The Better Ballot Campaign: For a more productive electoral dialogue

Posted on Monday, October 21st, 2019

Written by Kelly Hatt

It’s election day in Canada! Over the past weeks, we have been exposed to a lot of negative campaigning and adverse discussion between political parties. You may be happy to hear that a Guelph-based movement, the Better Ballot Campaign (BBC), is working hard to engage Canadians in a more productive conversation that focuses on the political issues instead of on personal attacks by politicians. Launched in 2018, the BBC was formed to encourage diverse voices in politics. The campaign is committed to foster civil discussion and respectful debate of political issues. For its supporters, all Canadians should feel welcome to participate in political discussion in order to make well-informed decisions. The campaign believes it is important for people to listen to other opinions, distinguish fact from fiction and attempt to seek common ground to create civil discussion. The BBC wants to help everyone cast a better informed vote so we can build the society we want to live in together.

The campaign revolves around asking candidates and voters to take a simple pledge: to commit to a better political atmosphere. For candidates, this means taking ownership of their own conduct during the entire electoral period (and beyond!), and committing to respecting other candidates and voters. By taking the pledge, candidates agree to focus on the political issues, not attack candidates or voters, and create a positive political climate. For voters, taking the pledge is primarily about recognizing that everyone has the right to be heard without being harassed.

The BBC is committed to designing a campaign with impact. As they work to improve the movement and scale it up to the national level, they have partnered with CESI’s Research Shop to evaluate their campaign during the 2019 federal election. Our program evaluation will focus on the BBC’s activities in Guelph, Wellington and Orangeville, and assess the success of the campaign based on the number of pledges signed and the prominence of negative campaigning. Student researchers have been hard at work over the past few weeks surveying and interviewing candidates, voters and volunteers to understand how the campaign may have informed campaigning, communication and debates. This research process is also an opportunity for voters and candidates to provide suggestions around how the BBC could be improved as it is expanded to the national scene.

For more information about the BBC or to sign the pledge, visit the Better Ballot Campaign. And don't forget to vote!

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