Editorial: Speak or others will do it for you

The federal election campaign may have started almost two months ago, but only now does it feel like it’s heating up, at least in Richmond. 

The flurry of all-candidate meetings is part of the reason.

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McMath students set the bar when they grilled Steveston-Richmond East candidates at a meeting at their school last week. Next Wednesday, the Richmond News will co-host an all-candidates meeting with the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. The Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP) will hold and all-candidates meeting the next day.

 The following week, Gilmore United Church along with Richmond Poverty Response Committee will host one Monday, Oct. 5; Richmond Centre for Disability will team up with the Minoru Place Activity Centre for an all-candidates meeting Oct. 7; Kwantlen University will hold one Oct. 14. (See page 9 for details about each meeting.)

What I like about this line-up is that it represents diverse sectors of society.

Each meeting will have its unique flair, reflective of its host. The organizers of the Gilmore event, for example, aim to keep the questions focused on social justice.  Kwantlen, is bound to ask about education; RCD, disability; the Chamber, the economy and small businesses. At the Richmond News, we’re aiming to keep our questions local, to illustrate how federal policies play out on the ground in Richmond.

When it comes to federal elections, people vote for one, or a combination, of three things — the leader, the party or the candidate. Whatever you think of the leader is beyond our control. Whatever you think of the party is somewhat up to us, but party platforms are already out there and easily accessible. 

What the local paper and local events can do is shed light on the individual candidates, their ability to articulate (as opposed to parrot) their party’s platform and illustrate how those priorities translate into local reality. It’s also a chance for us to learn how well each candidate understands local issues and their ability to advocate for them in Ottawa; it is, after all, a two-way street. The cynic would argue that politics is so centralized these days, the job of most MPs is simply to sell you the government’s agenda. I don’t doubt there’s truth to that, but individuals always matter and that goes for MPs, as well. This is why it matters that we know who and what we’re voting for.

During elections, there’s usually a big “get out the vote” campaign. I agree it’s important to vote, but just ticking a box without informing ourselves only serves to prop up a facade of democracy. One can be cynical about elections, but it is still a way to have a voice. Besides, if you don’t speak up, you can bet someone will speak for you. 

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