What makes a citizen?

OK – time to get a bit serious here. For those of you that don’t know (and I’m sure there are some Canadians among you), today is Election Day in Canada. If it seems like it’s come around again rather quickly (for those of you that were paying attention!), that’s because it has – the last government was a minority government and a non-confidence vote was called, hence the early election.

And I have to say that despite being Canadian, that is all I know about it. I had even forgotten that there was an election in Canada until Richard looked up my friend Carla’s blog and found a posting on it. Mom did tell me the last time I spoke to her, but it slipped my mind. Which is a shame, since if the Conservatives win, it’ll be the first time in history that Canada has a Prime Mininster from western Canada – Stephen Harper, the leader of the Conservative Party, is from Calgary.

I do feel guilty that I don’t stay in touch with Canadian politics – mind you, I didn’t really stay in touch with Canadian politics when I lived there, except for the bits that concerned me. I do feel that I’m more politically aware since I’ve been living in the UK, but that may also be because Richard is rather aware of political trends, and, hey – I live with the guy. I’ve got to pick up on some things…

But that did get me thinking – who do I owe my allegiance to?

Sure, I have a Canadian passport, and those who know me know that I am quite proud to be Canadian (cue beer advert here…). But – I live in the UK. I pay taxes here. I contribute to the education of UK young people. I drive on the left side of the road. I still haven’t got used to warm beer (or beer of any sort, really…) but I think that’s probably a minor point. I can sing ‘God Save the Queen’ and I attend a Church of England church. I’m even contemplating becoming a clergy-person in said church. Any of my Canadian friends can tell you that my vocabulary is slowly changing, even if my accent isn’t. I think I officially got rid of the last t-shirt I bought in Canada last week. So why do I need to vote in the Canadian election?

I can see the argument – I have a duty to do so because that’s where I was born, and I should take responsibility for the running of ‘my’ country. But who am I to stick my nose in? I hear a very bitty version of the political situation when I talk to my parents (the recent BSE situation and the political reaction to it hit them rather hard, being cattle farmers) but as to the wider views, I really haven’t a clue. So what right do I have to put my two cents in and vote? I will say that I vote regulary here in the UK – being a member of the Commonwealth I don’t have to wait for a passport to do this – and I do think that those people who don’t vote have no right to complain about the government. But I do it because it’s relevant to my life right now, not my parent’s lives or a life I had five years ago.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not knocking the people like Carla who keep abreast of the political situation in their home country and vote regularly there. But I can’t see the relevance it has to my life here and now. To me it’s holding onto the past, and I’ve got a pretty good present and future to look forward to, thank-you-very-much.

Just one thing I’m annoyed with – it’s going to cost me £312 to become a British citizen. That includes the test to demonstrate knowledge of life in the UK (£34) and the book you need to pass it (£9.99). And yes, they make you go through the citizenship ceremony, and then make you pay for it…

Update:

Canadian Election Results:

Conservatives – 124 seats
Liberals – 103 seats
Bloc Quebecois – 51 seats
New Democratic Party – 29 seats
Independant – 1 seat

This means the Conservatives form the new government, but it, too is a minority government. It also means that an MP from Alberta is PM for the first time ever…

4 thoughts on “What makes a citizen?”

  1. Well – being one of those people still on the “left hand side” of the Atlantic ocean caught up in the flurry of the election, I must say that I agree with your position.

    I think people have a responsibility to participate in society – to stand up for those issues and causes that they think are important – but one cannot do so everywhere. The motto is “think globally, act locally”. Local, for you, is no longer here in Canada. As you say, it will probably interest you as it affects the people you know that are still in Canada, and – of course – the massive impact Canadian politics has in the global political scene (shh, let us keep our comfortable delusions, ok? thanks), but your “local” arena has changed.

    I’d be more concerned if you had lapsed in political and social apathy – like that was ever likely – but you haven’t. Your responsibility isn’t to Canada. It’s to do what you can to support those values that you hold dear, within that facet of global society that you live in.

    You’re doing that.

    So keeping doing your thing: driving on the left side of the road, dealing with school, youth group, and church (it’s all needed where you are, and it says a great deal about you that you put the effort that you do into those things) – and let those of us that are still here, and thus do have a responsibility for dealing with this mess, do ours.

    Now … I’m off to the voting station to cast my ballot.

  2. So glad to see my children interested in the running of their respective countries.
    A small correction as to the western PM- remember Joe Who? (aka Joseph Clark) An Alberta MP, born in High River, and PM for about 7 months. Likewise Kim Campbell. And back in the “Dirty 30’s” there was R.B. Bennet, who was also an MP from Calgary. Made famous in local parlance by the term “Bennet Buggy”- a car chassis pulled by horses when people had no money for gasoline. Later moved to the UK and became Viscout Bennet, for whom a high schol in Calgary is named.

    I worked as a poll clerk on Monday; there was a very high voter turnout in our poll, despite the fact that some people had to drive 100 km round-trip to vote. So despite gloomy diatribes to the contrary, people still believe in the democratic process.

  3. Thought I would get into the discussion as well. I see that Robin has included three of the Prime Ministers that came from western Canada. I didn’t know about R.B. Bennett until Bill mentioned it this morning and didn’t know about Kim Campbell until Robin’s post. But we can’t forget John Diefenbaker who was Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963.

    It is interesting what you find out when you start looking at a history book, or at least the Canadian Encyclopedia. Aside from the Prime Ministers that came from western Canada mentioned earlier, I have also discovered that at least three others had ties to western Canada while Prime Minister.

    Wilfrid Laurier is listed as representing Saskatchewan District while he was Prime Minister from 1896 to 1900.

    William Lyon McKenzie King is shown as representing Prince Albert, Saskatchewan 1926 to 1945 and was Prime Minister from 1926 to 1930 and 1935 to 1948.

    John Herbert Turner was representing Vancouver-Quadra in 1984 when he was Prime Minister for 80 days.

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