Why voting isn’t enough

By Theresa Wellsvote

A couple of columns ago I wrote about the vital importance of voting, and how your vote is essentially your voice. I wrote about how few of us would allow others to make decisions in our lives, but how for some reason we will often allow them to vote when we do not and determine our collective future.  This week I want to continue to emphasize the importance of voting, and how it impacts our lives, our community, and our future, but I want to add another important facet, because voting isn’t enough. That’s right, just making a mark on a ballot isn’t enough – because in order to truly determine your future you need to educate your vote.

There are some who bemoan that they don’t know how to find out more about the candidates running for office, but this claim is a bit absurd as in this age of social media and the Internet it has become easier than ever to learn about platforms and ideas. Suddenly in addition to radio interviews and electoral forums and newspaper articles and candidate debates we have access to candidates in a way we never have had before, with most, if not all, having Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. We can visit their websites, we can contact them via email, we can use the Talking Stick provided by the Chamber of Commerce and we can connect directly with these candidates as we seek to educate ourselves on those who wish to represent us – and this is of crucial importance, as this education is what should guide us when we mark that ballot in favour of those we want to see serve us in public office.

I have been watching this municipal election with great interest, and visiting Facebook pages and monitoring Twitter feeds. I will be very honest – my votes have been won, and lost, by the things I have seen there. I have used those tools to learn more about the candidates, and what they believe. I have discovered some who are certainly capable of continuing their role in elected office, some who are new but who deserve to be given the opportunity to serve, and some who simply do not align with what I believe to be the goals of this community. I have used those tools and I have already cast my ballot at the advanced polling stations, comfortable in my choices because not only have I used those tools to learn more about the candidates but I have used those tools to reach out to them, and to connect with them directly and personally. The candidates are more accessible to us than ever before, and I have had coffee dates and telephone conversations with those I wished to learn more about – and the reality is so can any voter who takes the initiative to do so, because the candidates are genuinely interested in speaking to voters to share their ideas, and to learn more – because this is an exchange of ideas.

Let’s be very clear about this: this election will change the future of our region. Whatever votes we cast will have a clear and direct impact on the future, as I believe we continue to find ourselves at a crucial juncture in our development as we face another round of anticipated rapid growth. This mayor and council (and school trustees, too, please don’t forget them and their importance, either!) will determine the future of this community, and how we meet changes and demands that we may not even be able to clearly see at this point. The one constant in this community since I arrived eleven years ago is change, because this community has changed in myriad ways even in those short eleven years. We need to elect those who can steward us through all the changes and challenges ahead, those who bring the skills to the table that we will need, and yes, in my opinion, the experience and knowledge required to hit the ground running, because this place does not allow for long or slow learning curves. We do not have the luxury of time, because we will face these challenges and changes whether we are ready or not – and so we must have the leadership in place to not only meet them but rise above them.

At the end of the day, though, what matters is that we inform ourselves, educate ourselves, and work together towards making this community the best place it can be. I have been troubled a bit by the divisiveness in the recent election, because when this is all over we all still will need to work together, play together, and live here together. We will see each other in coffee shops and the grocery store, and we will continue to need to work together to not only make this community survive, but thrive as we face the inevitable curveballs the world will throw at us. Perhaps what we need to do is to educate our vote, mark our ballots, and then decide that we will accept and work with whatever the majority has chosen – because we are, as always, all in this together, and it is only together that we will become the community we have the potential to be. Get informed, get educated, and get out the vote on October 21 – our community is depending on you.

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