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Lorna Dueck, Peter Stockland, James Loewen, Howard Voss-Altman, Sheema Khan, moderator Guy Nicholson
Lorna Dueck, Peter Stockland, James Loewen, Howard Voss-Altman, Sheema Khan, moderator Guy Nicholson

Faith Exchange

Religion at the ballot box Add to ...

With Canada's federal election campaign in full swing, the parties are making their way through the electorate, courting voters and demographics of all stripes as they try to find the winning formula. But for most voters, the decision will be made in a less scientific way - driven by emotion, trust and a personal weighing of priorities. Faith Exchange panelists have convened to discuss how religious voters might assess the candidates and parties.

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Here are today's participants:

Lorna Dueck has been reporting on Christian practice in Canadian life for the past 20 years. She is an evangelical Christian and executive producer of Listen Up TV on Global TV, Sundays at 11 a.m. Eastern time.

Rabbi Howard Voss-Altman has been serving Temple B'nai Tikvah, Calgary's Reform Jewish congregation, for the past eight years. He is a community leader in the areas of human rights and civil liberties.

Sheema Khan writes a monthly column for The Globe and Mail. She has a master's degree in physics and a Ph.D in chemical physics from Harvard. She is the author of Of Hockey and Hijab: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman.

Peter Stockland is director of the Cardus Centre for Cultural Renewal, a Canadian think tank that explains culture to religion and religion to culture. He is a former editor-in-chief of The Gazette in Montreal, was the editorial page editor of the Calgary Herald, and was vice-president of English editorial for Reader's Digest Canada. He is a regular contributor to the Catholic magazine Traces. He lives in Lachine, Que.

James Loewen is an active member of his Mennonite Brethren church and parent of four children. He advocates for restorative justice to federal government and in churches, is a past president of the Church Council on Justice and Corrections and has organized and facilitated dialogues across Canada and internationally.

Moderator Guy Nicholson edits The Globe and Mail's online Comment page. He professes no religious beliefs.

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Guy Nicholson: Thank you, panelists, for taking the time to join us - especially Peter and James, who haven't been with us before.

Before we get down to the four major parties and their leaders, I'd like to ask you all: What role does your faith play at the ballot box? And from a religious point of view, have any of this year's election issues caught your attention?

Howard Voss-Altman: My political activism is deeply informed by my faith. In judging the candidates and their party platforms, I hear the voice of the biblical prophets who implored us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and care for the poor, the widow and the orphan. The commandment to pursue justice for all is central to my political choices.

Sheema Khan: My faith plays an integral role in all of my life decisions. In the realm of elections, I am reminded of an authentic tradition of the Prophet Mohammed: "A leader is the servant of the people." So, I look for leadership through service, which implies that our political leaders should be serving the best interests of the Canadian people, through consultation, transparency and accountability.

What has caught my attention is the absence of discussion around health care, and hardly any mention about parliamentary contempt by the Conservatives. The other issue is voter apathy. I have just returned from the Middle East, where people are dying and fighting for a chance to have a say in their future. In Egypt, about 41 per cent of eligible voters turned out for a constitutional referendum - a much higher voter turnout than past elections, when elections were rigged. A greater turnout is expected in the fall general election. That is, it seems that we, the electorate, have taken our democracy for granted, and, rather than engaging our parties, demanding more, we seem to be turning away. That is my biggest concern.

James Loewen: First of all, it is because of my faith that I vote. Second, I am called by my God to be engaged fully in the world and to lovingly act out my faith in every aspect of my life, so when I vote, my faith guides my choice. I think that I have reacted most to those issues related to the behaviour of elected leaders, to those issues most related to the strengthening of democratic participation and those related to my particular area of interest, justice.

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