However, I'm not really going to post about that. I actually want to talk about politics. The Alberta Provincial Election is just around the corner. General voting day is April 23 - if you live in Alberta please remember to vote. However, I leave first thing tomorrow morning so I am voting in the advanced poles tonight, April 19.
This is my first provincial election since I moved to this province nearly 6 years ago. I came from a more liberal/socialist province and Alberta has been true blue conservative for a very long time. Sometimes I feel a little out of place here, sometimes I feel like my vote is a waste of time against the overwhelming opposition. But I still vote
It is a right and privilege to be able to vote. There are people in other countries that are willing to die for what we take for granted here. So why the apathy? That is really what that preface was bringing me to. Why the apathy?
We see it at the federal, provincial and local levels. Hardly anyone really seems to be voting and I don't really understand why. There are a lot of reason, excuses really, not to vote. It won't make a difference. They're all the same anyway. Politicians are liars. No faith in the democratic process. The government is corrupt. Why BOTHER?
Yeah, why bother? I can think of plenty of reasons.
Everyone quotes the common saying that if you don't vote, you can't complain. I'm not going to fall back on that, as true as it is. I am going to ask those who don't vote to think about one thing - if you don't take part in the process how can you hope to change the very things that make you not want to vote?
When I went to the locate candidates debate, one of the candidates (not one I was planning to vote for) gave me a thought. Because sometimes politics is boring and hard to understand. Sometimes we don't feel involved in the process because we aren't really being involved in it.
Sure, some of us make ourselves involved. We follow politics, we find it interesting, but that isn't everyone. You cannot expect everyone to take interest in something that can be so dry even if it does impact their lives. It would be great if they did pay attention, but no one can expect it of them.
The discussion was on attracting the youth vote, but it applies to everyone - regardless of age. The local candidates said something that really hit me.
I thought back at that moment to the leaders debate. Although I have often voted NDP in my life, I just was not impressed with Brian Mason - the NDP leader for Alberta. So I shrugged my shoulders and decided to vote in a different direction this time. When I made a comment about this to someone I got this in response: "He's really good with policy and he's not their to entertain you, he's there to do a job."
I didn't respond, but I thought about what was said. I thought about federal and provincial politics and politicians. I spent a lot of time thinking about why we vote certain ways and why we don't. And then I thought about first impressions. How one of the candidates I was thinking of voting for gave off an air of smugness and superiority that I didn't like at all.
Being a politician today means much more than having a good platform. Society is in a hurry and people don't have time to listen to a dry message about what some usually rich white dude has to say about how they want to run the government - and half of those who do listen don't believe most of what he says. It's a media game now, it's charisma (although that has always been a factor), and it's making the right impression the first time.
Politicians have to be engaging - not just get the youth involved, but to get everyone involved. They need to get your attention first and then get you interested in what they're really saying. They need to make it feel as though they are having a conversation with people - even if they are the only ones talking. Even in a debate, they need to find a way to connect with the audience.
I think if politicians really want to get people involved they've got to start being more involved with the people they represent. Not some distant rich white dude, but a flesh and blood human being that you can relate to. Someone that makes you feel okay to drop by their office and go "Hi
Social media is another way to get people interested. Although I do not support my local MLA, she added me to her twitter account when I tweeted to the opposition. I don't know why she added me, but it made me feel a bit more connected to her. If my mind wasn't decided, that move might have been enough to make me consider voting for her.
The only other thing I can touch on is transparency. We've all heard a politician talk about transparent government, but have you ever really seen it? Experienced it? Does your MLA have a website where they talk about is going in the legislature? No, but wouldn't it be great? Wouldn't help you feel more connected to the government that is supposed to be serving you? I know I'd like it.
Right along the lines of transparency, why don't MLA's hold more open public forums maybe 3 or 4 times a year so that they can connect with their constituents? Encourage people to become interested in what's going on by getting them to talk to their MLA, meet their MLA and get to know what's going on in an interactive setting.
So I guess this is a message to politicians and politicians-to-be - be engaging, have a conversation, be aware of your first impressions, use media & social media to your advantage - and although I haven't mentioned it yet - be passionate. Passion sways a great many people.