The pollsters are saying that today’s provincial election is too close to call, which means that every vote counts.
Therefore, we want to encourage every one who can – that is every person of voting age who is a Canadian citizen – to exercise your franchise today and cast your vote. The right to have a say in who will make the decisions that govern our lives is no small matter, and we must never take it for granted.
But even as all are encouraged to go to the polls, members of this community have to make it a priority to go one step further once the election is over. Regardless of which political party comes out ahead, we must begin to hold our provincial parliamentarians accountable. We must demand that they represent our interests. It is, after all, the reason they were voted in.
We have to see to it that once in office they do right by our community.
We look for instance at the few Black politicians who have entered politics at both the provincial and municipal levels. In much the same way that other politicians will inevitably campaign on change, almost like clockwork you can expect any Black person running for public office to express that they are running to represent all the people in their constituency.
We’ve come to expect, while being uncomfortable with it, that politicians from our community would have to deny their own simply to reassure other voters that they are not trying to get elected to promote some unspecified, so-called Black agenda.
The reality is that Black politicians at any level do not, for the most part, place any concentrated effort on bringing to the table issues that are most important to Black constituents. So we need to call them on their commitment to their own community while they are busy paying attention to the concerns of every other special interest.
These days, the politics of the special interest group is the new strategy for winning votes. We saw it with the Stephen Harper government in the budget before the last federal election when goodies were being promised to specific groups, with tax breaks for piano lessons and volunteer firefighters and subsidies for home renovations. And we saw it during this provincial election campaign when Dalton McGuinty, aiming to woo the ‘ethnic’ vote, promised tax credits to employers hiring new Canadian accountants, architects and engineers.
Any politician who wants to be assured of the vote of the Black electorate should likewise have to make it his or her priority to address the concerns of our community.
But also members of the community must begin to demand more.
The lone Black Member of Provincial Parliament in the last government was Margarett Best, who held the post of Minister of Health Promotion and Sport. Are we satisfied that she did all she could to address health concerns specific to the Black community? As much as we support her and want to see her not only win but also to again be in Cabinet, we need to see to it that she addresses our concerns.
As an example, breast cancer screening becomes routine for women at the age of 50. The problem with that program is that the incidence of breast cancer among Black women, while not as high as the larger population, occurs statistically at a much younger age, so that routine screening needs to begin for Black women perhaps in their 30s. Yet, screening is skewed toward the age that breast cancer becomes more evident among White women. Issues like these must be brought to the attention of those to whom we give our vote.
Now that targeted campaigning is the new way that politicians are reaching out to voters we have to make sure that we are plugging into that strategy.
So get out and vote for the politician you believe will best serve our community, but remember that in our own interests we as constituents also have a job to do the day after.