I went to Parliament Hill last week because I wanted to see the rooms, stand in the corridors and walk the grounds of the places that symbolize the epicenter of Canadian democracy. What I saw was a Parliament Hill that is literally under construction; there were scaffolds, cranes and caution tape at every turn. The construction is part of a massive government project designed to “preserve and rehabilitate” historic buildings. The construction exemplifies what happens when shared values are identified and a series of actions implemented to realize a shared vision. But, it’s not only buildings that require maintenance and vision–a healthy democracy is maintained by an engaged public pursuing a vision for their country.
Now, the thing about maintenance is that it’s often tedious and never-ending. It’s about fixing leaks, repairing foundations and caulking around toilets. There’s nothing glamorous about it. Being an engaged voter is often the same–tedious and never-ending. It’s about paying attention to credible news sources, talking to people from different walks of life and registering to vote. It’s about paying attention to candidates, knowing a bit about policies and reminding others to vote. There’s nothing glamorous about it.
So while pundits and pollsters discuss Steven Harper’s tone, Elizabeth May’s jewelery, Thomas Mulcair’s brow and Justin Trudeau’s hair there are two far more important things we need to ask ourselves and each other: What is each politician’s vision for Canada? and What is our vision for Canada?
The extent to which we participate in this election is about vision: What do we want to ‘preserve’ about Canada? What do we want to ‘rehabilitate’? and Which politicians are best equipped to get us there? We maintain our democracy for the same reasons we maintain our buildings. If we don’t, we invite in all manner of rot, vermin and mold. And getting those things removed and repaired is far more difficult and expensive than routine maintenance. So, let’s keep at it.