ELN Communications Lead Sean Mackay is a digital marketing and communications professional working in Toronto’s real estate industry. Sean works as Managing Director at Livabl, an online publication that helps consumers better understand and navigate the real estate market. Sean is a mentor with the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), an organization that addresses the persistent problem of immigrant underemployment, and sits on the communications committee of Toronto’s Urban Land Institute (ULI). On October 7th, Sean co-organized a federal election debate viewing party for ELN members. Below is his reflection from the evening.
On a crisp fall evening, Emerging Leaders Network members (and a few new faces!) gathered at the Firkin on Yonge in Toronto to watch the Federal Leaders’ Debate, one of only a handful of debates that featured all party leaders this election season.
With elections at all levels of government occurring during our 2018-2019 ELN Executive term, we had a unique opportunity to test a variety of election-focused campaigns and programming. With the success of the debate viewing party format during last year’s provincial election, we were excited to have ELN members gather again to watch the federal leaders’ debate and share their views and concerns with their fellow network members.
As folks filtered into the Firkin, I had the opportunity to chat with many of them about their expectations for the debate and intentions on voting day. I got the sense that most in attendance had made up their minds on who they’d be casting their ballot for, either because of fidelity to one party, or in some cases, strategic reasons. The debate was not likely to sway them, but they still believed watching the event was an important part of civic life. They did, however, feel like it was an interesting opportunity to see how candidates from parties not in contention to form government would perform.
One ELNer spoke to me about how it was particularly interesting for her, despite having never voted for the Green Party or NDP federally, to watch party leaders Elizabeth May and Jagmeet Singh speak about their climate platforms.
As passions ignited on the debate stage, both Singh and May spoke articulately about climate change — undoubtedly a key election issue for many in the ELN. Both candidates brought ideas to the table that may not become legislation, but may influence future decision-making on a number of fronts by the party in power, especially in a minority government. Having an opportunity to hear these ideas illuminated on the debate stage by the party leaders seemed to be more effective to this ELNer than reading about their platforms online.
The debate wore on with the ELN crowd watching intently while quietly discussing how candidates handled a few key topics, particularly immigration, housing, and Indigenous issues.
One thing I found most remarkable was the crowd’s quiet intensity and respectful conversation around these issues, a sharp contrast from a few moments that played out on the screens in front of them. But beyond that, it was evident that this group of ELNers believed the debate mattered as it represented a valuable opportunity for them to better acquaint themselves with both the parties’ policies and the leaders that espouse them.
Those that attended the October 7th debate viewing party were not watching for the political theatre, well-timed zingers or tweet-worthy content. They were watching because they believed it was an essential part of their role as politically-engaged citizens. What I took from this is that you can still approach a candidates debate with an open mind, even if you already have made a firm decision as to which party will get your vote on election day.
Confused or overwhelmed by conflicting election messages and promises? Here are a few resources to guide your voting decision:
- Vote Compass: an interactive platform that shows you where you stand on various issues in this election.
- TVO’s The Agenda: a current affairs program that offers an in-depth view on social, political, and economic issues confronting Ontarians
- Ryerson Democracy Engagement Exchange: a non-partisan resource that aims to demystify the voting process. Check out their comprehensive election handbook and join the Canadian Vote Coalition and encourage your peers to vote.
- Elections Canada: your go-to source for where, when, and how to vote.