Dear Fellow Canadians,

The writ has been dropped, to use the common idiom; or, more precisely, the Instrument of Advice has been delivered to the Governor General, and Canadians have once again been summoned to the polls to cast their votes.

This campaign, more than any previous ones, promises to be very divisive. We will argue about the economy, pipelines, immigration, jobs, the environment, and a myriad other subjects. Based on provincial election results across Canada in the past year, it is evident that the economy is top-of-mind for many of us, given the trend of voting in more fiscally conservative governments. This is not surprising – MNP reports that 44% of Canadians are within $200 or less from financial insolvency, while another report by Transunion shows that younger Canadians are increasingly using debt to cover their daily living expenses.

Personally, I am also hoping that somewhere along the way, at least one of the parties will promise to address the severe issues with First Nations – it is reprehensible to me that in 2019 so many Indigenous people cannot even have access to clean, potable water.

There is much concern, this time around, that social media algorithms will have a great influence on voters’ decisions. Artificial intelligence and big data will certainly play a role in trying to sway Canadians towards one party or another, in one subtle manner or another. But there is – in my humble opinion – a much more nefarious, blatantly obvious influencer than social media: public opinion polls! No one goes to the race track to bet on a losing horse. Many people will vote for whomever is leading in the polls, a feebleminded, ignorant method of casting your vote. In my opinion, once again, I believe that all public opinion polls should be made illegal once the election campaign is officially kicked off, with severe penalties for whomever transgresses that rule.

Our public discourse around politics has mostly sunk to ugly rhetoric and vitriol. We have lost the ability to debate with any manner of civility, resorting instead to ad hominem attacks at every opportunity. We have become subject to “negative partisanship”, focusing more on loathing the leader or party we hate the most, rather than supporting the leader or party we most align with.

So I have a suggestion for you, my fellow Canadians: make up your own minds!! Read, inform and educate yourselves on what each party promises to offer. Use your divine faculty of reason to determine which party offers the platform that most resonates with your core values and beliefs. Every one of the parties has a web site, where they publish their platform: the policies they intend to implement, as well as their proposed approach to the issues we face. It’s all right there. Listen to the televised debates, consider other points of view – there is an extremely high likelihood that no leader or party will align perfectly with what you’d like to hear on every single issue; one party may have a better approach to the economy, another might have a decent plan for the environment, and another might address social issues in a manner more in line with what you believe. But ultimately, well-informed, you will be armed to make a better decision for our country.

And make this decision we must! All of us! We live in a beautiful country, with so many diverse landscapes, peoples, and stories; we have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees us security, freedoms, and all the wonderful, cherished attributes of an Enlightened society. However, as one of my uncles recently pointed out, there is one word missing from our Charter: responsibility. In return for all those rights and freedoms, the conditions for living a peaceful life, as much as possible, nothing is expected of us in return! That’s wrong – we have a responsibility and a duty to show up and cast our vote.

In the 2015 elections, 68% of eligible voters cast their ballots, the highest of several previous campaigns, but that means that almost one third of Canadians did not bother. Every. Vote. Counts. There is no excuse for this apathy – you get Rights and Freedoms, now assume your responsibility and cast your vote. Please.

To the leaders of the parties, I implore you to take the high road. Canadians are tired – nay, exhausted! – of the mud-slinging, the blaming, the attack ads, the robocalls, and the uninvited text messages. By all means, leverage all manner of media to get your message across, but please focus on what you will do for Canada and Canadians, rather than on the negative aspects of the other leaders and parties.

And finally, in all our communications and interactions, let’s invite civility back to the table; it has been absent for way too long. There is no need for the inflamed, derogatory comments on social media. Opinions backed by data and evidence can be meaningful; opinions without these are just…opinions. By all means, participate in the public debate, but at least do so in an educated manner; read up on the party platforms, listen to the debates, and as you do, watch out for confirmation bias: seek out different points of view before formulating your thoughts. When you do chime in, please do so with civility: address the issue being debated, rather than attack the person with whose point you may disagree. And disagree we will, and it’s all right – that’s how progress happens.

We are Canadians. The world perceives us as kind, polite, and courteous; let’s try to live up to that image.

Thank-you, and good luck.


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