Leadership and Civic Engagement

Leadership and Civic Engagement

Guess what’s coming up? That’s right, the Federal Elections. Now that could mean something different to a lot of people – to me it means a chance to exercise my right to vote, and an opportunity to express my voice and opinions regarding decisions that are being made in Canada. To someone else though, election periods can just be frustrating – the integrity of many political parties tend to go out the window, issues that have always mattered are all of sudden blown up to epic proportions, and people start to doubt whether or not their voice is actually important.

And you know what? Those are all totally valid concerns, and there are legitimate reasons for why people sometimes choose not to engage in political activities. But let me challenge you – what exactly do you consider to be a “political activity”? Maybe things like voting and volunteering with political parties comes to mind, but political activity actually entails any kind of civic engagement. It can include having a conversation about issues that you care about, joining a protest, boycotting a product or service, and volunteering with a community organization. I could go on and on, but you get the point (I hope).

Let’s backtrack a bit – why is it that a lot of people, youth in particular, are so opposed to political actions, such as voting? A cool Toronto organization called Samara has something to say about this: their research showed that people tend to feel positively about “democracy” but feel negatively about “politics”, suggesting that people don’t quite understand that the two are completely intertwined. They released a report card recently on Canada’s level of democracy and we received a “C”. Why? To summarize, Canadians don’t feel very connected to political parties or the issues they talk about, they don’t engage themselves very much politically or civically, and they don’t feel as if their voices are being represented. Well that doesn’t sound so great, does it?

It’s understandable though, especially for youth (i.e. you and me!). Youth feel like they aren’t being represented because they aren’t really – politicians see that we are not very engaged in politics and voting, and so they don’t target their platforms towards us, which then alienates us even further. It’s all one big frustratingly negative cycle. But we can change that! Having a good relationship with politics is a two-way street: you get from it what you put into it. Politics and democracy are best friends, so when we have a bad relationship with politics, we have a bad relationship with democracy. All we need is a bit of relationship therapy to get us back on track. We can start by connecting with our politicians and expressing our voices – political parties respond to what we tell them, and we need to start telling them that the state of Canadian democracy is important to us.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and vote! Not sure who’s running? Use this cool tool to learn which of the major parties most align with your own views: http://www.votecompass.com/. And if you’re not quite ready to vote yet (though you have to start somewhere!), then just start your political involvement journey by having a conversation about it with someone else, or sign a petition for a cause you really believe in, or volunteer with an organization that does work that you support.

Let’s build a Canada we’re all proud to call our home.

For more voting information, visit here: http://www.elections.ca/home.aspx

For more information about Samara and their work, visit here: http://www.samaracanada.com/

Reference for Democracy report card: http://www.samaracanada.com/research/samara-democracy-360


WRITTEN BY: Kaylah Krajnc – Mentorship Intern, Student and Campus Community Development