A national election has been announced for Sept. 20. Once again, we’ll have people knocking on our doors eager for our vote, appeals landing in our inboxes, invitations to all-candidates’ meetings. Where do we stand? What do we do? How do we do it?
As in all federal elections, we face significant issues that have multigenerational effects. We have a system where the party in power sets the direction, establishes priorities and the legislative agenda, appoints senators and judges, works with provincial governments and sets foreign policy. Opposition parties seek government transparency and accountability, and propose alternative solutions.
The EFC’s Election Engagement Kit 2021 identifies some of the key issues, suggesting questions you can ask of candidates seeking your vote. Raising your issue lets candidates know what issues are important to constituents.
An election is also a special opportunity to initiate a relationship with a person who, if elected, will represent you in the decisions being made. While we live in a representative democracy where Members of Parliament usually vote along party lines on most issues, they are elected to represent their constituents, not their party.
Many serve on committees reviewing legislation and polices, holding hearings to examine and raise awareness on a variety of issues. They also seek to influence each other – within caucuses, among MPs from other parties, in the House of Commons, among other stakeholders and media. MPs also work in tandem with their provincial and municipal counterparts.
Candidates are also your neighbours. They have taken time from work and family, putting their names forward for public service while knowing what awaits – long hours, travel, complaints, harsh criticism, fielding people’s frustrations and sometimes anger.
It’s worthwhile to establish and build relationships, to learn about the candidate’s background, why they want to be an MP, their principles, willingness to collaborate, how they make decisions and why they support party distinctives.
Such a relationship also allows you to share your views and the role of faith-based engagement within community. Why not ask them to meet with a delegation from your church after the election?
For several decades I have interacted with many MPs on behalf of the EFC. It is a relationship-building exercise. Generally I’ve found MPs of all parties chose politics because they like and want to serve people, and are problem solvers seeking to contribute to a better country.
All political parties want to address issues such as health care, human trafficking and refugees, but they all differ in their "how." For this election they will all need to better understand how faith-based communities and their national engagement are a core feature of the social safety net. Churches and Christian agencies make significant positive contributions to our country.
The Early Church did not have opportunities like we do to participate in the selection of political leaders, but we remain like the Early Church commissioned to act as ambassadors of another Kingdom, engaging without slander (Titus 3:2) with those in office to do good (Romans 13:4; 1 Peter 2:13), knowing our struggle is not against flesh and blood but rather spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12).
But we also have another opportunity.
A 2019 survey found 61 per cent of Canadians agreed "traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me." The problem of apathy fuels ignorance about candidates and indifference about public engagement – a slippery slope into willful blindness, suffocating democracy’s roots and possibilities, and eroding civil liberties.
We are called to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves (Matthew 10:16). We are called to be alert – not blind, but thoughtful about the strategies being promoted to attain peace, order and good government.
Author: Bruce J. Clemenger