As a front-line Community Mental Health Worker, for the past five years I’ve worked with individuals dealing with severe mental illness living in poverty.  It’s frustrating to see that many of the barriers they experience have more to do with a system keeping them in poverty, rather than their illness.

This has led me to question how we can make it better.  For a long time, I used to think that change was largely about going straight to the “source”, which is improving policy.  However, I’ve come to realize that better policy won’t happen until we have a political system that forces leaders to actually be held accountable to their voters.

I don’t believe that people are apathetic towards the most vulnerable amongst us. I do however think that we are stuck with a system that doesn’t properly represent the concerns of it’s people.

When I think about the issues that I care about deeply, I increasingly feel that changing the electoral system is becoming our first priority. Currently, by splitting the vote, many are forced against their values in order to avoid an outcome they oppose even more. Without reform, we will continue to see results that are at odds with the majority.

It seems clear that the oft-quoted decline in voter turnout is a statement about how discouraged we are with politics in general.  While Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) can be a small change at the municipal level, it is the continuation of a larger conversation regarding the quality of our democracy in Canada. For me, working on Ottawa123 is the start of getting involved in this conversation.

Reform to RCV is a “winnable” fight.  We have the opportunity to make this change. Once people see that these small steps can have an impact, they too will recognize that as Canadians we have the capacity to engage this issue at a broader level.

Our politics can be better.  Our leaders can be more representative of the diversity in our community. Our electoral system can be designed in a way that doesn’t reward incumbents a majority with 18% of the vote.  Our democracy is only as good we make it, so let’s make it better.