliation. Choosing a candidate to support was therefore a very difficult task.
Based on my experience, after taking time to choose and volunteer extensively in the last election, here are a couple of steps I would recommend following:
The first and most important factor when choosing someone to support is make sure they respond to constituency calls. This applies to any level of government, whether municipal, provincial or federal. If your concerns aren’t worth their time, then volunteering for them is certainly not worth your time.
Secondly, most candidates will have public records of their various statements and policies. If they are running for federal office, make sure you know where not only they stand on certain issues, but where their party stands. Although they may say they’ll vote one way on an issue you feel passionate about, the party whip can easily change their mind if the party’s policy says otherwise. If you volunteer and hope to get them elected, you want to make sure they actually represent you and your concerns.
Many people join a political group and volunteer without knowing why. They support a candidate because they are popular and charismatic, but do not analyze why. Are you supporting a candidate because you want it recorded as supporting a candidate who won? Are you volunteering for service hours and don’t really care? The “Why” aspect makes a major difference in getting involved, it is the difference maker being either ignorant or getting involved with an educated purpose.
If you make educated decisions about the who and the why, the election process and getting involved can often become enjoyable; a learning experience from the front lines of Canada’s democracy, which in reality is more important than a win or loss for any candidate.