By: Zack Babins
For most of my life I’ve been engaged in politics. By engaged, I mean that I read the news, studied, debated (well, argued with) people, and voted in elections at the federal, provincial, municipal, and campus level. I even worked at a polling station during last summer’s provincial election. I was a proud cog in our democratic system, but I was a bystander, an observer.
Now, I’m proud to report that… well, I’m still a bystander: I usually vote for one party, but that’s it.
So when I was approached to expound on engaging in elections, I had to think about it. Frankly, I’m not sure myself. So I’ll start at the very beginning, which, as Rogers and Hammerstein theorized, is a very good place to start.
Read the news. From different sources: don’t pick one TV station/newspaper/website. This comes with a few benefits: If there’s an election you’ll actually know what’s going on and what it’s being fought over. This also helps you identify the issues that you care the most about. If you’re reading an article that describes, say, a certain party’s policies, and you get mad reading it, that’s an issue for you. If you’re reading about a party’s leader making a specific comment, and think, “Who cares?” then that won’t be an issue for you.
Have an open mind, and an open door: every single candidate in your riding is going to try and find you. They’ll come to your house, they’ll call you as you sit down to dinner, they’ll even stop you in the middle of the street. See if you trust them, and if you like their ideas. Maybe you’ll volunteer for them or put a sign on your lawn. Maybe you’ll even resolve to never vote for anyone who even looks like that. But you can’t know if you don’t give them a minute of your time.
Vote dammit. I won’t waste your time with stories of people dying for your right to vote, or telling you that if you don’t vote you can’t complain. Vote because it strengthens our democracy with every ballot cast. And, statistically, due to dropping voter turnout, your vote counts more than ever.
That’s what I’ve got: read, listen, and vote. Consciously inform yourself, engage yourself, and then act on it. I’m starting myself! I’ve been talking to a federal nomination campaign about volunteer opportunities and engagement. I chose the campaign because of personal recommendations, and by following my own advice: I read, I listened, and now I’m acting.
As the federal election approaches, it’s always good to remember: Decisions are made by those who show up.