[twitter]“In Mother Russia, you can vote for the leader, but only if you’re a member of the party,” my friend joked in a thick accent as we shared beer and pizza at a fundraiser for Conservative Party Candidate, Ron Liepert.
Image via Conservative.ca
The only other party fundraiser I have ever attended was when Judy Tyabji invited me to see Justin Trudeau speak in support of a candidate in West Vancouver. Then, he was just a shining face of the future. Now, he is likely the next Prime Minister of Canada, and while not all of his views and statements align with mine, I do find myself to be a Liberal supporter more than a Conservative one.
And yet, as I write this, I am now officially a member of the Conservative Party of Canada. Harper’s Conservatives.
I have always been “into politics.” I can remember the Pierre Trudeau era elections of my childhood and asking my parents who they voted for. Usually it was Liberal, and even at 8 or 9 I remember being surprised my mother voted for Flora MacDonald.
I remember stopping then BC Premier Bill Van Der Zalm at the back of St Paul’s Church after an Easter Mass to go on at him about constitutional battles that Canada had been facing in the 80s. I was a small high school student, he toussled my hair, engaged me for a few minutes, and moved on.the scariest day in my life. I studied Canadian Studies in University and wrote many essays about separation and Lucien Bouchard. During the 1995 referendum, I got a tattoo on my ankle of a fleur de lis and maple leaf, and wrote letters to random names out of the phone book asking them to stay in Canada.
So while I have always been politically opinionated, I’ve never really been officially politically active. I have traded barbs on Twitter with everyone from Gilles Duceppe and Michael Ignatieff to Elizabeth May and Tony Clement. But that’s usually as far as it goes. I’m an armchair voter, heckling from the cheap seats.
But now, as I see my province and local school board making terrible planning decisions about the future of schools in Calgary, I’m getting more involved. There was a time last fall when I thought about running for Calgary School Board School Trustee. I didn’t because a good candidate was running, and looking back on it now, I didn’t/don’t know the first thing about how “the system” works, and I would have been swallowed up in it.
But I have been active from the sidelines, shouting at decision makers to get their heads out of the sand, and organizing with other parents to try and affect change.
In the past week I have received an email from Wild Rose Education Critic Bruce McAllister asking to go for coffee to discuss the problem. I’ve gotten in the face of MLA Christine Cussanelli, disgusted with the lack of foresight and infrastructure shown by the province
Yesterday morning I dragged Charlie around to coffee chats in the riding for two MLAs and, again, I got up in the grills of Ken Hughes and Alana DeLong to advocate for better infrastructure funding, and better growth planning for schools in my West Calgary.
IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM FROM THE OUTSIDE, JOIN THEM ON THE INSIDE
Which brings me back to the beer and pizza at the campaign launch for Ron Liepert.
Living in West Calgary means I am represented by, possibly, the worst MP in the history of the country. He may not be tainted with corruption and scandal in the House of Commons, but he sleeps, shouts down veterans, and speaks the most ignorant things at the absolute worst times.
My MP is Rob Anders. Despite being terrible, he has been elected to the House for 17 years. He is a Conservative, and in Calgary West that is all that matters. A goat could run for office, and as long as his banner was blue, he would be elected. The people in this riding won’t change. Heck, the people in the province have a hard time changing.
That’s what I will be doing. I have paid my $15 to join the Conservative Party of Canada. For the first time in my life, I am a member of a political party. When the nomination meeting is held, I will show up and try to defeat Rob Anders. When a Federal Election is called, it will be highly unlikely Liepert would get my support a second time, especially if Stephen Harper is still leader.
A funny thing happens when you start to care about the future that lay before your children. You will stop at nothing to try and make things better. You will get in the faces of decision makers. You will make noise about inadequacies. You will hold your nose and join their party to try and make things happen.
Getting inside the machine this past year has taught me a lot. I have seen how under qualified bureaucratic decision makers can be. I have seen how politicians will give audience to those who are loudest, yet will still stay on message, say the right thing, and not do much about it.
So I have joined the party to try and change things from the inside. My sister will likely disown me. My best friend will give me a hug. I will ask you to not sit on your hands and shake your head from the sidelines.
Tweet a politician. Show up at a coffee chat. Write an email. Join a party. Make a difference.