COLUMN: Make your vote count

We have the a privilege of electing our individual MPs to the next Parliament, which we should not take for granted.

Although the federal election has officially been under way since Aug. 2, it only really began in earnest this week.

There was one leaders’ debate in August, the details of which no one can now recall. There were few election signs up and attempts by candidates to portray themselves as saints and their opponents as sinners have, for the most part, gone unheard.

Far too much media attention focuses on party leaders. This is not only unhealthy for democracy, as it makes leaders think they are in charge of the entire campaign and every aspect of their parties, but it also ignores reality. We vote for candidates in our own ridings. We elect them as our representatives in Ottawa. They are far more than just puppets on a string controlled by a leader and his aides.

Surrey and Delta have had many good MPs over the years, from six different political parties – Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Social Credit, Reform and Canadian Alliance. Surrey-North voters also elected Chuck Cadman as an independent in 2004, and that was a decision that is very relevant to this election.

In October, people living in this area will elect six MPs who will then go to Ottawa. It is quite likely they will be part of some high-stakes drama when they arrive, as current polling results indicate no party will gain a majority in Parliament. This is good for democracy, as it means no leader can act as an absolute dictator, as has happened far too much in our Parliament.

This trend started in earnest under Pierre Trudeau, who famously said MPs were nobodies when they were a few yards off Parliament Hill. Brian Mulroney eased up a bit, but Jean Chretien did Trudeau one better, and Stephen Harper is far more controlling than Chretien was.

In a minority Parliament, leaders have to be careful how they treat their own MPs. Independents and parties with a few seats, which will likely be the case for the Greens and Bloc Quebecois, will have a significant role to play.

It seems likely at this juncture that Surrey and Delta will elect Conservative and NDP MPs, and possibly a Liberal. Former MP Sukh Dhaliwal has a decent chance to win re-election after a four-year absence from Ottawa. He is running in the riding of Surrey-Newton. He will be competing against incumbent NDP MP Jinny Sims and Conservative candidate Harpreet Singh.

Given that there is likely to be a minority Parliament, electing MPs of character who will do more than just bow meekly to their leaders’ orders makes sense. It is entirely possible that decisions in Ottawa will come down to one vote. That’s what happened in 2005, when Cadman’s vote was the deciding one in the Paul Martin Liberal government surviving.

Unfortunately, Cadman was already battling cancer at that time and he did not live much longer. His integrity and willingness to run as an independent after losing the Conservative nomination set a high standard for future Surrey MPs.

There will be plenty of chances to find out more about the candidates for the three major parties in the six local ridings ­- in person, in print or via the airwaves or Internet.

Despite the negativity from many politicians, Canada is a great place to live and we have the a privilege of electing our individual MPs to the next Parliament, which we should not take for granted. Take the process seriously. Do not believe everything you hear from politicians (of all parties) and take the time to research the candidates, so your vote will truly count on Oct. 19.

Frank Bucholtz is the recently retired editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.


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