My challenge to REALTORS®: Get “a little political” beyond the ballot box

Some may say it’s an old-fashioned idea, but I believe strongly that public leadership matters. That government matters. That getting government right matters and getting it wrong is to be avoided if at all possible. You can debate what “right” and “wrong” is—for example, raising or lowering taxes—but what is not debateable is the importance of public space and political engagement.

We live in a great country. We have so much going for us. But that doesn’t mean our democracy does not need constant attention.

Earlier this year, our team at Samara released Democracy 360, a report card on the state of Canada’s democracy. We focused on three areas essential to a healthy democracy: communication (talking), participation (acting), and political leadership (leading). In an effort to set a benchmark and prompt reflection and discussion, we gave our country a letter grade for each of these areas (B, C-, and D respectively) as well as an overall grade of C.

Ouch! We’re sorry to say our research findings revealed a rather lacklustre state of Canada’s politics. So what does this mean? It means there is ample room for improvement. Canadians are not as engaged in politics as they could be. We argue in our report that, to turn this situation around, Canada requires more than just higher voter turnout. Canada requires a culture shift towards “everyday democracy,” in which citizens feel politics is a way to make change in the country and their voices are heard.

That’s why we at Samara launched The Everyday Political Citizen project, which celebrates regular Canadians making positive change in their communities. By profiling these role models from across the country, we hope to encourage Canadians to increase their own civic participation and help build a culture of positive politics in Canada.

Last year, over 350 nominations were received from across the country. High-school political science teacher Tim Halman was named Everyday Political Citizen of the Year for 2014, for inspiring young Canadians to take an interest in democracy. Eleven-year-old Nessa Deans was named Youth Everyday Political Citizen of the Year, for volunteering countless hours to her community and local political campaigns.

My challenge to all REALTORS® across the country this election year is to follow the lead of these everyday political citizens and try getting “a little political” over the next few months. Every small effort towards a positive, engaged democratic Canada—including simply discussing political issues with your family and friends or volunteering in your community—can spark another effort and bring Canada to a stronger democracy.


Editor’s Note: A great way for REALTORS® to raise their voices on behalf of their fellow REALTORS®, homebuyers, and communities and get involved in the political sphere is to join the REALTOR® Action Network—an online interactive platform that connects REALTORS®, Boards, and Associations with CREA’s Federal Affairs program and federal government decision-makers.

Also stay tuned for CREA’s Election Toolkit, which will be made available to REALTORS® in the lead-up to the federal election and will provide helpful information about key election issues relevant to the REALTOR® community, homebuyers, and their communities.

 

Michael MacMillan is the Acting Co-director, Co-founder, and Chair of Samara Canada, a charity dedicated to reconnecting citizens to politics; the CEO of Blue Ant Media; co-author of the #1 national bestseller Tragedy in the Commons; and co-founder and co-owner of Closson Chase, a vineyard and winery in Prince Edward County. He was previously the executive chairman and CEO of Alliance Atlantis Communications. Among his many honours, Michael is a recipient of the Gold and Diamond Jubilee Medals for service to Canada.


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