Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
June 21, 2004
Cast your vote for -- not against
As the June 28 election approaches, Canadians are in a cantakerous mood, ready to "throw the rascals out," but seemingly unsure with whom they want to replace them.
Voters have a right and a responsibility to bring about a change of government for any number of reasons - they believe the current government is corrupt, they believe it is out of touch or they believe its policies are wrong-headed. Often such decisions are prudential - there is, for example, no firm or clear line over which a government crosses when it suddenly becomes out of touch with the people. Voters have to decide for themselves when they think their political leaders have lost touch.
But bloody-mindedness is a poor basis on which to elect a government. The people may be angry, but democracy depends on voters being responsible adults whose votes represent something more rational than a tantrum.
The Canadian bishops' social affairs commission, in its statement Election 2004: Responsibility and Discernment (WCR, May 24), has provided a basis for rational reflection on the major issues confronting Canada in this election.
The bishops suggested we ask 13 questions of political candidates: two about the right to life, two about the rights of women, two about protecting and enhancing the family, one about health care, two about peace and Third World development, one about aboriginal people, another about refugees, and two about poverty and affordable housing in Canada.
None of these are specifically "Catholic" issues. They are human justice issues, issues whose solutions will determine the future of Canada.
Still, the issues are not equal in importance. Ideally, candidates who support abortion or euthanasia should not receive serious consideration just as voters should not give serious consideration to candidates who support slavery, anti-Semitism or violence against homosexuals.
While there are individual candidates who would support at least some restrictions on abortion, it is disturbing that none of the parties or party leaders have taken anything remotely resembling a pro-life stance. (This is certainly odd given that a November 2003 poll found that 31 per cent of Canadians believe the law should protect human life from the moment of conception.)
This situation should leave voters in a quandary: Should I opt out of voting altogether or should I base my decision on other issues? Yet, for democracy to thrive, each of us has a responsibility to vote - to exercise our consciences at the ballot box as best we know how.
The decision on who to vote for should include consideration for the common good, more than for which party will help me or my pocketbook the most. As the bishops noted in their statement, "The moral measure of a society is how the most vulnerable are faring."
Which party or candidate will do the most to decrease the growing gap between rich and poor? Who will advance the social and economic aspirations of aboriginal people? Who will best ensure accessibility to health care and home care for all people, especially the poor, vulnerable and elderly? Who is committed to reversing the spread of space-based weapons systems and nuclear, chemical and biological arms?
Those are some of the questions the bishops ask and which we should ask too. We might also ask a question the bishops did not ask: Who will work to protect the natural environment so that future generations will live in a beautiful and healthy world?
Asking these questions might not provide an automatic decision on who to vote for, but they can certainly stir Canadians out of their current bloody-mindedness regarding politics and empower them to participate in the election in a positive manner.
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