By Rabia Khedr
A pandemic, a minority government and our 44th election–nothing we asked for, but have to do right by. An election in the midst of the fourth wave of this pandemic is not what many Canadians wanted, but this is politics. It is indeed a defining moment in our history as a country. As a society, we have to take our responsibility seriously, as societies before us did when they rose out of wars and disasters. They worked to carve a path towards a better tomorrow by adopting progressive laws and programs to protect rights and ensure the well-being of vulnerable citizens.
September 20 is soon approaching. Who we entrust with the future of our country, as we recover through this pandemic, will shape our post-pandemic values and determine the quality of life of every Canadian–including Canadians with disabilities. Disabled people are the largest minority group in this country, and they are a group that everyone who may have been born able-bodied has the potential to join as they age or face a mishap in this journey of life.
As Covid-19 took hold of the world, we became aware of many vulnerabilities. The greatest realization that struck me was the fact humanity is helpless in the face of nature. More importantly, I realized that we people with disabilities face increased difficulty in societies struggling to save their non-disabled citizens. However, I also realized that I have to use the power I have to protect the rights of people with disabilities today, and those who may acquire disabilities tomorrow. In democracy, the greatest power we have as citizens is our right to vote.
Our democratic duty is so overwhelming for many. The attack ads, debates, media coverage and everyday poll results are not helping voters make informed decisions. People are complacent and think their vote isn’t going to change anything. They don’t know who to vote for because they think all politicians are the same.
I never thought about researching a candidate or party. Regardless of my political science major, I did not think about checking out party platforms until this election nor did I think much about how the local candidate fits within their party.
Here’s my straight talk to encourage you to make an informed choice and go vote. First, go to each party’s website and review the various platforms. Please make an informed decision about who you want in power. Whoever wins this election will make laws and regulations that will impact you and the people you care about. You have to ask yourself what really matters to you that the candidates you elect will actually commit to and implement.
Is it the health and well-being of the society and programs and services you want to see? Is it saving a few dollars out of your income with tax is reduced that you want to see? Don’t just get swayed by what the media is saying or candidates’ speeches. Take the time to read their actual party platforms. Examine these carefully to determine where you fit in to their proposed initiatives–or not.
It is also very important that you learn about your local candidate. You have to see if the candidate holds some weight to influence policy in the House of Commons. Electing a candidate who has no power–even when they support issues that matter to us–is problematic in a democracy. Therefore, it is very important to be strategic about the local candidate we support, and the influence that they and their party ultimately have in our Parliament. So, the candidate we support, and that candidate’s relationship with their party leader, as well as the popularity of that party leader to ultimately be Prime Minister are important. If you do not vote, you are giving your vote away to the candidate or party you do not want in power. If you do not believe in any of the parties or candidates, you have to vote to support the ones who will do less damage to the issues that matter to you.
For me, this election is really about programs and services. I am not so interested in saving a few dollars in taxes. I am more interested in supports for people with disabilities, programs that support women and opportunities that support our youth. Although foreign affairs are important to me, I don’t expect much differences to the status quo in policy going forward, regardless of which party takes power. I need to see myself as a racialized, Muslim woman with a disability reflected in a party and platform in order to feel confident that the next government will respond to what truly matters to me.
The one thing I have learned out of this pandemic is that we really need to build forward better. We have to have a new resolve, a new consciousness, an intentional outlook to shape society that shares and cares where nobody is left behind. Leaving nobody behind begins with the Canada Disability Benefit and all party support for it. I am with the 89% of Canadians who have said that it’s time we address disability poverty for the 1.4 million people with disabilities in Canada. “Nothing about us without us“.