In less than 30 weeks, there will be a federal election in Canada. I will be a candidate and I’m facing some formidable opponents. The adversaries I’m worried about are not the candidates from the other parties. Here’s what we’re up against – the triple threat of apathy, cynicism and fear.
For our communities and our country to thrive in the future, it’s these three attitudes that we need to defeat.
Let’s start with apathy. I’m concerned about the lethargy that many Canadians have adopted when it comes to politics and civic engagement. As we’ve been knocking on doors in our community in preparation for the election, one of the first questions I ask people is whether they plan to vote in the October election. I have to say that I’m stunned when people tell me they have no plans to vote. This is just one sad sign of apathy.
An attitude of indifference to politics is documented in a study that was released this week by a non-partisan think tank called Samara Canada. It is a report card on the state of Canada’s democracy – and we were graded with a C. The results confirmed the apathy of the nation saying, “Only 31% of Canadians believe politics affects them every day.” This may be why only 61% voted in our last federal election. Another surprising statistic is that 40% of Canadians haven’t had a single conversation about politics in the past year.
How will we fight apathy? Hope and hard work are the tools. Hope and hard work have become the mantra of the Liberal Party of Canada. I’m convinced that few things inspire people as much as seeing hope in their friends and neighbours. I’m delighted by the number of people that have jumped onto our local campaign team because they see the hope we have for our community and our country. They also see that we’re prepared to roll up our sleeves and get to work. The large majority of people involved in our local campaign are involved in politics for the first time in their lives. They’ve gotten involved because they believe that their participation will actually make a difference in the future of the community and the country.
Perhaps even more daunting than the opponent of apathy, is the cynicism that we face. Canadians don’t trust politicians or their parties. The Samara report says that only 40% of Canadians trust their MP to do what’s right and only 42% place some trust in political parties. A report last year by the Gandalf Group said up to 50% of Canadians don’t trust politicians.
Let me say that most of the politicians I know are decent, thoughtful and generous people. But there is no question that the political brand is damaged for many understandable reasons. I think there are two remedies for cynicism: integrity and authenticity. The Gandalf Group report concluded that politics could be less corrupt by electing better people. Canadians should choose politicians who have demonstrated themselves to be of strong and ethical character. Beyond integrity, I believe Canadians are looking for authenticity. This is one of the character traits that makes Liberal leader Justin Trudeau so appealing to Canadians. When I talked to my own team about this last week, I told them – actually warned them – that I too am committed to authenticity. I hope that by being dependable, truthful and genuine, we will reduce the level of cynicism that pervades the public perception of politics.
The third, and perhaps most daunting, antagonist we’ll be facing in the upcoming election is the attitude of fear. There is now no doubt that Canada’s current Prime Minister is staking his government’s future on a campaign of fear. He wants us to be afraid of both newcomers and neighbours. He hopes to distract us from the significant social and economic challenges that face our country by appealing to our basest instincts of fear and anxiety.
I do not deny that our country faces threats from within and without. But a truly great political leader inspires people to courage, not fear. Nelson Mandela told us “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Beyond courage, other antidotes to fear are knowledge and reason. Fear is fueled by ignorance. I don’t want our national leaders to abuse our instincts to fear by stimulating misunderstanding for political purposes. Our country is desperate for leadership will strengthen its people through education rather than demeaning us through misinformation.
These are the opponents in 2015 – the triple threat of apathy, cynicism and fear. But I’m not afraid. I’m convinced we have the tools to respond. We’ll beat apathy with hope and hard work. We’ll combat cynicism with authenticity and integrity. We’ll confront fear with courage and understanding. We will build strong communities in a fair Canada. Bring on the election.