From an early age my mother instilled in me the importance of voting. My mom never discussed what policies were important to her, and I think she understood that the system was rigged to always flipflop between Liberal and Conservative, but she told me how important it was to vote. She felt that if I wanted to pursue a government job or be a teacher, that being a registered voter could have benefits. There would be proof that I was a contributing member of society who cared about how politics affected the community I lived in, and it’s people. Based on our economic standing, my race, and other factors, I always knew in a general way who I should be voting for and who I felt best represented my values. I felt I had enough of an understanding of the Liberal party and Conservative party to vote, so since 18 I have been a voter. It’s only now, almost a decade later that I realize my view of politics was a lazy approach that a lot of people seem to share with me.
In high school, I knew very little about politics. My mom watched the news so I understood the happenings of the world, but since our media is so Americanized I felt I had a better understanding of how the President of the United States got elected versus how the Prime Minister gets elected. We never had any courses on politics or policy in school, though I remember one time that a potential candidate for a municipal election came to my high school and held a mock election after a question period. From 18 to 23, while in Moncton, I paid little attention to what the parties actually stood for and voted based on what I believed the entire party represented as a whole. I also voted based on what felt right, despite my lack of education on the subject, for example voting for Dawn Arnold for mayor of Moncton because she was a woman but knowing none of her stances on any policies. And don’t get me started on why I voted for Trudeau. After leaving Moncton, I felt I needed to better understand who I was voting for, ironically because I was now voting in an area I wasn’t from, and I wanted to affect those places with my votes more carefully. I felt before moving that voting wouldn’t change the place I was from, but now that I had left and was in Toronto, and was voting in a place that felt foreign I suddenly wanted to have more education on the parties. It was only then that I started doing more research into NDP and Green Party (we don’t acknowledge PPA or BQC in this household). Of course my concern about politics did rise as D*nald Tr*mp was elected into office in the States, and I think everyone suddenly realized how important everyone’s vote is.
Since his inauguration in 2017, I have been trying to better understand how politics work. When I vote for something at a municipal level what does it affect? What policies are people supporting? What are the party’s overall missions? For years I had relied on the sharing of Facebook cheat sheets to show me who cared about what main policies like climate change, the pipeline, giving more money to the poor, the elderly, etc. Hearing about politics through Black in the Maritimes and even meeting some amazing politicians has really opened my eyes to even more political views I had no paid attention to. Knowing a party’s stance on a few key elements does not tell us how they feel about specific disparities caused by systemic racism or racial inequality, and I had never considered that before. Because I was so whitewashed, I always thought about the greater good of the entire society. What party cares about the planet? What party will help people in low income housing? Who’s going to help Moncton’s homeless crisis? I had never even considered policies pertaining to the black community because I felt like black political issues were an American thing. We recently discussed on the podcast the idea of the Black subculture in America and how much that group of people has changed American lives and culture. When I think of Canada I think of the Indigenous, French Acadians (because I am one) and then I think of the rest of the cultures as a mosaic working together to dismantle the framework of racism. I don’t think of one specific race fighting systemic racism because we have so many cultures here, but hearing Celina Caesar-Chevannes talk about exonerating Black people incarcerated for criminal offences regarding cannabis? In Canada? I thought only the USA did things like that. I realized then, in these past few months, that I needed to re-evaluate what political parties I was looking at and for what reasons.
I believe that there are positives to seeing things from a socialist point of view. I want to always vote with the greater good of society in mind. I don’t disregard issues that don’t pertain to me as a Black, queer, Acadian woman. I still care about the cost of gas despite not driving because it affects people I love, people I don’t know, perhaps myself in the future, or people I hope to create someday. I see now that I was steered by the media into listening to the policies that affect and matter to the white man, and not to anyone else. I care about the homeless crisis in Moncton, I care about a Universal Basic Income, but I also care about denouncing racism in parliament, about clearing the record of people who were arrested for selling or carrying on them a substance which we have legalized, I care about the government letting Black historical buildings being torn down and contributing to our erasure, I care about the lack of Black Canadian history being taught in schools in New Brunswick.I’ve met and spoken to people who don’t understand politics. They feel it is too much effort to try to learn how to vote properly and would rather not notice what is going on in the society around them. To those people I say, you can do that because the system supports you and benefits you. But what if it didn’t? What if someday you are the minority? You have lost your rights? Who would fight for you? Who would vote for your rights to be reinstated? For you to be treated like a human? I urge anyone reading this who has no political stance to take the time and start learning. It can take you a decade, just like it took me, but with knowledge comes power and great allyship. If we want the world to be a better place, we have to create that space.