Lesley Fox: Make a mark for the environment and wildlife this election

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      Stephen wants to protect the environment by inviting more Americans to kill our wildlife. Tom wants to protect the environment as long as you don’t directly ask about pipelines. Justin wants to protect the environment while sending out a Christmas card in which he and his family are draped in the skins of dead coyotes. Elizabeth actually has plans to protect the environment, and that’s why she only won a single seat in the last election.

      We’re pretty much screwed, if you take the pessimistic view of wildlife and environmental policies being tossed about in this election campaign. But that’d make for a rather short column and we’d end up at the bar talking about it anyway—so let’s examine how we can make a difference for the animals and environment with our votes.

      Know your candidates

      The four major parties—Conservative Party of Canada, Liberal Party of Canada, New Democratic Party, and Green Party—will have a candidate in pretty much every riding across the country. In Quebec, the Bloc Québécois will also be represented in each riding. And though in some parties the line is toed a little more carefully (fear Mr. Harper’s whip like you fear your mother-in-law), there is always going to be discrepancies between the party policy and the individual’s beliefs.

      The election campaign is an optimal time to get to know these community leaders—and get your voice heard. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has created a website that, based on your postal code, indicates who your candidates are and if they have responded to a short survey regarding wildlife and environmental issues. If they haven’t, an auto-form is made available so you can contact your candidate(s) and tell them you would like them to respond to these issues.

      You may even be surprised by what you find—not every candidate is going to agree with their party’s policies, and that’s something that could swing your vote in one direction or another.

      Regardless of who comes out on top in your riding, at least four individuals in leadership positions will learn that wildlife and environmental policy is important to the voting public.

      Know your swing set

      Is it the best of the worst or the worst of the best? An evil you know or the lesser of two evils? When the conversation swings (hah) to swing voting or ridings, the analogies get rather convoluted. The basic theory, however, is to not vote for the candidate or party you most support, but to vote for the one who stands the best chance of winning, or the one who has the best chance to prevent another from winning.

      This is something we’re seeing a lot of right now with the "Anyone But Harper" movement on social media, and that’s the example we’ll use (please note: the Fur-Bearers is not publicly or officially endorsing any political parties).

      For those of us in the wildlife protection movement, this kind of political thinking has its positives and negatives. The discussion obviously highlights the lack of wildlife polices and outright harmful environmental policies from our most recent elected government, and that’s a positive. But when we try to paint the world in black and white, we miss a lot of shades in between. Consider this: you want anyone but Harper, so you decide to vote Liberal. But your Liberal candidate is a fur trapper or supports trophy hunting. Is casting a vote against one political party worth potentially putting in someone who directly opposes your beliefs?

      Or what if you want anyone but the Liberal candidate in your traditionally right-leaning riding, and choose to vote against them by casting in favour of the NDP candidate? You may split the vote between the two alternatives and end up with the Liberal anyway.

      It’s a moral, as well as practical, conversation that has to be had for each riding.

      A new initiative by the Animal Justice Canada Legislative Fund will hopefully be of great help in some of these discussions. Humane Voters Canada aims to identify and endorse individual candidates where voters will have the greatest opportunity to put animal issues forward at election time.

      The organization is young—it launched shortly after the election was announced—but with some of Canada’s brightest political and legal minds behind it, we expect great things from them in the future.

      Know your democratic system

      If you are still on the fence about a candidate or party, look at their stance on proportional representation. Currently, the party who gets the most seats becomes the party in power: meaning the Conservative Party of Canada’s 36 percent success rate at the polls last time turned into majority rule.

      But in a proportional representation system, the Conservative Party of Canada would have received 36 percent of the seats for getting 36 percent of the vote. This system would mean forced debate on issues that the majority of Canadians believe in—such as wildlife protection, climate change policy, and so on, rather than issues represented by those who supported the party now in power.

      The NDP, Liberals, and Green Party have all committed to instituting proportional representation if elected.

      Know your right

      Voting is one of our most precious rights. It is our ability to choose our destiny, steer decision-making, and build a future for our children. By not voting, whether it’s an attempt at objecting to the process, or because you believe you don’t have a “good” candidate for whom to vote, you’re not helping. You are, in fact, hurting the political process by removing yourself from it. Not voting is the same as setting up a soapbox in your town square, standing up, taking a deep breath, and shouting “I’m an apathetic jerk.”

      If you want the right to complain, whine, protest, or even talk about political decisions, then you need to exercise your right to vote. If you care about wildlife or the environment, voting is one of the absolute best ways to have your voice heard.

      Please, get out and vote on October 19. The animals need you to make an "X" in a box; if you can’t do that, what good can you really do for them?