Last week, I joined Okanagan Mission Secondary students who received funding from MLA Steve Thomson on behalf of the BC government, to support their project to stop cyber bullying. In my conversations with them, it was clear that they have a much bigger vision.
These students are engaging in peer-to-peer learning about the digital footprint that is created every time we interact online. They aspire to build the capacity and commitment for responsible digital citizenship.
As I listened to their passionate discussions and observed their leadership, I wondered what kind of example we are setting for citizenship in the non-digital world.
Just as our digital footprint survives in perpetuity, so does the legacy of our governments. Yet, when we examine electoral voter turnout, we have room to improve.
In the last BC election, 51 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballot. Other provinces fare about the same.
Federal elections generate a bit more activity - in 2011, 61 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots - the third lowest turnout in Canadian history.
Canadian citizenship, regardless of how it is acquired, brings rights and responsibilities. Arguably, the right to vote in free and democratic elections is the most accessible.
With fewer Canadians voting, is the turnout itself a measure of how much people actually care? High voter turnout is generally considered to be a positive indicator of whether people feel they have a stake in their community and whether the political process engages them. However, a relatively low voter turnout may not necessarily be the opposite.
Clearly, some voters may not consider voting as an essential civic act. Others may consider it a political statement. Some voters may feel they can't influence the outcome. Others may not like their options. Some voters may feel too uninformed to contribute.
One thing we know is true - governments are elected, regardless. It can be tempting to "sit it out" when the choices are tough. If we opt not to vote, it is tough to complain about a government we chose not to choose.
We are responsible for the society and the governments we create. It is incumbent on each of us to contribute to the path that sets our collective future.
With the upcoming provincial election, we have some choices to make about our future. It is important to be informed about the issues, meet and question the candidates, engage in dialogue with our neighbours and exercise our right to vote.
Candidates from all parties have offered to stand for public office - most with the best of intentions to serve in the public interest. They deserve our attention and consideration.
It is easy to get distracted by the drama of political scandals and to lose sight of the legacies that governments create through legislation and their priorities. There are competing and complex demands placed on governments to address - the economy, the environment, education, trade, resource management, health care, taxes, and safety and security.
It may be tempting to choose short-term benefits over long-term investments - or vice versa. The values, platforms, and, yes, electoral records of political parties are worthy of dialogue as we consider our options.
In our past, there have been many groups and communities that have been denied the right to vote - Chinese, Japanese, Aboriginals and women, to name a few. These were not proud moments in our national history. There are still people around the world risking their lives everyday for the right to choose their government in free and democratic elections.
We are responsible for the choices we make at the polls. We need to choose wisely - one vote at a time.
Our students are taking on citizenship in the vast world of cyberspace. Let's set a good example for them.
Chris Gorman is a school trustee and hosts a blog on his personal website at www.chrisgorman.ca. Email: