By Alvin Singh
8/26/2015

Little plastic signs on lawns? Phone calls asking how you’re going to vote? Endless advertising? It must be election season!

For many people, elections can quickly get exhausting — especially this year, with a campaign more than two months long! But it’s also an incredible opportunity to find out more about the people who want to represent us and a chance to get out there in your community and help shape the debate.

Shape the debate?! That sounds hard!

Don’t worry, it’s actually quite easy. Almost every community has one, even several, all-candidates debates. Some might be open-ended, others may be organized by groups who want to focus on a specific issue. All give you and your neighbours a chance to see the candidates in the flesh and hear what they think about the issues that matter most to your community.

As members of the Blue Dot movement, you know first-hand how much our campaign is rooted locally. Many of you already live in a community that has passed a local declaration (in fact, about one in five Canadians do), so it shouldn’t be news to your local candidates either! This may be the first opportunity you have to see all your federal candidates in one place and ask them this simple question:

“Do you believe Canada should join 110 nations in recognizing the right to live in a healthy environment by amending Canada’s Charter of Rights?”

There are also some other questions to consider asking:

    1. With the fall of oil prices and rapid growth in renewable technology, will you encourage a transition to a clean-tech economy?  If so, how?
    2. Canadians subsidize the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $1.3 billion per year despite the fact that the industry is in a downturn and has destabilized our economy. Will you end these subsidies and promote a diversified, more stable economy? If so, how?
    3. Provinces that have already put a price on carbon have seen economic growth that outpaces the Canadian average. Will you encourage a national carbon pricing policy?
    4. Canadians deserve a government that is open, transparent and committed to science. Will you support allowing government scientists to speak freely about their work, opening up review processes to all concerned Canadians and basing decisions on the best available evidence?

OK, thanks! But how do I find my local all-candidates debates?

Often, events are listed in local papers, especially community weeklies. But the easiest way to find out is to contact your favourite local candidate’s office and ask. Here are links to find candidates:

I’ve never gone to an all-candidates debate before…How do I ask a question? 

Usually the group organizing the event says a few words and then turns it over to the panel of candidates. They usually each get a few minutes to make an opening statement and then it’s time for questions. Often organizers kick things off with questions of their own, but eventually request questions from the audience.

There might be microphones set up in the room you can line up at and/or volunteers walking around with portable mics. Either flag someone down or get in line and wait for your turn. When the big moment comes, don’t panic! The people in the room are your friends and neighbours, and many of them are interested in the same things you are. Be clear and to the point, try not to spend too much time explaining who you are or introducing your question. But don’t sit down just yet!

Wait at the mic while the candidates answer the question. Someone might ask you for clarification or not answer the question at all. This is your chance to jump in and clarify the question or urge the candidate to be more straightforward! But remember, this isn’t a fight. If they won’t answer a question, at least you’ll know where they all stand on the issue.

Phew! That wasn’t so hard! Now what?

Congrats! If you managed to track down a debate, make the time to attend and even ask a question, you’re a superstar! We would love to know how it went, especially if you asked your candidates whether Canada should recognize the right to live in a healthy environment. Report back on what they said using this simple survey we made to track responses across the country.

Something else interesting happen? Shoot us an email at election2015@davidsuzuki.org and let us know!

All-candidates debates are exciting and important ways for people like you and me to get to know our candidates better, but also for candidates to hear what’s most important to the people they’re aiming to represent.

So get out there and ask a few questions! It’s not that hard, I promise!

YES,I’M VOTING ON OCTOBER 19