Members of the Canadian Federation of University Women are are trying again to make a better election period by urging candidates to join the Better Ballot Campaign. The promotion was launched Wednesday evening at the 10C Shared Community Space, and this time, the project is going nation-wide.
The first Better Ballot Campaign was started in Guelph last fall as part of way to encourage more civil discourse in the Municipal Election, and it was signed by many of the candidates. The goal with this Better Ballot is the same, but with the additional support of 25 other CFUW chapters taking up the challenge in their own backyard, to create a more substantive and less vitriolic Federal election period.
“We’re really a way to encourage people to be involved in more civil discussions and respectful debate,” sad Teresa McKeeman who’s again helping to organize the campaign. “We want to make sure that this campaign is a safe place for everyone to participate in political life, and by doing so, we believe that it’s actually going to support more diversity in our political conversations.”
McKeeman reinforced that the Better Ballot Campaign is not open to only left-leaning candidates, and it’s not in business to endorse certain candidates either. Their interest is only in asking candidates to live up to the promise outlined in the code of conduct of many of the Federal parties.
“We think civility and politics is good for everybody,” she said. “We’ve heard in the news, that [Environment Minister] Catherine McKenna feels that she now needs a security detail. Nobody should enter politics and feel that they have to be protected from physical or emotional threats.”
Reverend John Borthwick of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church said that he learned first hand how ugly politics can get after hosting two candidate forums during the Municipal Election where he pointedly tried to avoid conflict and confrontation between the candidates. Borthwick made the point that it’s in human nature to get negative, and as politicos and politicians, we have to overcome our basic natures.
“We’ve decided that if you don’t have a thick skin, if you don’t know how to play the game, if you’re not tough enough for the arena that politics is in, then you shouldn’t be there in the first place, and what a strange way of expressing what the ideals of being a Canadian are,” Borthwick said.
“If we’re going to invite all people to the table, and if politics is for everyone, then you don’t say that only certain people can come if they can afford it, or if they know the language of how to do politics, or that there’s some kind of toughness needed,” Borthwick added. “You can’t expect that in this country because everybody has a part to play in the political system.”
One of the people playing a part is Hannah Ruuth. Ruuth is a student at the University of Guelph in the public administration program. She was also a Daughter of the Vote, and went to Ottawa representing her home riding of Windsor-Tecumseh, before spending her summer as an intern in the Prime Minister’s Office. Ruuth has already seen first-hand how ugly politics can get.
“At Daughters of the Vote, a young woman from Edmonton was ridiculed online for condemning Islamophobia in the House,” Ruuth said. “She felt so uncomfortable that she said on her Twitter that she wouldn’t comment on anything political ever again because she didn’t feel comfortable. She knew she’d be harassed, and she just didn’t want to face that again.”
Ruuth added that she takes inspiration from other women in politics, like Karina Gould, the Minister of Democratic Institutions who last year became the first sitting cabinet minister to give birth. Ruuth says its good to have young mothers in politics as they know first hand the challenges that other working young mothers face.
At the very least, Ruuth wishes politics would put its best face forward like her experience at the PMO. “We had women’s lunches, and all the staff around me were really supportive, and mentoring, and if we can make all political spaces like that, and we can make that inclusion for everyone, that would be awesome”
Liberal candidate Lloyd Longfield, NDP candidate Aisha Jahangir, and People’s Party candidate Mark Paralovos were all on hand for the launch of Better Ballot, and while Longfield and Jahangir both signed the pledge, Paralovos had some specific concerns.
“It’s a double-edged sword because they want a fair campaign, but there are debates excluding me and my party,” Paralovos said. The candidate was likely referring to an October 3 debate on the environment that he’s not been invited to.
Parolovos added that he would like to sign the Better Ballot Campaign pledge because he believes in the ideals of a better political discourse. “I believe in respectful debates, and I’m willing to stand up for ideas because that’s what campaigns are all about.”