Coverage of the federal election campaign across Canada has been mostly focused on issues which most people would categorize as minor.
The national media concentrate on what leaders do or do not do, and say or don’t say. Thus the leaders generally don’t answer questions directly, and in the case of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, limit their involvement in leaders’ debates. This is not surprising from a tactical perspective, given that he is prime minister and has a record to defend, but it is terrible for democracy. It severely restricts voters’ ability to take the time and have the opportunity to measure one leader against another.
Most voters make voting decisions based on the political parties and their leaders. We live in an age where visual images are dominant, and where short video clips are often the only information many people have about an election. The percentage of people who vote for the local candidate, based on that person’s track record and irrespective of party, is estimated to be between five and 10 per cent.
However, the person we actually elect in our specific riding is our MP. That person represents each of us in Ottawa, and does a wide variety of constituency work for us as individuals dealing with specific government departments. MPs should be responsive to public opinion, and if their leaders or parties are straying a long way from what residents of Langley would like to see, they must be held to account.
Here in Langley, there have been few limitations to finding out about each of the candidates. Unlike the federal leaders, they readily answer questions, talk to people directly and take part in debates.
There have been numerous debates already, and at most of them, all the candidates have been there. There have been plenty of opportunities to meet voters. Campaign offices are making phone calls and trying to pin down the level of support for their candidates. Door-knocking takes place almost daily.
In the two local ridings, candidates from all the parties have been very visible and if any potential voter wants to talk to a candidate, they will have no problem doing so.
What this shows is that democracy is alive and well locally. This is due not only to the candidates, but also to many organizations who are making a considerable effort to help inform voters. This includes the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce, which has hosted two candidates’ debates (one in each riding) and posted candidate videos on YouTube, where they answer a variety of questions on a number of topics. I had the pleasure of moderating one of the debates and asking questions in the video interviews, and truly believe we have a strong variety of candidates in each riding for voters to choose from.
The Advance Times has published a great deal of information about the two local races, and it is available in print and online. This information can be very helpful in reaching a decision about whom to vote for.
Other organizations are hosting debates, doing voter education and ensuring that people are aware of the election and familiar with the issues.
Democracy is a precious and valuable thing. It may be “the worst form of government, except for all the others,” as Winston Churchill famously said, but it has a lot to do with the way of life that we enjoy in Canada and far too often take for granted.
Be sure to vote.