Contribute five minutes to your profession …

Yes, voting can be that easy.

by Don Cattani

I am in the process of completing this column – much to the relief of the communications staff – the night before the American presidential election and barely two weeks after the Canadian federal election. These are rare times indeed for political junkies, a group to which I unreservedly belong.

The great news is that the fun won’t end. This December, the Council of the Ontario College of Teachers will begin to accept nominations for our fifth election, to be held in the new year.

That’s right. While the rest of North America suffers through political withdrawal and the doldrums of yet another cold and dreary winter, members of the Ontario College of Teachers can look forward to an exciting five-week election campaign as teacher candidates vie for positions on the fifth College Council.

“Don’t under-estimate the critical importance of Council.”

Sadly, I am aware that many among us do not appear to share my enthusiasm for elections. Fewer than 60 per cent of eligible Canadian voters – the lowest number ever – turned out to the polls on October 14th.

Worse, fewer than 10 per cent of College members voted in our 2006 election. Given a turnout that low, it would be easy to become discouraged, but I choose instead to operate under the premise that we have nowhere to go but up.

You can choose to vote or not to vote, but please don’t underestimate the critical importance of Council. We develop and pass regulations governing the profession and we do so with a Council composed of a strong majority of classroom teachers. Remember, we are your regulators and only you get to choose us.

Consider the following:

1. At the College, we believe in voter encouragement. We do everything we can to make the selection of your Council a positive experience.

2. We allow five weeks to vote, during which our polling stations are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

3. You will be given an individual ballot and an opportunity to vote for several candidates – or only one if you choose.

4. We listened to your comments after the last election. You will once again have the opportunity to view the candidate’s positions online and then to use our redesigned ballot to vote.

5. You won’t stand in long lines during our election. You won’t be directed to cold church vestibules or Legion basements. You won’t have to hire a babysitter. You can register and vote online in about five minutes.

6. Many of our poll locations are absolutely beautiful. Mine for the last two College Council elections has been a recreation room in Thunder Bay, late in the evening with a few pieces of birch burning in the fireplace. There, in the wise company of the World’s Greatest Dog, I voted for councillors. It doesn’t get much better than that.

7. We won’t forget about you after the election. Once you have registered at our web site, you can choose to receive College updates via e-mail, including news of College job openings, or have the opportunity to participate in the survey research that provides background to decisions and issues facing Council members.

As I appeal to you to vote in this election, I am reminded of something that occurred many years ago. A priest used to come into my Grade 7 and 8 classes to talk about becoming involved in the community.

“You won’t stand in long lines during our election.”

He began by describing a breakfast of bacon and eggs. He would then tell the kids that, insofar as the breakfast was concerned, the chicken had made a contribution but the pig had made a commitment.

This election, I won’t ask you to make a commitment – but a contribution would be nice.

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