Our vote is our being able to try and make a difference – what a beautiful thing

Tomorrow is the election. I wanted to write something because, well, frankly, writing is just what I love to do and thrive on doing. But what?

I know the election coverage has been overwhelming. I went from reading every article to reading only the headlines and considering myself informed.

I was at my first term at St. Mary’s University when I got to cast a ballot in a federal election for the first time. I remember that after the vote had been tallied in my Halifax electoral district, and I had made my decision for someone who wasn’t the the winner, someone said something to the effect of “oh that’s too bad that your vote didn’t count”.

That odd statement has become normal and recurring in this election as people discuss strategic voting and the desire to have electoral reform, to move away from a first-past-the-post system to proportional representation, or some other perceived-as-fairer voting system. My Facebook and Twitter is strewn with discussions of whether strategic voting actually makes sense, and that strategic voting is offensive in its missing-of-the-point of our Charter-enshrined right to vote.

The most amazing thing about this is this absolutely high-level discussion of voting theory. We’ve gone from absolute voter apathy to a fury of intellectual conversations.

I was feeling very impassioned about the election. The long list of ways in which the Conservative Party has wasted money in drafting ideological and flawed legislation has infuriated me endlessly. When I attempt to balance this waste of money with the assertion that their Party platform is first and foremost to “Protect Our Economy” I always wind up at an impasse. The two just don’t seem to mix.

I was feeling very impassioned by the negative campaigning, disgusted with the ripping apart of one another. I was feeling impassioned by the various candidates who were quickly relived of their duties in the wake of stories of urinating in coffee cups and spreading homophobic nonsense. I was impassioned by the manipulation of the photo of a drowned Syrian refugee, whose tragic, senseless death brought a wave of misinformation.

But now, on the eve of the election, I am, as my father consistently advises me, trying to keep things on the level. As I watch the high-end conversations about voting theory and neoliberalism unfold in the most unlikely of places, I am moved in a calmer way. The litany of Facebook profile pictures strewn with the message that “I Will Vote Oct 19th”; the 3.6 million people who voted in the early polls: these things matter.

There are a lot of things I wanted in this election. I wanted a focus placed on human rights and the environment. I find it challenging to be incensed by a personal tax break when I know there are aboriginal families who will never know what happened to their daughter. I can’t ignore the environment so that we as a country may make a quick buck at the expense of saddling my little niece and nephew’s children with a boatload of problems that we could have avoided. It’s just not me.

And so, those were the things I really had my mind wrapped around.

But today, as I reflect on voter turnout and discussions of voting theory, I am mostly grateful that as a human family we have come together to be incensed and motivated to vote, to participate, to have a say. Somewhere, I think a really brilliantly minded man is pleased with this.

And so, in the last few hours of this government as it currently stands, I cling on to Jack Layton’s theory that “Politics matters. Ideas matter. Democracy matters, because all of us need to be able to make a difference”. 

His was the view I think best encapsulates what I believe. More importantly, I believe we have all shown this to be true in our feverish dedication to voting and discussing why voting matters. What matters most is not who will form the government, nor who will draft what new legislation on my dime or yours, nor who will give us a tax break. What matters most is that we care; that we participate in making a difference. My vote wasn’t wasted when I was 18 years old. My vote was me being able to make a difference.


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“Land You Love” should make us all proud – no matter your political stripe

In an excerpt from the book Stephen Harper by John Ibbitson, the author writes “[W]hen Harper is really angry at you, he’s very calm. He looks you straight in the eye and tells you how you’ve failed him, and if you are a faithful follower, you simply want to die. The state beyond that is even worse. He simply cuts you out. He doesn’t speak to you, doesn’t reply to your messages, freezes you out of meetings. At this point, you should be pursuing a new career opportunity.”

Although this remark may seem biased in a certain direction, when read in its entirety, the article is outrightly neutral; a seemingly balanced analysis of the man that is our Prime Minister. The article begins with “He is a lion in autumn, weaker than in his prime, but still a force of nature. He faces his fifth, and perhaps final, test as national leader. But in a way, the result won’t matter. Whether Stephen Harper wins or loses the general election of October 19 is moot. He has already reshaped Canada. And Canada will not easily be changed back.”

This is inevitably true, and while not a glowing appraisal of the man, it certainly hits the point on the head.

In the last few days (at the time of writing, Vimeo stated it was 5 days ago) Hey Rosetta! and Yukon Blonde released a song entitled “Land You Love”. The song is a plea to citizens to “Please visit VOTETOGETHER.CA and vote to avoid another tragic Harper government”, with lyrics containting a plethora of the sadder truths from the last decade of Conservative rule: the missing and murdered aboriginal women who are “forsaken, forgotten and lost” and the Harper Government’s insistence on omnibus bills where issues are “hid in their bills, pushed through and hushed up”.

The song features 12 Canadian musicians, with layered guitars, piano, and shakers, singing together and creating a big, folksy sound like you might expect to hear at a house party. The voices are inviting with all the many lines to sing and harmonies you can take. The video is fun to watch, with a split screen and gimmicks involving guitars and sparkles.

However accessible and appealing the song may be, though, I suggest to you that the real beauty in the song is not in the music, the video, or even in the lyrics alone.

The deepest nuance of the piece is not in the use of darkness and light to represent despair that can become hope. It’s not in the cross-screen sharing of guitars between guitarists Adam Hogan and Brandon Scott showing the interconnectedness of the east and the west. It’s not even in the catchy motive or the words that make up the chorus, which, between the two, make you to just need to sing along.

No, the deepest beauty in the song is the bridge between the artists’ craft and their deep appreciation and respect for their rights. Hey Rosetta! and Yukon Blonde sing this song despite a history of Stephen Harper wreaking havoc on the lives of those who speak out against him. They engage in their right to freedom of expression irrespective of any consequences that should fall if the Conservatives are reelected.

And with a history of Harper’s blame and disregard for the arts, it certainly appears to be a risk they did indeed run. Consider people like Federal scientist, Tony Turner, who was “put on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation for creating a politically charged protest song about ousting Conservative Leader Stephen Harper”. Consider the cuts to the Canadian Broadcasting Company – cuts which were accompanied by Harper’s assertion that the company’s ratings were floundering. The CEO of the CBC-Radio Canada, Hubert Lacroix, has publicly stated this is untrue and that “I’m going to tell you it’s not because of our ratings that we have a problem at CBC-Radio Canada”.

So amongst this backdrop, where artists have every right to think they might be the next on the chopping block for Harper, to hear “Land You Love” is moving. In the very execution of their plea, they show us what it means to have a right of freedom of expression. They show us what it means to speak up for what they believe in. 

They show us how important so many of their rights are: the freedom of conscience; the freedom of thought, belief and opinion; and the freedom to vote. No matter your political stripe, I don’t know how you can say that Hey Rosetta! and Yukon Blond are, in this moment, anything other than absurdly, wonderfully, pride-inducingly Canadian.

Source: exclaim.ca

Source: exclaim.ca