Yesterday, municipal elections were held across Ontario. We elected our mayors, city councillors and school trustees. And I almost didn't vote.
I had a few friends ask me, in the days before the election, "Who are the progressive candidates? How are you voting?" I was at a loss to answer.
The truth is that our mayor, while not running unopposed, might as well have been. And while I acknowledge that he's very hardworking, I'm not a big fan.
My city councillor seems like a decent enough guy but I have not found him to be very responsive, the couple of times I've had to contact his office. I've also heard interviews with him, where he seems to arguing both sides of any given scenario. I'm not sure that makes him very effective at city hall. At any rate, he too seemed to running without any real opposition.
The candidate for school trustee was literally running without opposition, as he was acclaimed.
In my corner of Ottawa, the election was not very exciting and participation didn't seem compelling.
Then my kids overheard my spouse and I talking about the election and asked why I was considering not going to the polls on voting day. I had a hard time coming up with an answer that didn't sound apathetic and lazy to my own ears.
In 1988, I was part of an exchange program, that took me first to Alberta and then India. While we were overseas, a federal election was going to take place. At that time, people out of the country for an exchange program could not vote in advance polls or cast a special ballot (this loophole has long been changed). I was bitterly disappointed, as this would have been the first election since I had come of age.
The other thing I remember is that in my group of 7 Canadians (and seven Indians who looked on with interest), I was the only one who cared that we couldn't vote. As someone who bitterly opposed the sitting government, I wanted to have my say.
I have come to understand the perspective of some of my friends. We are not going to affect great change solely through the ballot box. I guess I've just decided that the ballot box is still important.
My kids are interested and engaged with the world around them. I don't want to send the message that their mother is apathetic or so jaded that she couldn't be bothered to walk three blocks to the polling station.
So I picked up my youngest from school yesterday and took him with me to vote. He watched me fill in my ballot and submit it for tabulation (electronic! Can anyone explain to me why we don't have this at the federal level?). In the end, I filled out my choice for councillor on the single ballot but didn't vote for any mayoral candidate. On the way home, we discussed how I had filled in my ballot and my reasons for making the choices that I did.
All over the world there are those who are denied the right to vote. As a woman, I have only had that right for a short part of my country's history. Showing up at the polls may not change much but I'm glad I have the chance to do so. And I want my kids to understand the range of options they can use to make their voices heard, even in a tiny way.