Suzuki: We Canadians are lucky—all we have to do is vote

Every day we hear news reports about people risking their lives for the right to choose their leaders. Here in Canada, people are saying, “Meh.”

We shouldn’t be so complacent, and we should never take democracy for granted.

True, the current federal election is frustrating.

The carefully scripted talking points, the avoidance of controversial issues, the negative attack ads—none of it is very inspiring.

It’s especially difficult for the millions of Canadians who care about the environment.

Scientists from around the world—from countries covering the entire political spectrum—are unearthing incontrovertible evidence that the natural systems that give us life are in trouble.

Pollution is affecting our children’s health and causing health care costs to rise.

Human activity is driving animals and plants to extinction at alarming rates.

And climate change is having a dramatic impact on many things that make our world livable, including weather patterns, water availability, sea levels, and our ability to grow food.

The economic implications of these environmental issues are immense.

Despite the serious nature of these problems and the fact that many solutions would be as good for the economy as they are for ecosystems and human health, the environment is being all but ignored in this election.

Environmental issues barely registered in the leaders’ debates, have not factored into most of the campaigns or platforms, and are not being covered by the news media.

Instead, we get the usual platitudes and regurgitations about tax cuts, the economy, jet fighters, and law and order.

Of course, these are all important and deserving of our attention, but if we don’t protect the air, water and soil that give us life, we eventually won’t be around to worry about the other issues.

So yes, it may be difficult to get worked up about this election when so many politicians and pundits are ignoring the most important issues affecting Canadians and our country’s place in the global community.

But every vote counts. It’s especially crucial for young people to get out and vote.

The last election had the lowest voter turnout since Confederation, in part because young people are not engaged with the political process.

According to Stats Canada, close to 90 per cent of people over 65 vote in federal elections, but fewer than 50 per cent of voters under 30 cast ballots. Considering that young people have more at stake in the future of our country, this is bewildering.

Sure, it takes time to figure out where the parties stand on issues, but if candidates are willing to devote time to running and to representing us in Parliament, we can at least make some effort.

Visit a few websites, tell your candidates the environment is important to you, ask a few questions, vote if you’re young and encourage young people to vote if you’re an elder, and cast your own ballot.

It’s a lot easier than taking up arms and risking your life for the privilege of living in a democracy.

Some issues may seem distant or abstract, but politicians make decisions every day that affect each of us where we live.

Do you want a pipeline running from the tar sands to the B.C. coast?

What can we do to make cities more livable and sustainable?

Should we do a better job of protecting wildlife and habitat?

How can we take advantage of opportunities in the green energy sector?

Every Canadian should be happy for what we have achieved in our relatively short history.

We have one of the most tolerant and peaceful nations on earth, and we’re blessed with an abundance of clean water and natural wealth.

We have a great country because our democratic system allows us to participate in choosing the people and parties that lead us.

The country we will have in the future, that we will leave to our children and grandchildren, will be shaped by the choices we make now, and by the people we elect to act on our behalf.

We can’t take this responsibility lightly. We enjoy freedoms and a quality of life that others are willing to kill and die for.

At the very least, there’s one thing we must do to preserve those privileges—vote!

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation communications and editorial specialist Ian Hanington.

Kelowna Capital News

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