Engagement in the political process in Canada means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Being an engaged citizen usually means being informed of the issues of the day and knowing what each of the main federal political parties stand on these issues. On a more basic level being engaged means making an informed decision at the ballot box on election day.
If one wanted to take the next step and truly shape how or what government does in Canada, they should consider a membership in a political party. Membership in one of the major political parties in Canada comes with the following benefits:
- Ability to influence how the party is structured and how it operates: Most of the federal parties allow members to elect their national and sub-national leadership teams and the rules that the party must follow for selecting candidates/policies.
- Electing the local candidate: Most parties host open nominations for candidates in which case the local riding association will host a vote of the members in the riding to determine who will represent them in the next election.
- Electing the leader of the party: Increasingly parties are moving from delegated conventions to a one-member, one-vote system for electing the party leader. Members now more than ever have a say on who is the leader of their party.
- Determining the party platform: Parties hold policy conventions in which members are encouraged to submit policy proposals which the membership can vote on. If a majority of members support the proposal, the party can adopt it as their official position.
Membership in a political party is fairly inexpensive. Most memberships cost $10-$20 a year. Also, contributions made to a political party are tax deductible.
When it works well, political parties can be a great expression of grassroots democracy, but not always. Look for a future post on why joining a political party may not be worth your time, and the other avenues that have supplanted it as means to advocate for policy change in Canada.