*Update Aug 5. 2015 – Our local candidate now has a website up, but I am still skeptical as to whether she will actually make a presence this year.

Now, with the 2015 federal election campaign officially launched, the topic of my column feels even more relevant. I was not going to post this, but after receiving several compliments on it, and having people ask that I share it, I decided to post it.This column appeared in the July 30 edition of The Orangeville Citizen

When I was in college and it came to my political standings, despite a long family history of voting Conservative, I bled orange. I can be a bit of an idealist at times, and as Jack Layton was fairly new as the leader of the NDP, and I was enthralled with his politics, ideals and goals. I followed him heavily, and at one point, even dreamed of one day joining the NDP.

I had never been as hopeful about a political party, or a politician, as I was under the leadership of Jack Layton. I was a big enough Layton fan, that my brother texted me his condolences the day Jack passed away. I remember being in shock, and wondering if politics would ever be the same – if there would ever be an idealist who was as good at putting those
thoughts into actions as Jack Layton was.

I had recently moved home, to our ‘blue and strong’ riding, knowing already that voting NDP would be a challenge. I never realized how much of a challenge. I’ve been back in Dufferin-Caledon for seven years now, and for someone who used to be a political nut, voting has become the bane of my existence. Not because there aren’t some good candidates in our
community, but rather because of the lack of a presence of some of our candidates.

For years, the local Green and NDP candidates were nothing more than names. Unless you were an active part of the party for our riding, chances are you didn’t know much about them. More recently, the Green party reps for both federal and provincial elections seem to have made a bit more of an effort to be active and become known, but the NDP still seem to be missing from the picture.

So much so, that I had to Google our NDP rep to double-check who it was, since, with this upcoming election, I still hadn’t seen anything pretty much anywhere. There is no website for our rep, at least not one that could be found by Google, and though there is a Twitter and Facebook page, there is little information about what is happening in our riding pre-election, and even less ‘active’ commentary from our candidate on her plans for our riding (as in, none).

Last year, a local paper identified that our rep said she wouldn’t give up until ‘Orangeville is orange’, but wouldn’t that mean having to actually make an active effort to change the minds of voters? I understand that our riding is a hard one to change. The riding has voted overwhelmingly Conservative for as long as I can remember, and our federal and provincial Conservative reps, IMHO*, have fought hard to do a great job for this community.

They are passionate and they are active, and they make a presence. Our latest Liberal rep, Ed Crewson, has also continued to make a presence, despite already being well-known in the area, attending local events, hosting a local office, and ensuring that people are aware of his platform.

Being a challenge to change doesn’t mean a candidate should just roll over and present a laissez-faire attitude with the campaign period. If bringing change is their goal, people
need to know they are serious about it, need to know that they are truly passionate about that change, and that the change they want to bring is good for the area. That can’t be done through hiding in the backdrop of the show, playing part of the crew instead of part of the cast.

When it comes to election times, I’d like to have our riding see the same kinds of options and choices out there that ridings in other locations have – options that allow us to look at not just the person we would like to see run the country, but for who we feel would best represent us.

While one could argue that it is the job of voters to educate themselves on the candidates (and this is true), one cannot properly educate themselves on a candidate who doesn’t have a presence. When I go to research our candidates for this year’s federal election, I don’t want to have to rely on articles about past elections and past thoughts from a candidate. I want to be able to have current information.

When I make a decision on who to vote for, it’s not just based on their platform, it’s about who has demonstrated a clear capability to being an active part of the community, to want to make a difference in the riding, and to making a large effort to be known in the riding.

An election should be about options, so that when each person casts a vote, they can vote for the candidate they truly believe would do the best job. So far, the NDP have done a great job of showing the community that they wouldn’t do the best job if elected. They may be qualified, they may stand for great things, but a party that can’t be involved in the local riding shows little reason for a community to trust that they will be involved and fight for that riding once elected.

Federally, the opposition parties have been proclaiming this is a year for change. Locally, maybe that change could be seen as a way to have all parties as active and vocal in our riding as they seem to be at the federal and provincial levels.

*Footnote – As I was limited for space in the column, there was much I did not have the opportunity to write. This was not meant as a slam piece against our NDP rep, it was meant to ask the questions about why she is not actively working towards making herself, and the NDP known in our area. To me, it hardly makes sense to be a representative if they’re not going to make a presence.

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