Combatting Cynicism Through Engagement

Citizens are increasingly uninterested in politics. This phenomenon has existed for years, and it doesn’t look like things are going to change any time soon.

Who can blame them?

It has become easier and easier to focus on the negative, on controversies that frustrate us all. They’re in the news every day. The scandals are piling up. The completely natural reaction to this sometimes caustic and disappointing atmosphere is to quietly withdraw from politics.

But this withdrawal has now reached dangerous levels. Our cynicism is slowly eroding our country. It’s a vicious circle: the less we get involved, the less government represents us, the less we identify with it, the less we get involved, and so on and so on.

Some politicians and governments fully deserve the public’s contempt. It’s undeniable. But by focusing only on these cases, we’re ignoring the foundation of our society: democracy.

Upholding democracy

Citizens are at the heart of democracy. In a representative democracy like ours, the role of citizens is to vote for candidates in free and fair elections to represent them in their political institutions.

Let’s be honest: Canada’s democracy is not perfect. But you could search the four corners of the world and still not find the perfect democracy.

But that does not change the fact that the health of our institutions and the ability of our elected representatives to reflect the needs and priorities of citizens depends directly on the public’s involvement in politics.

A government for everyone

A democratic government belongs to us all.

Democracy means more than going to a polling booth every four years to check a box on a ballot.

It means contacting your elected representative. It means participating in public debates to contribute to political discussions in a constructive manner. It means sending a clear message to elected representatives about the values and issues that are important to us through letters, petitions or the media.

It also means speaking out loud and clear when we disagree with the government’s actions, as we did with our protest against employment insurance reform. It means making our family, our neighbours and our colleagues aware of the harm being done to others and the action that needs to be taken.

Combatting cynicism

Despite the temptation, I have always refused to sink into pessimism. As an MP, my work is guided by the firm belief that things can change for the better.

And when I see young people getting involved, I know I have reason to hope. Think of the young Cree people who left northern Quebec and trekked 1,500 km to Ottawa to educate Canadians about the importance of Aboriginal issues as well as collective issues (environmental protection, respect for public consultations, etc.). Their actions were seen my millions of people. It is impossible to ignore their motives and the issues that are important to them.

Concrete solutions

We need not only strong institutions but also a political culture that protects and defends our values. The only way to ensure these essential elements is to get involved. Let the voice of women, youth, seniors and all minorities be heard all the way to Parliament.

Don’t hesitate to contact your MP about an issue that’s important to you. Send emails. Set up a meeting at their constituency office. Sign petitions. Join community organizations. Get involved.

Every citizen has the right to be heard. Together, we can change Canada. Because we deserve better.

Anne Minh-Thu Quach