Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Voting overseas

Luckily I took some time earlier last week to catch up on friends' blogs, since I learned from one of them that the election was actually set. Since moving to Japan I've been pretty out of the loop in terms of news (Japanese, Canadian--everything, really). To my defense, I did know that there was probably going to be a federal election called soon, I just didn't know when specifically. But yeah, reading about electionproject.ca prompted me to get on the ball and to find out what I needed to do be able to vote from Japan.

Thankfully the process for obtaining a special ballot to vote while overseas doesn't seem to be too difficult. The Elections Canada website has a convenient "Get the special ballot voting kit" page which took me through a quick survey to determine my eligibility for the special ballot and then led me to a page to download the registration form. Now that I've gotten and printed out the scans of my driver's license from home, all I have to do is mail the form and documents (making sure it arrives in Ottawa by 6pm local time on October 7th).

Other than going through the information available on the aforementioned electionproject.ca site, however, I didn't really give much thought to how I would vote until I read another friend's post on "Who to vote for?" After reading about how she emailed the candidates in her riding to ask about their specific plans for poverty reduction and environmental sustainability, I decided I would at least check out the websites of the candidates in my riding (Mississauga-Erindale).

Maybe I'm just lazy, but simply doing that was enough for me to decide: I'm going to vote for Omar Alghabra (Liberal) again. I was impressed by the fact that it only took me a single click to find exactly the information I was looking for on his website: information about election issues and his plans for addressing them (in the "Your TOP Priorities" section). Admittedly it's a little lacking in details/specifics, but at least it shows that he is aware of more issues than health care (a perennial Canadian concern) and the environment. I was particularly reassured to see that he had immigration (and specifically the accreditation of foreign trained professionals) and affordable housing in his list of priorities. I wish I had seen something there about education, but I think I recall some things I read in his newsletters before...

At any rate, I think that if I spent just a little more time going through the website--reading past newsletters and press releases--I could probably find more detailed information about his policies.

When I looked at my Conservative candidate's webpage, however, the first thing I saw was stuff about Stephen Harper vs the Liberals which immediately gave me a bad impression. I mean, sure party stuff is important to consider in a federal election, but I'm voting for the candidate in my riding, not for a party. I don't need mudslinging propaganda-ish rhetoric: I want to know what the candidates think about specific issues and their plans/intentions to address them.

Along those lines, I couldn't find anything beyond the bio for the Green Party member, and nothing at all online for the NDP candidate. I suppose the Marxist-Leninist candidate could have a great website, but I decided it would probably be OK for me to just avoid researching that one altogether.

I guess I could be a bit more active and, like my friend, email the candidates to ask them their thoughts specifically, but I rather think that the type of information candidates make available, as well as how easily they make it available to the public says something about the character of the candidate and the type of relationship s/he intends to have with her/his constituents.

Just from spending 5 minutes on Alghabra's website, I felt like he actually cares about what his constituents think and that he tries to anticipate as well as address our concerns/needs. On the other hand, I felt mildly insulted (not to mention frustrated) that all I could find on the Conservative candidate's site was links to other Conservative websites and pro-Conservative, anti-Liberal propaganda.

I mean, if you want me to vote for you, could you at least tell me what YOU have been working on and what YOUR thoughts are on key issues? I'd like to think that I'm not completely biased against the Conversatives, but I admit that I don't think their policies are in line with what I want to see happening in Canada. So, it's not a good strategy to try to convince me to vote for you when the only real reason to do so that I can see from the website is that you're a Conservative candidate. I need to know why I should vote for you in spite of the fact that you're Conservative!

So yeah, maybe I'm not examining the different candidates' policies as closely as I should, but I nonetheless feel satisfied with my decision to vote for Alghabra (again).