By contributor Chantelle Spicer
I have something to admit: I am, historically, not a very good voter. I received most of my formative political information in the United States, where I attended high school, learning all about the relatively two-party system of Republicans vs. Democrats and the House of Representatives. In my opinion, this system, flawed dichotomy though it is, is much easier for the laymen (i.e. me) to navigate. Upon moving to Canada approximately 15 years ago, the complicated structure of Canadian politics left me dumb-founded. Twice the amount of viable parties? Who are these Governor and Lieutenant Generals? What is a riding exactly? It all seemed too complicated and, honestly, a little intimidating.
I had my first experience with voting in Canada in 2006, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper was first elected into office. My partner’s mother adamantly marched all the people she knew in the neighbourhood to our local polling place and told a very unsure me to put a check mark next to anyone who wasn’t Harper. I was clueless, awash with doubt in myself to make any kind of reasonable, informed decision. In the end I voted Liberal because I liked what the word meant.
In the long run, however, I would not be daunted. Fueled by strong opinions, I would not let ignorance stand in my way—and I (kind of) got it figured out.
Admittedly, I still find it hard to navigate when it comes to voting in Canada. There is this idea of strategic voting and vote-splitting, and, honestly, ridings sometimes still get me stumped. There are many people who consider voting a privilege, an option, a duty, an obligation. In today’s political climate, I consider it all of these things and more, further muddling how I feel and act in regards to voting.
What is not so complicated is what I want to happen and what kind of voice I want speaking for me on a municipal, provincial, and federal level. I know that I want someone who considers the environment a valid member of the country whose rights need to be protected, someone who recognizes that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is not over, a voice who will support equality for women, and more support for public services like our health care and the CBC. I want change.
In the Maclean’s debate, four very broad topics were discussed: economy, environment, democracy, and foreign policy. Now I am certainly not an analyst of political debate, nor an expert on all the issues at hand, but I do know what concerns me most—the environment. Under our current Conservative government, we have seen terrible things done to the protection of nature (Bills 45 and 38), the muzzling of scientists studying issues such as climate change, and the ongoing exploitation of the Tar Sands of Alberta. Yet when “the environment” came up during that debate, it boiled down to the economy surrounding the environment—export of power to the US and China, pipelines, Canadian oil, and greenhouse gas emission regulations. When did our planet become synonymous with economic issues? Overall, I was left with a feeling of dis-ease after watching the debate, where many things were discussed, but nothing really spoken about. I think that Elizabeth May of the Green Party, who has the environment as a main point in its platform, said it best in her closing remarks, stating:
“…[W]e have not discussed social policy, we have not discussed how we respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission…what we should do for young people who are facing crushing levels of student debts, and their families. We have a lot of issues to discuss. Inequality: one-third of Canadians have the combined wealth as the top 86 families. We have to address this.”
After doing a bit of research, I find that it is not only the Greens raising their voice on issues regarding environmental protection and concerns over social issues. The NDP has environmental policy tightly woven into its 2015 platform, especially after its success in the recent provincial election in Alberta, which has been under Conservative power since 1971. Already, the new NDP government, under Premier Rachel Notley, has suggested a 33 per cent increase on emissions taxes, disincentives on large personal vehicles, and a revision of many environmental standards driven by a science-based approach.
The Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau, is running on a platform of “Real Change,” including on change for the environment and the arts. A major concern for the Liberals is in protecting our marine and coastal habitats, something that should be of great interest to those of us on the Island. Their plan includes meeting the global standards of Aichi Biodiversity Targets set in 2010 and investment in ocean-based science, research into cleaner energy (which includes a phasing out of subsidies for fossil fuel), as well as stronger legislation regarding emissions.
I am really excited to get out and use my voice, and am also a little nervous about how tight the race appears from recent polling, which may be favouring the Conservative party. I have heard many people say in the recent weeks that as long as the Conservatives don’t get in, it will be better, but rather than voting “against” something, I want to vote for something. I want to take all the knowledge I can acquire on issues that matter to me and use them on October 19. This may involve strategic voting, this may be straight from the heart, but it is my voice and hope for change that I am voting for.
What I do hope for is that so many people get out—especially the younger people, as we are in the process of inheriting our corner of this lovely spinning planet—and it is time we start making it into the kind of country we want to be a part of. The percentage of young voters (18-24 years old) in Canada is lower than any other age groups, which means many voices across this country are not represented. The environment is my major issue, as without it there are no other issues. I encourage you to find your own vital issue, do your research, and talk to your friends—then vote!
You can take a quiz at votecompass.com to find out which party you most identify with.