On Tuesday Canadians go to the polls to vote for their federal representatives and elect a new government to run the country… at least some of us will.
There hasn’t been a whole lot of enthusiasm for this general election — Canada’s third in four years — with many suggesting the timing has more to do with the Conservatives seeing an opportunity for a majority government than Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s stated reason for dissolving Parliament, that it had become dysfunctional.
Others see the U.S. election as a more compelling contest than Canada’s. And, at least in British Columbia, there are still other elections some people are thinking about: civic elections in November, a provincial election next spring, and two provincial by-elections this fall.
But none of these things diminish the fact that on Tuesday Canadians have the opportunity to choose their next government. It’s an opportunity that should not be dismissed. Many would call it a responsibility.
One of those people is Whistler resident John Fraser. A Conservative MP for 21 years, from 1972 to 1993, Fraser served as Environment Minister and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. He was also the first Speaker of the House of Commons to be elected by secret ballot. After stepping down as a Member of Parliament he was named Canada’s Ambassador for the Environment. He has chaired several committees in Ottawa in recent years and is the current chair of the B.C. Pacific Salmon Forum. He’s also an officer of the Order of Canada and a member of the Order of British Columbia.
And he has strong views about Canadians’ responsibilities.
“I have a profound conviction that a citizen hasn’t got any business just sitting back and ignoring what is going on in the political world around them, whether it’s municipal, provincial or federal. I think that is a lack of responsibility. I think it’s an abdication of a fundamental duty of a citizen,” Fraser said last weekend.
“I think that if you’re going to be a citizen and you’re going to insist on rights, you have got to have an equal consideration of what is your responsibility, as an individual, for the welfare and well being of this country and all the people in it.”
Fulfilling that responsibility requires some work.
“I’m asserting, that if a citizen is to do their duty they have got to, first of all, pay attention to what is going on. And then they have a duty to take their concerns to those they elect, and say ‘look, this is bothering us. What are you going to do about it? We want you to report back and tell us.’