In case you missed the memo, it’s election time once again. In Canada, this process is — thankfully and mercifully — short. The Parliament was dissolved on Sept. 11 and the general election will be held Oct. 21. If you were really gung-ho for politics, perhaps you hit the advance polls this past Thanksgiving weekend.
The short campaign period means that local would-be Members of Parliament have a little over a month to get their names, faces and messages out for voters to digest. In some ways, this gives incumbents a bit of an advantage as they have had the past four years to work on their platform full-time. It also helps that they have a solid staff behind them to build a brand.
And yet people are generally more familiar with a party’s main identity than with their potential local representatives. And if Canadians have a person in mind when they are going to the polls, it’s often the party leader, not the local rep, that garners attention. This is a problem.
If you are voting for — or worse, against — a party leader, this means that local candidates don’t get the recognition and vetting they perhaps deserve. Outside of the magical realm of politics, a former drama teacher or an unlicensed insurance representative are truly unlikely candidates for that solid six-figure pay-cheque that comes with a leadership role of a large organization. And yet here we are.
Some of this has to do with internal party politics and there’s little an outsider can do about that, unless you decide to join a political party and make some waves. But that doesn’t mean a regular voter should just give up.
Whatever party banner your local MP runs under, they have a lot more importance than just being a human representation of green, red, orange or blue. A good MP recognizes they represent 100 per cent of the people in their riding, despite earning less than that in votes. That means they know they will have to step up to the plate and fight for their constituents — even if their political leaning differs.
A good MP will fight for you in a variety of situations, like if your permanent resident renewal gets held up in the queue, or simply help you navigate a myriad of government programs.
A bad MP will take pictures of the snow piled outside their office to question climate change or be accused of creating fraudulent party memberships.
So, on Oct. 21, choose a good MP and not a faceless name who happens to be the default representative of the party leader of your choice. By vetting your local candidates and voting on merit, perhaps we can usher in change. At the very least, know that you are stuck with these people for the next four years.
This year, it might be time to look past party spin and posturing political leaders, and instead choose local MPs based on their personal résumés, values and strengths. Forget the allure of their party’s communication strategy because the last thing this country — and perhaps the world — needs right now is more unqualified personalities at the helm of it.
Erin Matthews/ Opinions Editor
Graphic: Shawna Langer / Graphics Editor