10.06.2015

votepopup: voter education at the library

On the long list of anti-democratic policies the majority Harper Government has enacted, the Orwellian-named Fair Elections Act ranks near the top. More properly called a voter suppression law, the Act effectively disenfranchise tens of thousands of Canadians.

The Council of Canadians has taken the issue to court, including an ongoing Charter Challenge, but those won't affect the upcoming election. That means there's only one way to lessen the effects: voter education. 

Last night at the Malton Library, we contributed to that effort, with #VotePopUp, a voter education program for new Canadians. 

Some weeks ago, I learned that one of our libraries had hosted this program, and jumped onboard. I worked with an amazing community organizer, who has a bit of funding from Samara Canada and Elections Canada, and copious amounts of know-how through the Peel Poverty Action Group and her own nonprofit, Building Up Our Communities.

I promoted the program through various community organizations in Malton, and by chance it was scheduled on the same night as a newcomer ESL class, known here as LINC: Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada. These programs have been hit hard by Conservative and Liberal budget cuts (do you see a pattern here?), but thanks to dedicated teachers and social workers, they survive.

So last night, 39 adults crowded into a room in the Malton Community Centre to talk about voting. 

Why vote? Am I eligible to vote? Where do I vote? What ID do I need? How do I mark the ballot? ... and a few dozen similar questions were answered. Many of the students have voted in their original countries and are very keen to do so in Canada. Many of their original countries make voting much easier; others, more difficult. 

The program is completely nonpartisan, of course. By another excellent coincidence, there is an all-candidates meeting in Malton tonight, the night following the program. We were able to distribute flyers and explain what would happen at that meeting.

The presenter had prepared a mock ballot, and students chose the issue most important to them: jobs, transit, education, healthcare, and so on. Jobs won by a landslide. Using that, I was able to demonstrate how this would tie in with an all-candidates meeting: "What will your party do to bring more jobs to my community?" 

The library is the perfect place for a program like this. Our customers can use free, public computers to register to vote or look up their polling station. They can ask experts for free (and friendly!) help. They can use their library cards as a piece of voting ID. The public library is all about democracy and levelling the grossly unfair playing field. Voter education is naturally a piece of that picture.

6 comments:

Stephanie said...

This is excellent, concratulations.

Stephanie said...

*conGratulations. :D

John F said...

Here's a CBC story from Nova Scotia that may interest you: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/federal-election-harper-no-support-1.3257546

Briefly, it details how two stalwart Nova Scotia Tories (one a former cabinet minister, the other the son of a Tory Premier) are so disgusted with Harper that they have decided to support the Liberals.

Atlantic Canada was a traditional Tory stronghold, but a lot of people here despise the current government. I think it comes from the old Reform Party's contempt for this region.

I think the election is going to be a complete disaster for Harper out here. Even some of the true-blue rural ridings are polling with a 20-point Liberal lead.

1993 was the year the blue Jays last won the World Series, a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup, and the Tories lost all but two seats in the House of Commons. Let's party like it's 1993!

laura k said...

Thank you, Steph!

John, I saw that story but didn't understand the implications. VERY cool! Plus we really don't know what the west will do, given the surprise appearance of Nenshi. We could be in for a bigger surprise than we realize. Bring on 1993!

John F said...

You didn't mention the biggest western surprise of all: an NDP majority government in Alberta. I live in Nova Scotia now, but I did most of my growing up in Lethbridge, in Alberta's (shall we say) Deep South. That area has the largest population of Mormons outside of Utah.

The fact that any provincial riding south of Red Deer elected New Democrats still blows my mind. The province was passed from several generations of Socreds to several of Tories like a family inheritance. If Rachel Notley can lead Alberta, anything can happen.

laura k said...

Family inheritance, I like that. Talk about entitled. Yes, I should have said that Nenshi was perhaps a foreshadowing of Notley.

I am clinging to the belief that the current polls are wrong.