Canadian election: I finally saw the beauty of democracy and the power of the people

Published: October 20, 2015
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Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau gives his victory speech after Canada's federal election in Montreal, Quebec, October 19, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

It is a strange night for me here in Toronto. The Canadian Federal Election just finished and it is calm. There are no cries claiming it was rigged. There are no complaints of ambush at polling stations. There are no premature victory speeches. Everything is quiet and peaceful. This all feels quite unusual to me.

As a young Pakistani, I’m still not over the disastrous 2013 General Elections that were held in Pakistan. Yet, I’m already over the Canadian elections that took place merely a few hours ago. This sensation of closure has me feeling restless.

I was following the Canadian Elections with some interest. Stephen Harper, the current prime minister was in his third term, serving the office for almost a decade. Reading his policies and strategies just frightened me. He was one of the last few descendants of the dreadful Bush administration that plagued the United States. With laws banning the niqab and bringing in legislations such as the ‘Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act’, he stepped up as a conservative’s dream and the average Canadian Muslim’s nightmare.

He was quickly shot down by a young man named Justin Trudeau. Mr Trudeau is the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. His father, Pierre Trudeau, served as the prime minister of Canada through the years 1968 and 1979. His years as prime minister were known as some of the golden years of Canadian history. So it was fair to say that Mr Justin Trudeau has some big shoes to fill.

Photo: Reuters

Pierre Trudeau. Photo: AFP

And so he has.

Starting off his 78-day electoral campaign, he went door to door, city to city and province to province chanting the words of change and marking the slogan for the betterment of the Canadian lives. His message spread far and wide, and people had finally accepted his ideology for change.

As the electoral debates grew closer and closer, Harper seemed more uncomfortable with the rise of the Trudeau name. During the debates, Trudeau seemed confident and clear on his stance, while Harper was very nervous and cautious.

As a Pakistani watching these debates, it was hard for me to fathom that these men were political rivals. Coming from a background of only Pakistani politics, I was used to the defaming and bashing of character that I saw everyday on television. Yet, the Canadian political arena was calm and collected. It was quite refreshing to see that the candidate’s values were still intact. Their promises were do-able and they showed the positive integrity that is needed from a political leader. I imagined putting Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari in a room. Boy, what havoc would that create?

As the election day inched towards us, I saw banners and flyers all around Toronto. Half the sidewalks were paved red (Liberal colours) while the other half were paved blue (Conservative colours). But Trudeau did what arguably Imran Khan did in Pakistan’s 2013 general elections; he mobilised the youth.

Photo: Reuters

Harper won his second term in office with only 25 per cent of eligible Canadians voting, so Trudeau’s main focus was to mobilise the youth of Canada. And it worked.

Everywhere I would go, I would see young men and women holding flyers and banners, talking to high school and university students, encouraging them to vote. I would go online and before any YouTube video, I’d see a five-second Liberal Party advertisement encouraging young people to vote. Trudeau did his best by coming on contemporary TV talk shows where he could gather the attention of young people and talk them into voting, even if it wasn’t for his party. He was also helped by Last Week Tonight show host, John Oliver, who did a great piece on the Canadian elections and motivated them to vote. Mobilising the younger generation is what rejuvenated Imran Khan’s political career, and finally paid off for Trudeau as well.

And what came in Pakistan like a thunderous downpour, came in Canada like a mild drizzle, election day. A normal Monday morning for a university student like me, I had no care because I had no horse in this race. I went to attend my classes as usual, did my routine work and came back to my room to find my roommate enthusiastic about finally being able to vote. He was happy. He felt his vote gave him a voice and he hoped he would be heard. So were thousands of other young kids like him, all across Canada.

Then I saw it, the beauty of democracy.

Stephen Harper was ousted by the Canadian public. In came Justin Trudeau.

The decade long reign of Harper, ‘the First’ was over. Twitter was ecstatic, Facebook was overjoyed and the social network scene had come together in Canada as it breathed a gust of fresh air. Everything was tremendous. I saw the power of the people, by the people and for the people.

Then I felt a sense of envy. Canadians had finally got a chance to vote for what they wanted, without hesitance and without disturbances. I looked back to our most recent elections and I still can’t pin down what went wrong. Who won? Why do we still see the same faces of tyranny and despair that we saw a couple decades ago? When will we be vigilant enough to conduct an election like this? Will it happen in my lifetime? Can it happen in my lifetime? With an optimistic sigh, I pray that it does.

With many well wishes and hopes of a prosperous future for Canada, I congratulate Mr Justin Trudeau as the new prime minister.

Mohammad Nazar Syed

Mohammad Nazar Syed

Nazar is a writer and poet based in Canada. His debut publication is called 'A Rush to the Stars' and is a collection of his poetry. He tweets as @mnazarsyed (twitter.com/mnazarsyed)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ch. Allah Daad

    Pakistani political culture was not that bad but since Oxford return, cricketer turned politician has joined politics, he has destroyed it with his foul language and gestures. His followers who rule social media are worst kind of abusers. Please don’t defame Pakistan as a whole. There are only few rotten eggs.Recommend

  • ali

    Correction: Harper was in his 3rd term, running for the fourth one.Recommend

  • Aziz

    Before IK too there were clamours about rigging. Z. Bhutto went down because of electoral rigging that went sour.

    Since IK the level of rigging has come down substantially. The future generation would be grateful to him for his single-minded focus on eliminating dodgy elections in Pakistan.

    In a free and fair election Nawaz Sharif would not have become the PM because he would not have won so many seatsRecommend

  • Tariq Nawaz

    Amongst those rotten eggs one of them is Nawaz Shariff.Recommend

  • Nazar

    I would argue it has gotten cleaner since Imran Khan’s return in politics. But to each their own. Thanks for reading! Recommend

  • Nazar

    Im pretty sure it was Harper’s second term going for third. 1 term in Canada is for 5 years and Harper eas elected in 2006. Do fact check me if I’m wrong. Thanks for reading sir!!Recommend

  • Zeeshan Dhanani

    Though the article was great , it is unfair to compare the two democracies. First because Canada is a country with little to no impact on global issues and they like it that way. Secondly, our politicians have been involved in some pretty gruesome scandals, from political killings to supporting terrorists and corruption into the billions, so there is simply too much ammo that each party has against the other. But I think we are improving, with the youth now involved and PPP wiped out due to poor governance and cases of corruption, we may one day have a peaceful elections.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Lets hope Justin Trudeau has a firm understanding of economic theory and hardball politics because youthful charisma, good looks and a prominent name will take him only so far.Recommend

  • Abul Wafa

    It’s my dream too to have the same electoral process to be followed in Pakistan. My leaders should behave like Haper and Trudeau.
    QamarRecommend

  • Nazar

    Fingers are crossed and hoping for the best!Recommend

  • Nazar

    Kinda hurts when you say we have no global impact. Sharing the border with tone of the super powers of the world must clearly render in some respect. But I agree with most of what you said. Cheers!Recommend

  • Abdullah

    It was peacefull there coz they didnt have PTI and foreign fundded corrupt people under a new umbrella of PTI.Recommend

  • Nazar

    Dont know what you’re talking about sir, but thanks for reading!Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    So they must have army of so-called Shair , Khadim-e-punab and Bhutto right?Recommend

  • Zeeshan Dhanani

    Maybe it was unclear. What I meant to say was Canada does not like to interfere in other countries when it comes to regime changes or bombing nations but there is no doubt than when it comes to helping refuges or protecting human rights, Canada has a excellent record. Recommend

  • ajeet

    You don’t have to go as far as Canada for that. Look across the border to India for how election is conducted and how the loosers accept defeat gracefully. Most of the countries that share this are not Islamic.Recommend

  • Nazar

    Thanks! Well I hope that this blissful record continues. I did hear that Teudeau has endorsed 25,000 Syrian Refugees while Harper endorsed none.
    A small step for man, a giant leap for humanity. :)Recommend

  • Zeeshan Dhanani

    Hopefully now the so called flag bearers of the Ummah may step up and help their own. And yes i’m referring to the Saudis . Even Mr. Teudeau’s father took in refugees from Africa during his term .Recommend