March 2012
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Why I Voted for Nathan Cullen

It’s hard for me to explain without getting emotional why Nathan Cullen is my first choice for leader of the NDP.

Backstory

I’m originally from Bermuda, and although it’s a wonderful place to visit, I found it small and stifling after living there all my life.  In addition, I was struggling to come to terms with my sexuality – although homosexuality wasn’t illegal there, there was certainly a general undertone of homophobia.

I had many choices on where to move. I’m British, and have right-of-abode in the UK or elsewhere in Europe. I strongly considered and started the application process for Australia too. But ultimately, I chose Canada. I had friends from University, and Canada was well-respected on the world stage as an advocate of peace, was advancing gay rights, had public health care, and seemed to me a country moving in the right direction environmentally and in social values.

I got my Permanent Residency and moved to Canada in 2000.

I couldn’t vote until I became a citizen in November 2004 (although I volunteered for the local Green candidate in the 2004 Federal election). Since then, there have been three Federal elections (2006, 2008, 2011), and two Ontario elections (2007, 2011).

  • In 2006, I voted Green. No Green MPs were elected.
  • In 2007 (Ontario), I voted Green. No Green MPs were elected.
  • In 2008, I voted Green. No Green MPs were elected (our local MP had a good chance in a by-election, before Harper cancelled that with a general election).
  • In 2011, I wanted to vote Green. But I was terrified of a Conservative majority. I tried a “vote swap”, and voted for our Liberal candidate, who won. But the Conservatives won a false majority regardless.
  • In 2011 (Ontario) election, I voted for the NDP (my candidate didn’t win).

To say I’ve been disillusioned with our voting system is an understatement. I’ve known for years how awful the First Past the Post system is, how badly it skews voter intention. That’s why I made this site.

I followed the referendum for MMP in Ontario, and watched how badly that effort unfolded. The Liberals didn’t really back it, Elections Ontario wasn’t funded properly to educate people, and the question itself was confusing.

I’m frustrated. I’ve always voted. But I’ve never felt that it really counted.

And in the meantime, I’ve watched Canada, this country I fell in love with and decided to move to, fall to a virulent, win-at-all-costs, Republican/neo-conservative ideology under Harper.

A party that claims to be “conservative”, but is anything but (yet former Progressive-Conservative supporters still vote for them because… well, who knows why?  I honestly don’t think they really know what they’re voting for half the time, they just vote that way out of tradition and misinformation).  A party that seems to care more about Big Oil, corporate subsidies, and tax breaks and loopholes for the wealthy, and wilfully ignores the environment, despises public services like the CBC and health care, and has been ignoring education. A party that centralizes power in the PMO, lies to Canadians, scoffs at election laws, builds expensive prisons and buys overpriced jets, joins wars, tacitly endorses torture, and has made our country among the very worst offenders on climate change talks.

The election of Elizabeth May in 2011, and the NDP’s surge in Quebec, was small consolation for the false majority government we ended up with.  What good is gains like that when they effectively have 0% of power?  And I’m intimately familiar with how vote-splitting in a relatively few number of ridings caused the CPC majority to happen.

Nathan Cullen came to my attention in January.

His proposal – joint nomination meetings in Conservative-held seats – spoke to me.  It makes sense.  From a purely logical point of view, if we want to remove Harper, the only safe way to do so is for the opposition parties to work together strategically for mutual gain.

I know some in the NDP might consider being “forced” to vote for a Liberal in their riding anathema, but here’s the thing: there’s time to grow the NDP numbers. If you can swing your riding to be more NDP than Liberal, great – win that nomination meeting and get an NDP candidate to vote for! If not, the safe, smart thing to do is to remove the element of vote-splitting, and support a candidate that isn’t Conservative.  Our voting system has been twisting voter choice for too long. Winning a progressive majority so we can fix our voting system once and for all is key.

Cullen was – and still is – the only candidate in the leadership race proposing a cooperative approach to politics to defeat Harper.  But as I read more about him, I learned he was so much more.

He was the NDP’s environment and natural resources critic. He opposes Big Oil, standing up to powerful interests with the Enbridge Pipeline, fighting for the communities that stand to be affected by it. He’s pro-business, and has fantastic ideas to keep Canada competitive while also transition us to a much-needed Green economy.

I watched him in debates, then saw him in-person when he visited Kitchener.  He is smart, tremendously charismatic, funny, and sincere.  He is young and his fresh ideas and optimism surely will draw in at least some of the disillusioned who gave up voting long ago, and attract new members to the NDP.  Quebec likes him and his plan for cooperation. He can build working, cooperative relationships with the Liberals and Greens that can give Canada the progressive government we deserve. I dare say he could swing many “small c” conservatives too.

And I think he’d absolutely wipe the floor with Harper in a debate.

He gives me hope – something I’ve had so little of lately.

Please vote for him. And if you can, donate and/or volunteer for his campaign.

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