It’s a line I won’t soon forget. A woman I spoke with at her door said it to me a few weeks ago.
We've been knocking on doors across Kitchener Centre for more than two months now, and as I've done before, I’ll share another major theme: the large number of people who feel left behind by our political system.
The statistics are staggering: in Kitchener Centre last federal election, 24,225 eligible voters didn’t vote at all. That’s one third of all those eligible.
The past couple months of meeting people disillusioned with our democracy has put a face to a shared aspiration among Greens across the country: to do politics differently. And so in our campaign across Kitchener Centre, we've committed to do these four things:
1. Showing up
Not only have most people told us that we’re the first ones to knock on their door this election, I’ve been surprised by the number that didn’t expect me - the person actually seeking to represent them - to be at their door at all. Even worse is the number of people who have shared that we’re not just the first ones to show up this year, but the first ones to show up, ever. Wow. I’ve relished these conversations. What a gift to have a candid moment to connect with a neighbour one on one, and share that, yes: this is what our democracy is supposed to be about. I’m applying for a job, and that begins with showing up, listening, and aspiring to represent what I hear. Whether the person ends up supporting our campaign or not - or whether they even choose to vote at all - at least their democracy showed up at their door. And we had the opportunity for a moment of genuine conversation; moments I’ll cherish long after this campaign has finished.
2. Turning down the partisanship
So many people have shared how repulsed they are with the hyper-partisan nature of our democracy: from heckling politicians in the House of Commons, to nasty attack ads. None of this is serving us, and it’s even more troubling at such a pivotal moment, when the need for decisive action is so great. In place of the divisiveness of left vs right, I’ve been sharing with our neighbours my interest in finding common ground: not only across Kitchener Centre, but in Ottawa as well. So much of what we’re working towards, from better health care, to addressing housing affordability to climate action, doesn’t need to be partisan. I learned this over the past decade working in a non-partisan way, at both Sustainable Waterloo Region and Green Economy Canada. Why would this change now? While I’m proud to share values with Greens around the world, I’m also keen to work across party lines on the priorities that matter most to people in Kitchener, and across the country. Elizabeth May and Mike Schreiner have modelled what this kind of collaboration and openness can achieve, and I’m looking forward to learning from their approach to getting things done.
3. Putting people ahead of politics
When I chose to run with the Greens earlier this year, it was for two reasons. First, because I share the Green Party’s core values - like social justice and sustainability. Second, because they encourage Green Members of Parliament to vote with their constituents, even if that means disagreeing with the party. In other words, there is no party line to hide behind in the name of ‘being a team player’. Instead, MPs are accountable to their community first, above their party. This means I can actually listen to what people across Kitchener Centre think, and act on those local priorities. With Green values as a foundation, we can talk about the party’s position, and hear whether this matches with the interests of people in our community.
4. Advocating for electoral reform
In the two months of listening to people at the door, and in small group conversations,, it has become clear that we must move toward a more representative democracy. I’m proud that demanding democratic renewal is part of the vision being advanced by the Green Party of Canada, and I fully expect it will also be one of the top priorities we share back from our campaign. We’ve heard it loud and clear: people across Kitchener are looking for a system that makes every vote count.
By showing up, by being less partisan, by putting people ahead of politics, and by advocating for electoral reform, my hope is not only to earn our neighbours’ trust in support of our campaign, but that together, we can start rebuilding trust in our democracy, one conversation at a time.