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Expressing Your Political Views at Work Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Workopolis.com Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit www.CareerActivist.com.

Aug. 15, 2008: According to MSNBC, ''The AFL-CIO and three other labor-rights groups have asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether Wal-Mart Stores Inc. unlawfully pressured employees to vote against Democrats in November because their party would help workers to unionize.'' The report says Wal-Mart held mandatory meetings with store managers and department supervisors to warn that if Democrats prevail this fall, they would likely push through a bill that the company says would hurt workers. Wal-Mart refutes the accusation, saying that meetings were indeed held, but if anyone representing the company 'gave the impression we were telling associates how to vote, they were wrong and acting without approval.'


You're having coffee with a couple of colleagues after a particularly gruelling client meeting. One of you pipes up, just to spark conversation, about Canada's political climate. ''Looks like the fall election will be too close to call.'' The co-worker on your right jumps in: ''Geez, Harper has a real chance at a majority this time. That'd certainly be great for Canada. Can you imagine swallowing the Liberal party's Green thingie with its smoke and mirrors tax grab? What a load of transparent crap.'' To the left of you another colleague retorts ''Are you nuts? Do you have any idea what the Conservatives plan to do to our social safety nets? And just look at how they've been cutting funding to the arts, but only to so-called left wing artists and programs. Makes you shudder about what their real agenda is.''

Just another relaxing chat over lattes and cappucinos, yes? There are lots of similar conversations taking place across the country these days, you bet: who do you think will win?; why your party should get a majority; how lame and underhanded all the other parties are...and so on. It's a healthy sign of our democracy doing one of the things it still does best, which is to prod the public into exchanges of ideas and raw emotions - the very stew from which emerges our ultimate voting and political involvement.

This year, however, the discussions are sounding increasingly polarized. Not least because our predicted election coincides with the vote for a new American president. On one extreme are the left wing ''moonbats,'' an expression that conjurs images of creepy dark mammals flapping their wings helter skelter in the night sky (though the term itself may simply be a bastardization of British activist, environmentalist and journalist George Monbiot's surname). At the other extreme of the continuum are the right ''wingnuts,'' a probable contraction of the expression ''right wing nut cases,'' another evocative image - this one of madmen (and madwomen too, lest we be uninclusive) and their shrill mental meanderings.

Somehere toward the centre - does such a thing exist in North American politics anymore? - are the rest of us, we who prefer to simply carry on with Canadian society as it's more or less been for decades, where tolerance is a virtue, continuity and politeness the norms, but where radicals on all sides want to steal our entitlement to bland, if predictably incompetent, governance.

I can personally remember a time when casting your ballot federally was a typically Canuck affair. Pre-Brian Mulroney (that is, prior to 1984), it didn't seem to matter enormously whether you chose Progressive Conservatives--a forerunner to today's Conservative party--or the Liberals. The former would tax the wealthy a little bit less, the latter would occassionally give more tithings to less fortunate constituents. Only flaming tree huggers and stalwart unionists put a check mark beside the NDP back then. As for the Bloc Quebecois? Not even a twinkle in Duceppe's secessionist eye yet. And the Green Party, well, you would have had to visit Germany for the inauguration of ''Die Grünen,'' which is the progenitor of Green parties worldwide. It was just getting formed in the early 80's.

Our unshakably polite Canuckness has never been the same in politics since back then. That's because with the advent of Mulroney, the Conservatives have clearly been moving steadily toward the right (lower taxes and fewer regulations for corporations among their standard planks), making the Liberals (redistribute the wealth somewhat more evenly), who had generally been known as a centrist party with a ''big tent'' lightly-to-the-left outlook, look positively Marxist. Goodness knows what right wingers make of today's NDP. Or how died in the wool small-L Liberals view the Greens.

In any event, I urge you to get involved and exercise your right to vote. Or to abstain on principle. Either way is fine, and whichever party you pick (or don't) is your personal decision, of course. Only please don't sit on your hands due to apathy. Be sure to visit each party's site and check into their policies to make sure they align more or less with your own personal values. And those that you would like to permeate your workplace. After all, when all the political advertising and ballot counting is said and done, we all have to live with the result you've helped make happen. So get informed to make a wise decision. And do not let your employer tell you how to vote, unlike what the headlines say that Walmart tried to do in the U.S. This is Canada, after all, home of the Mounties, multiculturalism, freedom of speech, and the franchise to vote--or not--as we please!

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