May 1, 2011 Volume 25, Number 03
What is your vision of Canada?
Cast your vote to help determine how our country is run
By Janet Epp Buckingham | ChristianWeek Columnist
"An unnecessary election" or "an expression of democracy." What is the May 2 federal election really about? The first quote is Prime Minister Stephen Harper's characterization of the current election; the second is Michael Ignatieff's. He is the leader of the Liberals, the Official Opposition.
Elections are always an expression of democracy. We have all watched the mass demonstrations in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya, where people are willing to die for the right to vote. It is an important right that we take for granted.
Is the election unnecessary? Perhaps. Or perhaps it will make Stephen Harper the happiest man in Canada by giving him his longed-for majority government.
Elections are only "necessary" in Canada, in a constitutional sense, every five years. We are at the two and a half year mark for this government so in that sense, it was not necessary.
The opposition parties say that they have "lost confidence in the government" because of recent scandals. These include the infamous "Oda-gate" where the Minister of International Cooperation misled a parliamentary committee on a particular document relating to funding for KAIROS, a Christian aid organization. Scandals also include a former staffer in the Prime Minister's office lobbying for a big contract that would financially benefit his live-in girlfriend.
Sorry, folks, compared with other scandals in Canada's past political history, these are not smash hits.
The biggest issue is likely the functioning of Parliament itself. Political commentators and politicians alike have been complaining about the degeneration of civility and common courtesy in the House of Commons. Liberals point to the constant attack ads that trashed Liberal leaders Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. It is hard to be polite to people who mock and scorn you in such a public way.
Or perhaps it is because for the first time in many years, there is actually a substantial difference in the political parties. CBC ran an online "Vote Compass" that plots you on the political spectrum after you respond to 25 questions. Three of the political parties in Parliament are to the left of centre when it comes to economics; only one is to the right. Three of the political parties are socially liberal and only one is socially conservative.
The Conservative Party of Canada is different than the other parties in platform and ideology.
This means that this election is really about what political party, including which leader, you want to run the country. What is your vision of Canada?
While the media seems to fixate on this or that issue as the topic of the day, step back and take a broader look. This election is not just about poverty, or international development, or gun control, or "tough on crime" or even about military spending.
It is about what you think is the role of government. Is it up to the government to fix all our problems? Or hand out goodies at election time? How much should it be intervening in the economy? Is the government too big, or too small?
I don't know about you, but I pay a lot of money in taxes. I want to have confidence that the people who are deciding how to spend it have the public good of the country in mind. I don't want them to focus on a few issues but have big picture thinking.
If you need some help making your decision, there are many resources from Christian organizations with issues and platforms. Your local newspaper likely carries considerable election news. And there will be flyers in your mailbox. Check the Internet. Ask your friends. Maybe we can start an election movement to reverse the trend in voter apathy.
I will be voting on May 2, will you?
Janet Epp Buckingham is the director of the Laurentian Leadership Centre, the Ottawa program of Trinity Western University.