Vote anyway

  • October 3, 2008
{mosimage}The federal election campaign has been anything but inspiring for Canadians. Most of what passes for debate has been name-calling, accusations of lying and trivial arguments over whose commercials were the most unfair.
For Catholics especially, the dearth of any significant consideration of issues relating to human life and death has been especially disappointing. No national political party is willing to even talk about the need to reduce the scourge of abortion, whether through legislative or other means. No one has mentioned euthanasia. Stem-cell research? Not a word.

If you dig through the party platforms on their web sites, there are references to child care — an issue dear to all Catholics who care about helping mothers struggling to juggle child responsibilities with the need to keep their households afloat financially. But you won’t hear the political leaders debating the merits of their proposals. There are also proposals — loads of them in fact — from the various parties to deal with poverty in one fashion or another. But they, too, have suffered from lack of attention to their relative merits.

Similarly, there has been little debate over Canada’s military venture in Afghanistan — a life and death issue if ever there was one. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced early in the campaign that he would pull Canadian troops out of the country at the end of the current mission in 2011 — regardless of conditions there or the needs of Canada’s international partners. Since the Liberals have no more coherent strategy than the Conservatives and the New Democrats have little new to say, that issue, too, has fallen off the radar screen.

Admittedly, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion has struggled gamely to turn the environment into a vote-worthy issue. Alas, even that plan has been buried under its own complexity and Conservative distortions.

So what is a voter who cares about the issues to do? Our Catholic faith requires civic participation that is thoughtful and oriented by our social teaching. It means we will have to do our own homework and push our candidates to answer our questions — not the ones the political campaigns want us to ask. It means finding out where our local candidates stand on human life issues, even if their parties have either no or different positions. It means not being distracted by the fake anger and histrionics of the political leaders. Instead, keep focused on how they will improve life for all Canadians, especially those who are marginalized, poor and vulnerable, and how they will truly reduce greenhouse gases and foster an economy that is fair and equitable for everyone.

To be Catholic, filled with our desire to live out Jesus’ command to bring His love to the world, means being political. It means working with others to create a more compassionate, just and healthier world. Voting is neither the beginning nor the end of political participation for Catholics. But it is an essential act of solidarity with all of humankind.

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