Initially published as a column on NewsKamloops on October 9, 2015.

October 19 is around the corner and the word of the day is voting. It’d better be. There is much at stake and citizens of this country are the ones in charge of it all by casting their ballot. The importance of this year’s voting is immense. We are voting not just for the next four years, but the next 40 and beyond.

Perusing the news is enough to help give us a bird’s eye view of the matters at hand and persuade anyone with a conscience to go out and vote. Ethical standards, or lack thereof rather, stand out as the driving engine behind many a foul matters that surface through various media outlets.

And we have to be discerning and realize that even though some issues seem to not pertain to us all, they do, more than we realize.

We have yet to see positive action that will address the death of the 1,181 missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and, while at that, action that will recognize and address violence against women, a dreadful reality still very present in our ever so polite society. Comments such as the one by former conservative MP John Cummings that blame the victims for putting themselves at risk rather than seeking the perpetrators are at best, shameful, and should make us realize that safety is not a privilege of a few but the right of everyone.

We have yet to see a justice system that will not be in any way influenced by money, if the perpetrators happen to have them, but will hold the value of truth and honesty above anything else.

We have yet to see a system where no victim will be ignored in any way, or their suffering or death brushed aside and classified as not important enough to warrant a public inquiry (see the case of foster children and youths who died while in government care). Public inquiries have the the potential to bring better rules that will see children protected and minded as they should be, and better qualified and ethically-driven people in key positions.

A society is never healthy until health is seen at all levels and by all people. That implies many things: ability to assess the situation, courage to address it and take action, and last but not least, transparency when it comes to the public knowing about it. Referendums to address issues that concern us all should be commonplace in a democratic society like ours. Unfortunately, these things are the result of people pushing for them to happen.

Hence the need to have our candidates committed to make changes that will see better things happen for Canadians, at all levels of society, and also willing to maintain transparency along the way, a feature that has been sorely missing more and more from our political landscape, a detrimental thing to us all, save for a selected few.

We have yet to see government action that will address climate change. There is a plethora of signs pointing to a suffering environment and no matter which side you happen to be on (the deniers’ numbers are dwindling by the day), the truth is that we all depend on clean air, water and soil. All of them have been suffering lately and that needs to be addressed.

Expectedly, climate change has also become one hot issue with the voters, for many of them ranking as the second most important after the economy.

Climate change is real, despite some candidates not being convinced by the existing evidence (explained as such by Conservative candidate for the North Okanagan-Shuswap, Mel Arnold). Evidence is not only here but staring us in the face; not a pretty stare either.

Whether at home or abroad, there are many changes we see in the environment which will only get worse unless properly addressed. The cause needs no further explaining: the progressively increased levels of greenhouse gases are causing warming of the atmosphere, which in turn brings ill such as rising sea levels, warming and acidification of the oceans, melting of glaciers and declining of Arctic ice sheets, dwindling snow reserves that forecast longer wildfire seasons.

It starts with realizing that pollution kills and it is man-made. Scientists at Environment Canada put together a computer-generated video showing how pollution spreads across the Prairies. The video, released to the public this week, is evidence of how gases generated by massive industrial sites (oil and gas, coal-burning plants and the oilsands), travel for hundreds of kilometers, spreading over populated areas and increasing the amount if pollution past acceptable limits. That is what we are all breathing in.

Such evidence should be taken seriously by the candidates and change should follow. A country’s economy is bound to be affected by climate change and it may just be that we are at a fork in the road. We can either ask our soon-to-be-elected leaders to address climate and thus influence the economy in a positive manner while also lessening the dependence on fossil fuels, or continue on the path of exploiting natural resources knowing that Mother Nature is not one we can ever trick into abiding by human-imposed rules.

Our country’s well-being is at stake here. Public health in all aspects, environmental health, an economy that is affected by both, no issue exists by itself. They are all connected and the bettering of one will influence the others in a positive way.

If there’s ever a time to be diligent about doing our homework, this should be it. Moral values such as honesty, ethics and a sense of responsibility for today’s young generation and the ones to follow are to be the guidelines in helping us choose our future leaders. Please vote with a conscience.