The road ahead

Maude Barlow
4 years ago

Celebrate the vote

Last night, a historic election surprised and stunned us all. There are many thoughts and emotions that surface for me right now and I want to share them with you.

First, I am so very proud of the work the Council of Canadians – our staff, board, chapter activists and especially supporters like you – undertook over the last year to boost voter turnout and bring change to Ottawa.

Together we organized town hall meetings in 10 battleground cities, providing a forum for thousands of concerned voters to debate key local and national issues, and galvanize those concerns into action.

The Council’s tireless team of volunteer chapter activists organized a total of 200 election activities across 39 communities, including door-to-door canvassing, all-candidates debates, and information tables at community events. And we worked closely with First Nations on their voter registration programs. In total, we distributed more than 185,000 copies of our Voter’s Guides.

Thanks to your support, we were also able to reach the most vulnerable in our communities, such as in Peterborough, Ontario where the Council organized buses to bring low-income voters to register with Elections Canada. And in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, we handed out copies our Voter’s Guides at the local food bank to ensure people had the tools to know how to vote and to cast an informed ballot.

Then there was the incredibly successful campaign led by Brigette DePape to boost young voter turnout. She built a remarkable team of “Game-Changers,” students volunteers who took action across 20 college and university campuses, including our wildly successful “Storm the Dorm,” where we put more than 50,000 Ballot Box Toolboxes directly into the hands of young and first-time voters.

The result? This morning Elections Canada is reporting that three million more Canadians voted in this federal election than in the last. Wow!

The second reason why I’m so proud is of course that the country rejected the Harper Conservatives’ vision and record, and sent Stephen Harper packing. In the months leading up to the election, your support helped the Council of Canadians publish detailed analyses of the Harper record and get this information out far and wide, giving voters concrete evidence of its destructive nature. It was actually sad to see Stephen Harper standing with Rob Ford in a last-ditch appeal.

Together, we also were successful in putting forward issues dear to our hearts – such as challenging destructive trade deals, exposing the violation of the right to water in First Nations communities, condemning the assault on civil society and charities, fighting climate change and pipelines, and trumpeting the need to protect and strengthen our public health care system. Well done all!

Finally, you and I should take pride in the apparent overall lack of electoral fraud in this election. The Council has worked flat-out to restore the integrity of Canada’s democracy in the wake of the robocall scandall and so-called “Fair” Elections Act that followed. The unflinching support of people like you has enabled the Council to fight these attacks on our democracy in the courts and expose them to the Canadian public.

But now you and I must turn our attention to the work ahead.

While such a majority for one party might not have been our desired outcome, and while we are sad at the loss of many dedicated MPs, we can move forward now to hold the Liberals accountable for their promise of a new way of doing things and a more open and democratic government.

Together, you and I will be insisting that Justin Trudeau makes good on his promises of holding a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, negotiating a new Health Accord with the provinces, instituting electoral reform and fixing the “Fair” Elections Act, ending the war on charities, repealing anti-union legislation, repealing parts of Bill C-51, welcoming more refugees to Canada, protecting the Great Lakes, and banning oil tankers off the West Coast, among other promises.

There are a number of fronts where you and I will have to be particularly on guard, including on trade, where the Liberals support the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its European counterpart, CETA, both of which contain the destructive investor-state dispute settlement mechanism; on water, where the Liberals support flawed public-private partnerships for our water utilities; and on climate, where they support pipelines such as Energy East. We need to send the new Liberal government to the Paris climate talks this December with a clear mandate for swift and meaningful action on climate change.

But today is a day for you, me and the Council of Canadians community to celebrate a new future for Canada and welcome new and returning MPs from all parties back to Parliament. May a new day of cooperation and respect attend their return to the House of Commons, and a new day of civility begin between elected officials and the people of Canada.

With hope and resolve,

Maude

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