Last week, our sixth-grade daughter came home from school and asked me, “Dad, are you going to vote for Justin Trudeau?”
“I don’t know,” I responded. “I’m still sitting on the fence.”
“Don’t vote for him,” she said. “I heard he wants to make marijuana legal. And that’s just terrible.”
This caught me off-guard. We’ve had the basic “Don’t do drugs” conversations with our kids, but we’ve yet to have the “Many studies indicate that decriminalizing marijuana could have a positive tax benefit while reducing the stress on law enforcement” chat. I figured she was probably not ready for this conversation, considering she still thinks Swiss Chalet is a fancy restaurant.
I asked her where she heard about this Justin Trudeau marijuana story. She said a couple of kids were talking about it on the playground. It’s somewhat comforting to know that the schoolyard is still the place where cooties are a transmittable disease and wild political rumours fly about. Or maybe this is just an Ottawa thing.
She seemed bothered by the fact that a political party wanted to make a drug legal. I told her that the issue isn’t black-and-white; there’s a significant amount of grey area when talking about whether or not you legalize drugs. And that goes for virtually every hot-button political debate topic. I want to teach our kids that there are two sides to every debate and oftentimes, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
I certainly don’t want to be one of those families that has generation after generation voting for the same political party because that’s what Grandpa did 50 years ago. I’ve often said that political beliefs shouldn’t be a genetic thing that is passed down like eye colour. It’s important to teach your kids about all sides of an issue and let them draw their own conclusions.
My daughter’s Grade 6 class has been doing a series of activities related to the federal election, including getting a basic grasp on the platforms for each political party. (However, when I asked her this morning to list some of the differences between Thomas Mulcair and Stephen Harper, she responded by saying, “I think they believe in mostly the same stuff, right?”) It’s great that her teachers are paying attention to this story and even if the kids don’t quite understand the issues yet, it’s at least an introduction to politics. They even voted for a class president last week, to coincide with the federal election and teach them how a campaign works.
I want my daughter to know that if I vote for Justin Trudeau’s party, it’s not necessarily an endorsement for drugs. There are more issues at play. (Cards on the table: I’ve voted for the Conservative Party in the past, but with Stephen Harper’s connection to Rob Ford, perhaps my vote for the Conservatives would be an endorsement for drugs).
I still don’t know who I’m going to vote for when I walk into that polling station on Monday evening. But in any event, after I cast my vote, I’m going to tell my daughter who I voted for and why. It’s crazy to think that she’ll be eligible to vote in just a couple of election cycles. If we don’t start getting kids engaged in the political process now, they won’t be excited to vote when they turn 18.
Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising his daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia. Read all of Ian’s The Good Sport posts and follow him on Twitter @ian_mendes.