Ask many Canadians to define to you what the term politics encompasses, and I think that you would get something cynical back like this. “Politics is a game that the wealthy and powerful play, using the rest of us as pawns.” Over the years, Canadians have come to despise politics, but I think that if put in the proper context and redefined for them, the average Canadian would readily agree that politics is important enough for them to pay closer attention to.
I like the way author and radio personality Sean Hannity describes politics. He says, “It’s the art, or science, of government. It’s how we choose to run the country where we live our lives.” Take the word government. It’s definition is roughly ‘those who govern us.’ When we elect men and women, we are, in effect, choosing the people who will tell us what we can and cannot do. We are choosing the people that will steer our country, and like any long term relationship, that choice will have far reaching consequences that will be felt not only by us, but by our children and by their children.
Many people I know are sorely lacking in the fundamental basics of our politics or of the leanings of the two major Canadian political parties that dominate it. That should be sounding off alarm bells throughout the country, but it is not. I simply do not understand how so many people can care so little about how they are told that they and their families will live.
Our government decides the quality of life that you yourself will enjoy or will not enjoy. Taxation will determine whether you can keep enough of the money which you earn to enjoy the things in life that you would like to. Our government controls health care, which will perhaps determine whether you will one day live or die. Perhaps it will be your child.
Our government will determine whether we can remain a free society. Can we defend ourselves if the need were to arise? The federal government sets interest rates which will, for many of us, decide whether we will live in a large house, or a small one. It will dictate whether your child will go to university, what the cost for that will be, and whether there are enough spaces.
Our government will set the tone for freedoms, either granting them or stifling them. It will either attract international friendships and alliances or it will reject them. Politics will determine who our leaders are, which will determine the general morality of the nation and the standards to which we will be held accountable.
In the last parliament, we saw the issue of gay marriage animate the House of Commons like no other issue has since abortion. The issue was decided by one man, the speaker of the House. In the end, any of the more than 300 MP’s in that room during that vote could have changed the new direction that our country charted. For those of you who are against the idea of gay marriage, I will say that if enough people who are against it had voted in the last election, then the outcome would have been vastly different. For those in favour, just enough of you turned out to see that law pass. When I hear Canadians around me say that they cannot make a difference, I inwardly scream. They can, and they must. This law was a picture perfect example.
I don’t know what makes people feel that they have no voice. Sometimes I think it is simply an outward indicator that we do not wish to make the effort that we know we ought to. I will tell you that your lone voice may only be a whisper, but when millions are whispering it makes a terrible noise, one that cannot be ignored. I am not trying to reopen the gay marriage issue, but simply trying to illustrate that important decisions are made by a very few people. There were many local races in the 2004 election that were very close. If a handful of people who didn’t vote had have taken the opportunity, then the Liberal government would have fallen before much of their last agenda was enacted. That isn’t partisanship, it is simply a fact. Every vote matters. Every Canadian counts.
The next time you hear somebody say that it doesn’t matter whom they vote for, don’t quietly agree with them. It is the duty of every one of us to educate those around us of the importance of all of us taking part in the civic responsibilities that we have been handed by those who began this country and that were left to us by those who died for us.