As Canada heads to the polls today, Barbara Jean is musing on the topic of voting.
I grew up in a family where voting was taken very seriously, but party politics was rarely, if ever discussed. I'm sure my parents must have spoken to each other about their political choices but they never told us kids who they voted for. I remember asking on several occasions and being told straight out that "it was a secret ballot".
As a child I always wished that my house had one of the big signs out front. I didn't care what colour it was, just that we had one, but nope. No signs at our house.
Both of my parents were municipal civil servants so I'm sure that was part of it. They had to work directly with the elected officials after they came into power so advertising their preferences on the front lawn probably would not have been wise.
Even when I turned voting age and began to form my own political values my parents wouldn't influence me one way or the other. We often discussed values and what we felt were important qualities in leaders in general, but I still, to this day, am not sure which political party they support, if any.
Now, as a civil servant myself, I wonder if they felt the way that I do. I know that the political party in power has influence over the way that tax dollars are distributed, and how policy and programs are developed, but I also know that the day after the election, thousands of bureaucrats will go back to work and continue to keep the government running. They will deliver the services that the country needs to function. They will write the policies that determine how those services are delivered and they will look for ways to improve those services with the funds that have been allocated.
Civil servants can get a pretty bad rap sometimes, but in my experience, and really that's all any of us can speak to, I happen to have worked with several brilliant, dedicated and hardworking people who have a calling to make government work better.
But this post wasn't supposed to be about government, it was supposed to be about voting.
The act of voting has always been a very emotional experience for me. I get a lump in my throat when I enter the school gym, or local church basement. I look around at all of my neighbours who have taken the time out of their regular routine to stand up and be counted. I always think about how lucky we are to be able to do that, when in so many other places in the world the people have been silenced.
Voting day itself always reminds me of my dear friend Derek. Growing up, he was the person I knew who was most interested in politics and history. He knew the names and backgrounds of all the world leaders and loved a good debate--qualities that were extremely rare in my small town high-school circle. We would talk on the phone while watching the CBC coverage with Peter Mansbridge (in fact Mr. Mansbridge is associated with most of my memories of major world events...but that's another post entirely).
For the last 13 years, voting is something that my husband and I have done together. Each and every election day we walk to our local polling station to cast our ballots. Today, for the first time we went on our own. It just didn't work out, trying to juggle two kids, and my long day with commuting. I have to admit, it was not the same going by myself.
My wish for this voting day is that all my Canadian friends and family take the time to stand up and be counted. I believe that voting is not only our right, but also our responsibility.