Election Day: Democracy Makes Good Eatin’

A rainy election day has dawned here in Vancouver. A low rattling hum comes from my refrigerator with the whistle of wind outside and the splatter of rain under passing roadway tires. It’s a murky aural mess that seems an ominous forboding of the day ahead.

I don’t follow politics as well as I should, given my aspirations, but the peripheral glances I take have me pretty riveted in this contest, and apprehensive, of outcomes tonight.

The NDP’s amazing ascent over the past six weeks is well-deserved. I think their platform at times equal parts unicorns and fairy dust, economically speaking, but a left-wing opposition under a minority government of a would-be autocrat should be the closest thing to balance this country has seen in decades.

I’m nervous about the notion of the NDP running the country, despite liking Jack Layton a lot, but if that’s what it takes to save the social system that defines what it means to be Canadian — a country where we’re in it for one and all, where my tax dollars are your security net and yours are mine, where healthcare access should be a basic human right — then so be it, bring ’em on.

That’s the country that defines who I am. It’s the nation that lets immigrants in, helps businesses grow, provides education among the best in the world, and celebrates arts and the freedom of information.

I don’t know what this country is that I’ve been living in. I feel like it’s America-Lite™. But I’m Canadian, not American, and that won’t be changing in my lifetime.

I’m unsure how we’ve become a place where a Tim Horton’s donut shop is converted to triage because there aren’t enough beds in the hospital across the street. We were the headline gag on The Daily Show that week. I don’t know where Tommy Douglas’s ghost is, but I bet he’s pissed.

Somehow I woke up in a Canada that began razing the Albertan tar sands, the environment be damned. A place where, on the one hand, the Prime Minister at long last apologizes to the First Nations for the horrors of the residential school system’s abuses, but then denies access to clean water for more than 100 at-risk Native communities nationally.

In today’s Canada, women are being legislated into regression by having 43% of federal funding cut under Harper’s administration.

Instead of being a Canada fighting for human rights internationally and advanced-thinking domestically, “my” government decided it wants to build more prisons, despite falling crime rates. Incarceration has never been the solution in Canada, our social programs have been a large factor of our always-lower crime rates compared to our Southern Neighbours, but now we want to replicate their system here? How does this make sense?

Don’t even get me started on issues of internet privacy and the business of bandwidth. If bandwidth is information, and information is power, and power encourages change, then the Conservatives’ position on access to bandwidth isn’t very encouraging for society as a whole.

Education is already priced out of reach of some; protecting bandwidth-access is a way of equalizing that.

Then there are the Liberals. I’m not happy with them, either. They’ve been incohesive for years, and they can’t figure out a leader who can win. I respect Ignatieff but there are issues I have with his record (a politician who doesn’t show up for votes is a politician who’s not interested in the details of legislating, I’ve always felt).

It’s your classic Canadian contest: Who do you want to win? I sure as hell don’t know, sir, but I know who I want to lose.

Long story short, it’s a good year to have a say and play a part.

The above gripes of mine are barely even scraping the issues of what we need to contend with in Canada.

We have climate change issues, and thus need a government who’s thinking about alternative energies, not just sucking the last of our fossil fuels without recompense.

We’re still in a shaky recession that Canada barely got through, while nurturing a massive personal debt/credit-load across the country, and we’ve a dangerously uncertain financial precipice before us.

Education is at a crossroads, as is the entire medical system, so too is the Canadian Pension Plan.

Cutting spending and thinning the spread only gets you so far. Then, one day, you’re not a socialist country anymore, and it’s every man for himself, like it is for our American friends.

In a perfect world, there will be a better distribution of power and no party will have a clear majority.

I’m not a fan of the hoodoo-voodoo economics behind an NDP platform, given it’s a combination of “if the stars align and the genie grants our budgeting wishes”, but if ever Canada needed a Socialist voice in the national government that carried a little weight, I’d say today, this election, THIS is when it’s needed.

Because I love the Canada I was raised in. And, like the rest of the world, I know what a dark and difficult path lay ahead, and we’ll be better for the long-run if we protect this Canadian way of caring for, and helping, our brothers and sisters.

My name is Steff, I am Canadian, and I have voted.