IT WAS TOUGH NEWS for the Liberal party last week, when photographs of Justin Trudeau in 2001 and previous years in brown-face and black-face hit the news like a bombshell. The news was met by immediate apologies from Trudeau and harsh criticisms by the other major political parties.
Just as quickly, political pundits started to comment on what the impact of the pictures from years ago will have on the upcoming Oct. 21 election. The jury is still out. What the political pundits are saying is that the polls are still ambiguous as to whether the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP or Greens are winners or losers because of the controversy.
What I say, polls or no polls, is that the real losers are disaffected voters. Disaffected voters are voters who just don’t vote.
Polls of thousands of people have a place. But personally, from my experience, talking to people one on one is just as good at gathering useful information.
Over the years, for local, provincial and federal elections, for myself and for others, I have knocked on countless doors, and talked to thousands of people. The simple question I’ve asked people again and again is who they will be voting for.
What I have found, now and in the past, is that when there is a political controversy, all politicians are tarred with the same brush. I’ve certainly heard people tell me that they would be supporting one party or another. But what I have also heard time and time again, year after year, is a deep frustration with all politicians and the political process in general.
I am a political optimist. For me, politics is an opportunity to make positive change. Being in a democracy is one of the best ways to ensure accountability, because at the end of the day, politicians of every stripe know we can vote them out if they aren’t working in the public’s interest.
And along the way, we get to vote for some amazing people to represent us. Not every person we vote for gets in, and not every elected politician does a good job. But enough do to make a difference in the long run.
That’s what I believe. But having knocked on thousands of doors, I know that many people don’t share my optimism.
Door knocking over the years, comments like, “I don’t trust any of them,” “they are all the same,” and, worst of all, “I don’t vote, they’re in it for themselves” are some of the more polite things disenchanted people have said to me. And I’ve heard the same comments again and again, election after election, for federal, provincial and municipal elections.
In my mind, one of the biggest threats of last week’s controversy around Trudeau’s brown and black-faced pictures is how voters will turn away from all political parties.
Some may argue that people differentiate between politicians of different stripes. True for many. But when close to one in three don’t vote at all, it’s a sign that for many, no political party is worth their vote.
Only 68 per cent voted in the last federal election. My hope is that more, not fewer people choose to vote this time around. My worry is that might not be the case.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.