Political Activism — A Primer for Canadians

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The good news for Canadians today is that they are living in a liberal democracy, a one-person-one-vote system that allows them potentially to exercise significant influence on many national and international issues.

But the bad news today is that the political views of Canadians are almost completely overlooked by politicians.

But this is a situation that can change for the better — if Canadians, especially youth, have the will to do it.

I believe that Canadians have an excellent opportunity to influence politics and policy in this great country by working with like-minded fellow Canadians to:

(a) save our nation from the neo-con militancy that has infected most western powers, and (b) to help restore traditional Canadian values by simultaneously championing the causes of social justice at home, and peace through justice around the world.

We must all become politically active now, for the sake of our children and their future — we cannot afford to fail them.

Here is my take on the issue:

We are living in an era where voter turnout in Canada is steadily declining. During the 1960s, election turnouts of 80% were common for all levels of government. Now, a 60% response is considered acceptable. Don’t expect your government to do anything about it anytime soon — and don’t ask me why politicians are so uninterested in the problem. (I wish I knew!)

The Canadian electorate seems to suffer from three chief causes that are keeping it away from ballot boxes in droves:

i) A high level of alienation

ii) High levels of apathy

ii) A general distrust of politicians.

Encouraging more Canadians to become politically active is a tall order indeed, but it is not beyond our collective reach. Here are some guidelines:

1. Study the issues and develop informed opinions that you can discuss with others. Remember that we all want to leave this world in a better state than when we entered it. As the saying goes, "It’s easy to make a living, but difficult to make a difference."

2. Volunteer with as many different organizations and for as many different political parties as you can whose values and goals reflect your own –” in daily life, not just prior to an election.

3. Donate to the organizations and political parties that you believe are most proactive in fostering the values you care about.

4. Promote the organizations and parties you support by talking about them to friends.

5. Become an active, card-carrying member of a political party of your choice. Grass roots membership can, and does, make a difference. Attend local meetings or events and help propose new and better policies.

6. Vote. Vote. Vote — wherever and whenever you can. Vote in school or university student elections; vote in municipal elections; vote provincially and federally. Become an informed, committed multi-issue voter. Cast your ballot for the best candidate or the best party.

7. Nominate good candidates for positions within your local organization or a party.

8. Run for political office yourself — at school, university, municipal, provincial or federal levels. Politicians are professionals. The country needs good ones — Please help.

9. Always know who your political representatives are, whether they are on student council, municipal and regional government councils, provincial MPPs or federal MPs. Invite them to your community functions. Let them know your views and encourage others to do the same.

10. And if you are a university student, try to include required or elective course that teach political activism. Experienced academics suggest that you:

i) learn the basic strategies and tactics of political activism, complemented with an understanding of the fundamentals of applied policy analysis;

ii) interact with practitioners who have chosen public administration, or politically meaningful forms of public service as a vocation;

iii) network with student-based organizations and citizen-based interest groups that are politically active in various issue-areas;

iv) experience political processes directly through placements in community-based institutions and organizations that deal with applied policy issues.

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