Archive for March, 2014

Many of us have causes we believe in, but aren’t sure what to do about it. We complain all the time to each other, but when compared to the number of people actually doing something about it, there is a real disconnect. It’s surprising how many people, who may have not grown up in an activist family, may simply not know how to bring about change on a political scale. The important thing to recognize is that there are a lot of people like you, who believe in the same thing and are actively working towards it. So you are not alone, and don’t have to bring about change all by yourself. Here are some ways to do it.

1) Vote

Let’s get the easy one out of the way. We say we all know the importance of voting, yet only 61.1% of people voted in the last election. In a world where the collective knowledge of humanity is accessible through our phones, there is no reason why someone can’t spend 20 minutes to do some research, and decide who to vote for.

Our politicians know this, and they know who votes and who doesn’t. They know that in the 2011 election, only 38.8% of people aged 18-24 voted. If you want politicians to care about the same issues you do, you have to show them that you’re willing to vote for it. Even if you go and vote for an independent, at least your showing that you are a voter and must be listened to.

2) Join a political party

In a non-election year (and assuming no party is having a leadership race), there are around 300,000-400,000 people in Canada who are members of a federal political party. Considering that there are around 25 million eligible voters in Canada, and that not all members of a party are eligible to vote, that puts us at a participation rate somewhere between 1-1.5%.

When we consider just how much the membership of a party decides it’s policies and shapes our landscape, that number is scary low. But it also means that there is a lot of opportunity for a few people to affect change on a large scale. Most riding associations would love one or two more people to get involved. It doesn’t take money, connections or anything else to make a name for yourself at the riding level. That means anyone who is dedicated enough, can rise through a riding association and quickly get involved on a regional, then provincial, then federal scale. All it takes is commitment.

Even if you don’t want to commit that much time, thousands of people all committing a small amount of time can achieve great things together. And remember, the leader of the party, the one who may become prime minister, is not chosen during a general election, but through internal party politics.

3) Send a letter to your MP

I covered this last week again, but I have to repeat this. This is a simple, and very effective way to let your voice be heard. You may think this gets ignored, but it doesn’t. If ten people send a similar letter, politicians will think a thousand others think the same way. If no one sends a letter, then they’ll assume no one cares about this topic. But there are effective and ineffective ways to write letters.

  • Be respectful. Nothing gets ignored like a rude letter.
  • Be clear what you’re writing about.
  • Write about one issue, and only one issue, per letter.
  • Don’t use a form letter. If you’re just putting your name among a massive email blast, it’s effectiveness is greatly diminished.

4) Open your mind.

You might be wrong. Recognize that. A person who is open minded and open to other arguments, is more likely to be successful on changing someone’s mind than a person who is simply mimicking what others are saying. People can recognize that, and they are more likely to engage you in a proper debate if they feel they aren’t talking to a wall. Hear what they have to say, and respond to it.

5) Be careful what you share

Nothing will make you lose credibility fast than being that person who randomly shares every fake thing they see on Facebook. Just because something is a meme, cleverly written or out in a pie chart, doesn’t mean it’s true. Take that extra second to fact check it before you share it, and others may not ignore your future posts. Besides, it’s always better not share misinformation.

6) Create content

We live in an age where we have an unprecedented platform to transmit out points of view. Whether it’s a blog post, meme or viral ad, we can all do something that might get noticed. Might being the operative word. Like every other skill in life, you may have to create a ton of stuff before you get good enough to be noticed. So start creating and share your knowledge with others. But make sure to follow the previous step and check your facts before sharing them. 

It doesn’t have to be complicated. I created this one last year because the hypocrisy behind it really bothered me. It was a quick and easy way to get my point across.

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Keep in mind, regardless of what you do, try to make the issue personal. I love a good philosophical debate about the betterment of society, but I found that it bores a lot of people pretty quickly. Show them how your issue affects real people in tangible ways, maybe even the person you’re speaking with. It’ll make a more memorable impression.

So, I’ve been thinking, I’ve freaking turned 30.

I’ve never cared about age, and I thought that when I turned 30, things would be the same. And, well, I was right. But that won’t stop me from listing the top 5 things I learned on my 30th birthday weekend. OK, to be honest, I already knew most of this stuff, but they were affirmed.

1) I’m never going to grow up. 

When you get up in the morning of your birthday party and you see that your wife has surprised you by turning the house into a superhero theme, you realize you’re still a kid at heart. I’m totally cool with it.

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2) Bacon is amazing

I know your reaction. Well, d’uh. OK fine, we all know the awesomeness of bacon. I’m the guy who stuffed a pig with 5 pounds of bacon. But it never ceases to amaze me. For breakfast, we did bacon pancakes. I didn’t really know how to do it, so we just cooked a piece of bacon, then put it on a pan, poured pancake mix over it, then flipped it when it was ready. Best. Pancake. Ever.

3) Smoking a cigar in a hot tub is awesome

I don’t really have anything to expand on that. It’s just awesome. I would have added a glass of scotch to that, but it was way too cold to get out and grab one.

4) I’m never going to stop talking about real issues

Even sitting in a hot tub, smoking a cigar and celebrating my 30th birthday, I still had several I discussions involving real political and justice issues. I have seen injustices in our system that most people don’t know about, and yet we continue to listen to politicians who either don’t know what’s really going on or just don’t care. After the end of the night, I now know there are several people who are better informed, and are armed with more knowledge that they can now use when they speak to others.

This is who I am. Someone once mentioned that they don’t like the “Liberal propaganda” I spew out, which I find hilarious. Not only did I support the Conservatives for a number of years (I no longer do), anyone who knows me for more than five minutes knows that I’m not a mouth piece for anybody. I form my thoughts and criticisms depending on each issue separately regardless of what any party position is. I will even argue against someone on my side if I fell they’re going too far into rhetoric, rather than logic and reason.

I have a good life. And if don’t use the advantages afforded to me to fight against injustices, even if it’s just with conversations with my friends, then I will be more ashamed of myself than anyone could be.

5) Friends and family are where it’s at

For several years, all I’ve done for my birthday is either go to a simple restaurant, or just hang out at my house with friends and family. This year was no different, and I don’t want that to ever change. I am blessed to have a great family and an awesome group of friends to share my time with. Whether we’re having a drink, sharing jokes, teasing each other or just embarrassing ourselves playing Rock Band, I’m at my happiest when I’m surrounded by these people.

So, I’ve been thinking, is the fight for democracy ever over?

Over the last few years, I’ve witnessed my home country, Egypt, fight to gain the freedom that many of us take for granted. I believed for many years that eventually Egyptians would realize their collective power, and demand a better society. They proved me right.

People risked their lives to topple a 30 year old regime. Then, when tyranny took route once more, they went out by the millions and risked everything for their cause.  They suffered, and will continue to suffer, many setbacks, as all nations do after shedding of the shackles of tyranny. And they know their fight is not over. But do we?

Many people will agree that Canada needs some form of electoral reform, and the Conservatives finally delivered. Unfortunately, the resulting proposed legislation made those same people regret asking for it.

This legislation has been thoroughly thrashed here, here and here. The fact that The Globe and Mail, the National Post and The Star all agree on something should be cause for concern. If you prefer video format, here’s the hilarious Rick Mercer summing up some of the problems with this bill.

The Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, has also eviscerated the Fair Elections Act, outlining the many dangers being proposed. Marc Mayrand has been accused by the Conservatives of being biased against them, although they never answer why they would appoint someone biased against their party or why they wouldn’t remove a biased Chief Electoral Officer, as is within their power.

In 2011, only 61.1% of eligible Canadians voted in the general elections. That’s the 3rd worst in Canadian history, only beaten by 2008 and 2004. Yet, the government is introducing provision that could lower voter turn out, like making it illegal for Elections Canada to encourage people to vote and by getting rid of “vouching.”

Vouching was used by 120,000 Canadians to vote in the last elections because they didn’t have proper ID. Elections Canada estimate another 500,000 people didn’t vote in the last elections, because they didn’t have proper ID, which implies they didn’t know vouching was an option. While some of the rules regarding vouching aren’t followed when a person votes, there isn’t a single piece of evidence that any fraud has resulted from this practice. Conservative MP Brad Butt claimed he’d seen vouching used fraudulently, but that turned out to be not true either. Again, let’s turn to Rick Mercer on this.

The problems go on, with past winners deciding key positions at voting stations, raising campaign contributions, rewarding parties with pre-established donor lists, refusing to give Elections Canada the power it needs to investigate fraud (like the robocall incident of 2011) and makes the Chief electoral officer report to the Minster of Justice, rather than all of Parliament (that last one is the most worrisome).

This Act has to be stopped. This is going to be tough in a majority government situation, but we’ve done it in the past; specifically, the E-snooping bill. But that’s because we made it a big deal. We cared about our privacy and told the government that we will not accept such intrusion into our personal lives. We have to do the same here. We can’t only fight for our democracy when a tyrant tries to take over. We have to move in when someone tries to kneecap it from behind.

There are many things you can do. If you live in a Conservative MP’s riding, write them a letter. Many think this is a waste of time because Conservative MPs will never vote against a government bill, but they couldn’t be more wrong. If MPs are flooded with angry letters on any issue, they start to worry about their jobs in the next election, and push back against the PM to make changes to the bill. If you don’t, write a letter to whatever opposition MP you do have, and tell them you support their decision to fight this bill.

You can share this issue with others and convince them to also get involved. Be creative. Maybe write a cheque to an opposition party, take a picture and mail it to the Conservatives. OK that last one was a joke, but you get my meaning. If you have an idea on how to stop this bill, share it in the comments and we can do it together.

Unlike the many countries around the world fighting for democracy, we have very little to lose by fighting for it. But we have much to lose if don’t.