People really do care about the outcome of this election! We have seen record numbers of people come out to the meet the candidates sessions we have hosted with our community partners. We ran out of chairs for both the Kitchener Centre and Waterloo riding sessions and added additional discussion tables in both.
Well over 350 people have joined with us in recent weeks to discuss the social issues they believe are important for this Federal Election and also to find out more where the various parties and candidates stand. Fear, anger and hope are intertwined with confusion about how to place our one single all important vote.
So what does matter to people and why is there such concern about who to vote for?
People are concerned about income insecurity for all ages, rising costs and our ability to afford housing, food, health care and prescription drugs. They are concerned about our youth, the high cost of education and uncertainty for the future. And too there is concern about how we treat immigrants and our aboriginal peoples. People also talked about infrastructure, public transportation, fair taxation and accountable government.
Although similar to a great extent, there were some differences in what was emphasized at the Kitchener Centre and Waterloo riding discussions. Based on the number of times words were recorded in the notes, the word clouds below show that affordable housing, income and costs are more evident in the Kitchener Centre discussion, whereas the Waterloo discussion it is health care, affordability, refugees and seniors.
Kitchener Centre, September 30th 2015 Waterloo, October 5th 2015
One point, underlying people’s concerns about who to vote for, is that current Government policies do not reflect caring about people, particularly those who are most in need. We have a care crisis in insufficient, or lack of, support for those who are not active market participants: the very young, the elderly and those who have various challenges to being competitive in the marketplace. Following on this, is a crisis of affordability in that if you can’t afford to purchase all of what you need for basic needs and other things such as caring for loved ones, you are on your own. Even if you have marketable skills and are able to work, are there meaningful jobs that pay a decent wage to be able to cover all of these costs? Things seem to be spiraling out of control, made even worse by increasing costs at every turn.
We have not figured out how, as a nation nor as communities, to care for those in need of support. This is fairly new, since women entered the workforce in record numbers. Do we really expect that caring can be kept in the private realm with women returning to traditional caregiver role? Caring IS a public issue and we must recognize the true cost of caring in our society is the most important public investment to make from our shared tax revenue.
Which party will lead the Federal Government to fulfill its responsibility to set national standards and ensure there is an adequate transfer of tax dollars for provincial and municipal governments to fulfill their mandated responsibilities? Putting people first and addressing all of the areas relevant to caring for people is a good place to start and a can be the point from which to gauge progress in the future. Caring, compassion and fairness are Canadian values which, if put front and centre, can help us determine the most important issues to be addressed.
Regardless of the outcomes of the election, Canadians must continue to discuss these issues so we can drive the direction of our elected officials in significant and meaningful ways.