By Camille Gooden, volunteer
I cherish my freedom as a Canadian, and as the federal election approaches, I am particularly proud of our legally guaranteed right to participate in the political process.
I have always had an interest in politics as it impacts almost every aspect of our daily lives. This interest led me to volunteering on political campaigns as well as to working as a political staffer in provincial politics.
As a former political staffer, I have been acutely aware of how important it is to the strength of our democracy and society that eligible voters exercise their right to vote during an election. It is from this process that successful electoral candidates become elected representatives, and winning parties go on to form governments.
It has been my experience that while many people are engaged in various civic activities and volunteer in their communities, far too many do not consistently engage with political representatives, nor do they consistently vote. Data from Statistics Canada and Elections Canada show that since the 1960s, voter participation has been down. However, the data does show that voter turnout in the 2015 federal election was 68.3%, the highest since the 1993 election (69.6%).
Canadians should never feel that their voice or vote doesn’t make a difference. Every voice is important and every vote counts.
Engaging with political representatives during the election period is important; it’s a time for Canadians to get to know the parties, their representatives and political values, priorities and promises. Engagement can be in person – a meeting with a candidate or their team – where you can ask questions, raise issues, or perhaps ideas for consideration that can help solve some pressing problems. Canadians can also write or email representatives and candidates to communicate issues they want to bring to their attention. I would also encourage people to try to attend any public meetings or town halls in their community held by political representatives so that they can interact firsthand with the politicians.
Another excellent way to engage is to volunteer on a political campaign of your choice. Here, you will be in the centre of the action and get a better understanding of the political issues outlined in the party’s election platform, firsthand knowledge of the candidate, as well as an opportunity to interact with others in your community to discuss issues of mutual interest.
Based on both my work and volunteer experiences, I also know just how impactful citizen engagement with elected candidates can be. This is an area that politicians focus on – what are people saying? What are the most pressing concerns of constituents? How can we fix those problems?
The next time you see a candidate’s flyer at your door, please read it. If a candidate knocks on your door, please answer it. It’s a great opportunity to interact and get some answers. It is vital that we are all actively engaged in our democracy. A solid way to do that is to vote. That’s real power.
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About Camille Gooden
Camille is a lawyer, government relations consultant, and an engaged volunteer within her community and with Results Canada. She is a former Chief of Staff and a Senior Policy Advisor at Queen’s Park, who worked with 5 separate provincial cabinet ministers.
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*Results strives to put the spotlight on citizens by showcasing their knowledge, perspective and expertise on important issues through guest blogs. These blogs are authored by volunteers and reflects their personal views and not necessarily those of Results Canada. If you would like to be showcased in a guest blog, please email us.