Politics bit me at an early age. I remember talking with my parents when I was 8 or 9 about who they would be voting for. I describe May 20, 1980 as the scariest day of my life when Quebec held their first referendum on sovereignty. With grandparents in Quebec, I feared for their safety. Pierre Trudeau quickly became my hero, Levesque the enemy,
I remember stopping then premier of British Columbia, Bill van der Zalm, after Easter services at church when I was a teenager. He was greeting people at the back after mass, I immediately took him to task over a pressing issue of the day. He was taken aback, dismissed me, and went on glad handing.
In university, a few years later, I attended a question and answer session Jean Chretien was holding in the student union building. I went to the podium to ask a question, urging M Chretien to come out of retirement and lead a lagging Liberal Party. Months later, he would.
I got caught up in the furor of politics a bit in university as my fraternity brothers were active in either the Young Tories or Young Liberals. I followed one to a Young Liberal meeting once and the intensity turned me off. While I had always been liberal growing up, I couldn’t take to it like a religion.
When I first moved to Calgary, a landmark civic election took place where Naheed Nenshi came from the back of the pack to become Mayor on a platform of solid ideas and grassroots support. The night of his election, a friend and I went pub hopping looking for the celebration and eventually found ourselves in an old building’s basement a few steps from the victorious Mayor-elect.
One time I was even accused by a sitting member of parliament as joining his party as a simple ruse to have evicted from office. Well, sir. I’m guilty. And it worked.
So a decade before I could vote the seed was planted. I have become, if not always officially politically active, at least very politically aware and involved.
When Should You Introduce Your Children To Politics?
Since my boys have been born, I’ve been introducing them to the political system.
Every election, be it municipal, provincial, or federal, I bring my boys. I’ve lost count how many times they’ve helped me vote. One time, frustrated by my lack of real choices, Zacharie even voted for me.
This weekend, I took the next step.
I brought Charlie with me to a rally for Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. With pre-election polling fanning Trudeaumania 2.0, I couldn’t pass up the chance to bring my son to see the next prime minister.
We arrived an hour early, the event started nearly an hour late, and in between an overflow crowd of nearly 2000 gathered around a banquet hall in NE Calgary.
We found ourselves a spot just a few metres from the speaking stage and, for a few minutes, Charlie left my side and found himself in the front row to listen to “Canada’s next prime minister” speak.
I’ve never really been a fan of people who bring their kids out for serious political activism. I don’t like seeing kids waving protest signs or placards or campaigning on issues they can’t understand. So I was torn a bit about bringing Charlie to this event, but I did so because we weren’t there as cheerleaders, we were there as lookie-loos.
How often does one have a chance at getting within a few arm reaches of a prime minister? So we went. We went to watch, and witness the excitement of an election that was nearing an enthusiastic climax.
The music pumped, Justin came in to cheers and hit all his stump speech points with a hoarse, confident smile. There was nothing new in his comments, but experiencing the energy and excitement and being *this* close to someone about to take charge of the country was exciting for both of us.
In the end, we left early because when you’re 5, and you’ve been waiting for 2 hours in a room full of 1000 people, and you need to pee, you need to pee …. now.
On the ride home afterwards, we talked about the process, about elections, about Justin’s dad, and about what being prime minister means to all of us.
When is it a good time to introduce your children to politics? Now.
Bring them with you to vote, talk to them about how you decided your vote, and the next time you have a chance to get up close to a political leader, take them. Teach them when they’re young to care about the process and bring about real change when they can.