This weekend marked four years since Canada lost a truly inspirational leader. Jack Layton's death in 2011 left a gaping wound in the political psyche of a populous hungry for change. In his final year leading the NDP, Jack helped create a groundswell of support for a refined political ethic sorely lacking in the official corridors of power in this country.
In his poignant final letter to Canadians Jack assures us all, regardless of our partisan allegiances, that in Canada "working for change can actually bring about change."
Layton had a strong faith in Canada's political future. He trusted the capacity of Canadians to make the changes necessary to see ourselves through to a better day. His charismatic and contagious hopefulness helped many Canadians glimpse what is possible when we care for ourselves, each other and even our political system.
A non-partisan call to young Canadians
Whether it is climate change or income inequality, immigration or affordable housing, we have a long road to climb towards the solutions that our future needs.
We are in the early days of an unconventionally long election campaign. On one hand this gives Canadians more time to educate themselves on the different party platforms. On the other, it runs the risk of allowing the political mud-slinging to get out of control, effectively leading to an increasingly disengaged populous.
In 2011 only 38 per cent of young Canadians voted. Jack knew that without young people's enthusiasm politics won’t change. Because of Jack's respectful recognition of the role of young Canadians in shaping politics, many of us have in return placed our trust in the NDP. But even the NDP still has a long way to go. In 2015 the NDP are running young candidates in only around 15 per cent of Canada’s ridings.
Young Canadians need a reason to turn out to the polls. Running young candidates motivates youth to take an interest in the political process. But when these candidates are forced to conform to rigid party lines we fail to empower their energy to change the system from within.
As a collective voting bloc, young Canadians need motivation to look past the broken electoral system we inherited and begin to build the one we desire. We need leadership that allows us to voice frustration with partisan discourse while experimenting with strategic voting concepts. We don't just want to be counted, we want to be respected, whether we find reasons to vote or not.
Voting together to turf the Conservatives
There is a growing campaign mobilizing voters across the country to ensure a non-Conservative government is elected in October.
Leadnow's Vote Together strategy breaks from partisan politics while at the same time working within the limitations of our current system. Leadnow is a non-partisan organization made up of all ages but heavily youth-driven and led.
Using traditional polling methods (over 7,500 polled between August 15-18), tech savvy community organizing and crowd funding, Leadnow is set to influence 72 swing ridings. Their strategy is to support candidates who uphold progressive Canadian values, be they Liberal, Green, NDP or independent, and who stand a chance at defeating their local Conservative competition.
Vote Together asks Canadians to see this coming election as a turning point. While the focus remains squarely on defeating Harper, the underlying philosophy is one of collective action that transcends the differences which make politics divisive.
While strategic voting is a contentious concept in Canada, it is seen by many as a viable option to make progressive votes count. The truth is Canadians need intelligent guidance navigating the dismal political rhetoric thrown across party lines.
Voting is a singular and individual act, one we all have the right to execute without influence or coercion. But the results of elections are collectively felt, and more often than not they are felt most by those marginalized from the electoral process — such as new immigrants, working class families, youth/children, and the elderly.
Vote Together proposes that if we want to manifest a collective vision for a better future we have to work together to rework our political system. This work does not end with the election but that is where it must begin.
How might our political system change if Canadians, young and old, began to see voting as a collective act? Would we become better political conversationalists? Would we learn to look past our partisan differences and gaze into the heart of what really matters?
I would like to think that Jack Layton would have been very pleased with Leadnow's efforts. By uniting ourselves against what we know is bad for us we are establishing a practice that will help us create political mechanisms that get us to where we want to be. This is what young leadership offers and why Layton was such a firm believer in it. Layton wished nothing more but to see the ingenuity, creativity and passion of youth influence the heart of politics. Let's vote together and see what lies around the corner.