Growing up on a farm in Saskatchewan, elections were exciting. My father was hard core CCF and as a kid, I loved to listen to him talk about the time he went to Rosetown to hear Tommy Douglas speak in person.
In 1960, the enclosed verandah on our farmhouse acted as a polling station. One by one, our neighbors moved on through, casting their votes, privacy assured by the flannel sheet hung across the back with binder twine. I remember the sound of scrutineers, sitting and chatting, powered by a steady supply of mom’s coffee and baked goods. The CCF won that election handily.
From a five-year-old’s perspective, it was all so strange, secretive and important.
Then came the election of 1964 when I was 10. I remember being roused in the night by roaring engines, bright lights and something I couldn’t quite place. Two cars were going round and round our front yard, honking their horns and dragging tin cans behind them.
The Liberals had won. My Dad went out and had a drink with them. That was when politics was still civil.
I cast my first vote at 18 in the 1972 federal election in Lloydminster, unsure about which side of the border to vote from.
Almost a decade later, I accepted a job with Alberta Social Services where I witnessed firsthand how the values of the governing party impact citizens’ lives — the marginalized, in particular.
Armed with a new perspective about the tangible importance of politics, I started volunteering on campaigns. As an NDP supporter, there was a relentless frustration in being the underdog, election after election. Yet, it was inspiring; I met many like-minded people, co-operating as a team and committed to shared values and beliefs.
Fast-forward to 2015 and we were living in Medicine Hat. When I went to vote, I knew the NDP would win. There was a line up. People were openly rebellious. The atmosphere was electric. We’d all had enough of floor crossings, infighting and entitlement.
That night, at the election party hosted at a local restaurant, I cried. Everyone did. It was magical. I could imagine my dad in heaven playing his fiddle.
I wonder what this month’s election has in store for me — for all of us. What I do know for sure is what that five-year-old girl learned watching the goings on in the verandah: Voting is important.
Please, no matter where you stand, vote. And think carefully before you do.