April 02, 2013

The Premise for Political Health

Greetings, Heal4Lifer's! 

Welcome to my first post discussing political health. 

Before proceeding, I would like to provide a bit about myself. I’m from Moncton, New Brunswick, a BBA graduate from Bishop’s University in 2008, and a Certified Management Accountant residing in Toronto. 

My active living passion since my childhood is cycling, whether it was for doing errands around town, long distance bike rides during the weekend, or training for the upcoming Ride for Heart on June 2, 2013. My other passion is politics, in which I pursued a political studies minor in university and have been active with a local riding association in various capacities since last year.

What is political health?

You are likely aware of physical health (e.g. healthy living, active living), mental health (e.g. autism, depression, addiction), and ecological health (e.g. air and water quality, forests, wildlife). Given the different types of health, it is certainly possible to define political health. I define political health as the following:

1.   The degree of citizen participation in the political process – Not only is low voter turnout a serious issue (61.1% in the 2011 federal election per Elections Canada), but also the false assumption that voting is the only time our opinions matter. A healthy political process requires its citizens to be consistently engaged between elections, at least with the issues they choose to be passionate about. (e.g. physical education in schools, environment, etc.) This can be done in the form of attending public hearings, contacting elected officials, canvassing, and organizing rallies. With door to door canvassing allowing you to improve social skills, remain committed to a cause, and be physically active, what’s not to like?
2.   The degree of social justice – Income inequality is a key theme for social justice. However, it includes access to health and education, affordability of basic needs such as food and shelter, and equality of opportunity. One can refer to the cutting of corporate tax rates federally and provincially, as well as spending cuts to essential public services, as examples of threats to social justice.
3.   The degree of institutional integrity – Transparency and accountability are key themes for institutional integrity. More specifically, one could look into the electoral system, access to government information, spending and conduct of elected officials, and campaign limits and bylaws. Scandals involving former Heritage Minister Bev Oda’s excessive spending habits, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s conflict of interest lawsuits, and corruption within the construction industry in Québec are reminders of institutional integrity being constantly under threat.

With the premise of political health defined, I intend to use future posts to discuss why political health is important, as well as how we can effectively use the political process to promote healthy living in our communities.

Over and out,
Rob Z (e-mail)

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