When the Carpenter and I show up at the polls this week, we are bringing along a first-time voter. Our daughter will get to exercise her democratic rights as an adult Canadian citizen for the first time. This is a big deal. I cannot even express how happy this makes me.

I cannot say with full confidence, however, that she is as thrilled about it as I am. She’s a little nervous and feels the weight of making the right choice. Don’t we all. I hope she will come to understand voting isn’t about picking the winner so much as it is about the ability to use her voice.  It’s an honour to experience democracy in action.

I want my daughter to know that little ‘X’ mark on her ballot came at the cost of blood, sweat, tears and a whole lot of discrimination for generations of women before her, who had no official voice until they made themselves heard. And I want her to see that this single vote is why we honour our veterans on Remembrance Day, and those who continue to protect our freedom in a way she cannot fully comprehend. She is blessed simply to have been born into a white, middle-class (cough) family in the nucleus of Centre Wellington. It may not be upper echelon privilege, but it’s privilege just the same. That brings with it responsibility to those who have less.

I want to be sure she knows that the right to vote is something to celebrate and not to take for granted, because I can guarantee that throughout her adult life, finding her voice and actually being heard will be two constant challenges, in part because of her gender, in part because the world changes slowly. She will join a chorus for forward momentum. Because it matters. Because she is smart. Because she can use her voice for good. I have faith that she will.

The Carpenter and I have been careful not to preach our political views to her. We’ve never voted for the same political party and I am confident we never will. We don’t discuss it often. All we know is that we work too hard to be this far behind in our life. The struggle is real. Red. Blue. Orange. Take your pick.

What we both want our daughter to understand is that no political platform is perfect. No politician has a quick fix for what’s broken. Every government blames the previous one for breaking the system, but glosses over its own mistakes. There is no consensus on how to mend it. Promises are just intentions with no guarantees. Everyone has an agenda, in politics and life.

Our best advice was to have our daughter research issues that directly impact her. Which party has a platform on autism educational supports, post-secondary tuition costs and issues of inclusion? Which party will protect her gender rights? What are parties offering for the future of the environment? What job prospects are there for her upon graduation?

As long as she understands that ‘X’ on the ballot acknowledges that promises for change, growth and prosperity always come at a cost to something, someone, somewhere else. Fairness is a myth. That’s life. Yet, none of this cynicism changes the truth: her voice matters. It’s a privilege to cast a vote.

It’s her Canadian birthright.


Kelly Waterhouse