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Opinion

Is politics a dirty word?

Voters in Dorval and Lachine might recognize my photo on this column as looking like one of the candidates on their ballot in the September 4 election. Yes, it is no coincidence; I ran for the Green Party of Quebec, a party full of wonderful ideas but which has never yet seen any of its candidates elected. Many people have asked me, given the slim chances of winning against a Liberal in Montreal`s West Island, why I even bothered running... I answer that one of the highpoints of the 35-day campaign was when Collegial Ste-Anne, a local CEGEP, invited myself and two other candidates (Claudelle Cyr of Quebec Solidaire and Victor Tan of the Coalition Avenir) to speak to the student population about the importance of voting. Many of the students there were eligible to vote for the first time in their lives. It was disappointing that the two main candidates (from the Liberal and Parti Quebecois) did not join us, but there was nonetheless a good exchange à trois. While I am proud of the verbal presentation that I gave in August, I give an enhanced version of it here. Some people protest that all politicians are the same and it makes no difference who gets elected to office. As a teenager, I had the pleasure of meeting and conversing with Tommy C Douglas, formerly premier of Saskatchewan from 1944- 1961 and then the first national leader of the NDP from 1961-1971. Douglas is widely credited with being the "father" of Canada's single-payer universal health care system. He fought tenaciously for many years to bring in such a system, first in Saskatchewan, and eventually across Canada. Without Douglas, Canada would today likely have a healthcare system similar to that found in the USA where an estimated 26 million citizens have no medical insurance. Douglas is also credited with many other n o t a b l e achievements, such as improvingeducation systems, rural electrifi- cation,providing state funding for the arts, and enhancingbenefits for pensioners. He did all this while balancing Saskatchewan's budget, showing how one person can make a tremendous difference in politics. John F Kennedy, President

John Symon

Symon says...

of the USA from 1961- 1963, is another example. Kennedy took a bold stand during the 1960 presidential campaign to support the civil rights movement. He later worked with Martin Luther King to advance civil rights and effectively legitimized Afro-Americans` right to vote. Kennedy launched the drive to put a Man on the Moon which spurred numerous technological innovations from which we still benefit today. But most imp o r t a n t l y , Kennedy's adept handling of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis is widely credited with having averted a nuclear war between the USA and the USSR. Such a war would likely have incurred hundreds of millions of casualties and bombed the Northern Hemisphere back into the Stone Age. The Quebec election earlier this month was very close with only a 0.7% spread in the popular vote between

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the winning Parti Quebecois and the losing Liberal Party. But many elections are very close; Kennedy was elected President in 1960 with only 0.2% more of the vote than his Republican rival. Douglas, as national leader of the NDP, twice lost in his own riding. A neighbour of mine- and valued political advisor-first ran for town councillor only to lose by a single vote. Let us all go to the ballot box with the assumption that the vote we cast will be the winning one. It is disturbing to hear that voter apathy is most prevalent in the 18-25 age bracket (less than 50% voted in 2008), the very age group that has the most to lose from bad decisions made today. But a recent poll at Collegial Ste-Anne indicates that 98% of the student population there actually voted on September 4! I like to think that my presentation played some role in encouraging so many young voters to exercise that right. This news in itself was a rich reward for all my efforts to get elected.

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