Magazines 2021 Sept - Oct Election priorities

Election priorities

08 September 2021

How each of us can make a difference

With a federal election looming, all self-respecting pundits should be talking about government priorities. And I, being such, will do so here.

But only at first. Then I want to talk about me. And you.

Yes, governments have to keep the lights on, the roads paved, the borders secure and the bills paid. At least we insist they do two or three of the four. A lot of government is merely taking care of business.

Governments also have the opportunity, however, to make significant changes. Not as many changes as we voters may expect and as candidates cheerfully promise, to be sure. Even majority governments don’t get their way about everything, and the ordeal of the legislative process means sessions close with many bills still not passed.

What then ought Christians to insist on in the platforms of the parties vying for our votes? Surely a proper list would contain:

  • a resolution of the current pandemic and proper preparation for the next
  • a sufficient and long-term response to climate change
  • justice for – and reconciliation with – Indigenous Peoples
  • ending of child poverty in our country
  • a fair, compassionate and prudent immigration policy
  • protection of human rights – and freedom of religion in particular – both at home and abroad
  • proper care for the physically and mentally ill and
  • wise policies on bioethics, especially beginning-of-life and end-of-life issues.

Not even a dozen points, but they represent a huge agenda for any new government. So as I listen skeptically to politicians make dozens of promises and declarations, most of which they can’t keep and likely have no serious intention of keeping, I wonder what they truly care about.

I should seize this occasion, however, to cast a critical eye over my own agenda as well.

should seize this occasion

During this election campaign, I might enjoy sounding off on social media and in personal conversation about how crucial to me is a candidate’s stance on abortion, climate change, racial justice or euthanasia. I might fiercely declare these few issues – or even one – will determine my vote.

Could anyone tell from looking at my own life that these issues truly matter to me?

However, could anyone tell from looking at my own life that these issues truly matter to me? If someone looked over my financials and my calendars, would she conclude instead my election-time virtue signalling was as ephemeral as campaign rhetoric?

If I want the government to finally give us a proper law about abortion, what am I doing to help reduce abortions by supporting mothers with difficult pregnancies and then children to raise? What am I doing to set a positive example that will help change the hearts and minds of my neighbours toward a proper balancing of the rightful autonomy of a woman over her body and the rightful protection due a vulnerable fetus?

If I want the government to finally respond well to climate change, what vehicles am I using to get around? How much of the reuse/reduce/recycle principles am I following? What organizations am I supporting to secure a greener future?

If I want the government to finally honour treaties, pay due respect to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and bring true reconciliation to the various peoples of contemporary Canada, what am I doing to foster racial harmony in my home, church, workplace and beyond?

What books, podcasts and websites am I using to inform myself and transform myself into a more compassionate and helpful neighbour? What relationships am I forming and groups am I participating in that actually improve the situation?

If I want the government to finally recognize the ethical slippery slope posed by medical assistance in dying – well, you get the point.

You and I have precious little effect on national politics. Yet God has given us a little bit of the world to affect. And it is by our work in these personal spheres of influence that we will be judged.

So as I shake my head again at how disappointing the last regime was in advancing my key concerns and how disappointing the next will certainly be, I pause to consider: What have I been doing to advance them?

And would anyone vote to re-elect me on my record?

john stackhouse
John Stackhouse is professor of religious studies at Crandall University. Find more of these columns at

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