Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"So what's going on in Ottawa?" and other holiday dinner conversation topics...

As someone who lives in Ottawa, the holiday season inevitably includes discussions with non-Ottawa family members and friends about politics. The conversation typically starts one of two ways.

The first is based on the perception that, as an Ottawa-resident, you have some special insight on politics. "You live in Ottawa, so tell me why they really scrapped the long-form census?" is indicative of the type of question one might find oneself on the receiving end of during a lull in the Christmas dinner conversation.

The second way these conversations start is premised on the notion that no one in Ottawa actually gets what's happening in the real world. "Out of touch" is one of the more polite phrases that come up in such situations.

While these observations are the usual starting points for a discussion, what follows is often quite interesting. Why? Because what follows is perspective.

These conversations challenge, frustrate, encourage, enliven and inform my view on what's happening in Canada and how our politics is perceived by the people I know. This is a good thing. This is engagement.

The holiday season and early parts of 2011 will serve as a form of reconnaissance for our main political parties, and for current and would-be MPs. The good ones will be paying close attention to these types of conversations and using the individual and cumulative perspective shared with them to inform their views on many of the issues which matter to you and I.

We should take this opportunity and run with it. The period leading up to an election is a chance, however small, to influence the ballot box question. It's a chance to share what's important to you, and in so doing to challenge your current and prospective political leaders to respond.

It doesn't matter if it's the economy or health care, the environment or Afghanistan, funding for the arts or law and order. Those who aspire to lead us need to know what matters to us. And they need to tell us clearly what governing would mean for them. Let's do our part.

Thoughts (and please pass the gravy)?

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