With Saturday as the last voting day, I am reminded of my own journey from activist to candidate for mayor. The fact that, as a new resident of Comox , I cannot vote in this election because I have not lived here for at least six months is not lost on me. I am the observer of the dialogue on both sides, that of the citizen and taxpayer as well as those running for office. Technically, they are one and the same.
Years ago in Ontario, I co-founded my community’s first citizen and taxpayer’s association. Later, in order to speak freely, I enlarged my civic experience to include the realities of the campaign trail. Today, most voters are tired of the personal attacks now found in many provincial and federal campaigns. Municipal elections by contrast appear to be, at first glance, a tamer and less important aspect of our country’s political landscape.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Our backyard, so to speak, is where we learn how to build our nation. Small communities are where most of Canada’s Prime Ministers first began their political careers. As I mentioned before, I ran for mayor as a way to question my municipality, since you cannot be sued during an electoral campaign, and to encourage the presence and involvement of women in local municipal politics. Although I was not elected, I attained both my goals of resolving a serious local public health issue and, in the following elections, being present for the swearing in ceremony of the first woman mayor in over 100 years of local municipal elections.
This experience widened my perspective and, having walked in the political shoes of a municipal candidate, I have compassion and admiration for those willing to address everyone’s request before, during and after an election. There are no off hours for most politicians. It is easy to become cynical but it serves no purpose, except to ensure that those who are ready to serve the interests of a few are the only ones elected. This Saturday, before you go shopping or hiking, please take the time to vote. Remember, just like the muscles of your body, you lose what you don’t exercise. In this case, democracy itself.