Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
March 5, 2001
Christians speak out in election campaign
They want candidates to address issues of poverty, abortion
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Christian activists want to make sure the March 12 Alberta election is about issues and that candidates running for office don't get away with meaningless rhetoric.
A variety of groups are surveying candidates on moral, family and social issues so voters can pick and choose based on the candidates' stance, or lack of it, on specific issues.
Others, like the archdiocesan Social Justice Commission, are simply calling on Catholics to participate in forums, question the candidates on social issues that affect the poor and vote according to the social teaching of the Church.
"We have to ask candidates, for example, where they stand relative to how deregulation affects the poor who are now going in droves to the food banks because they have to spend their food money to pay for their electricity and natural gas," said commission spokesperson John Lynch.
"And the principle involved here is the common good. We should tell politicians to return to the common good.
"If we should be looking to voting for them, it must be aimed at the common good of all Albertans and that's particularly the poor and the marginalized."
Added Lynch: "As Christians we must form our consciences according to the teachings of Christ. And if all Catholics did that, we would be able to help form a government that would have a social conscience."
The Family Life Committee, an ad hoc group that includes leaders of the Canada Family Action Coalition, the Catholic Women's League, Alberta Pro-Life and the Alberta Federation of Women United for Families, is completing a voters' guide.
The guide, to be released the first week of March, will contain the candidates' stand on issues such as citizen-initiated legislation, Alberta's Marriage Amendment Act, conscience legislation for health care workers, choice and parental rights on education, gambling expansion, tax funding for abortion and funding for faith-based social agencies.
As of Feb. 27, the Family Life Committee (FLC) had surveyed about 200 of the approximately 330 candidates running in Alberta's 83 constituencies.
FLC spokesperson Roy Beyer said the committee does not want to tell people how to vote but to help them make their choice.
"People who are concerned about the moral issues ought to be voting based on where the candidates stand on those issues," he said.
Although candidates are often comfortable talking about economic and social policy issues they usually avoid addressing moral issues such as abortion and marriage, Beyer said.
"If we want to see any kind of change in this country, people of faith, people of conscience, are going to need to start voting for candidates that are going to respond to these issues as well."
The voters' guide will be available at the back of most churches and on the FLC's website: www.albertaelection.org.
The Campaign Life Coalition is also surveying candidates on right-to-life issues. The results are available on the web at www.lifesite.net or by phoning (780) 488-2709 or 1-800-730-5358.
Spiritus, a lay Catholic organization, is recommending the Catholic community confront candidates on social justice issues like subsidized housing, child poverty, Catholic education and health care. It has also surveyed candidates on similar issues.
"Catholics should participate in the election process not only by exercising their right to vote but also by talking about issues of concern to find out what candidates are advocating and then to confront the candidates on those issues," said Spiritus president Colin MacIsaac.
"We are asking people to take a principled approach, to vote according to their conscience. Should we use taxpayer dollars to fund private for-profit health care facilities in Alberta? Is it just and fair that the rich can get health services before the common person?"
More information on the Spiritus campaign can be found on www.spiritus.ab.ca.
Before going to the polling stations, Christians should take a hard look at how the current government has treated the poor, Lynch said.
He noted that the province withdrew its support for public housing and maintains welfare rates for the poor at the same level they were eight years ago.
"These people are living with a budget that is eight years old in the face of deregulation of electricity and the escalating cost of gas and the cost of living," he said.
"My main message is Christians wake up, what are your real values?"
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