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Forget the Scandals and Check Out These Everyday Political Citizens

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What a time in Canadian politics: with three senators expelled, Toronto Mayor Ford's crack cocaine admission, and the election of Montreal's fourth mayor in 12 months, there lots to give politics a bad name.

It's not as though Canadians had very positive opinions about politics before this week. In Samara's focus group research, we've asked Canadians to share the first words that come to mind when we say "politics," and many of them are not pleasant: lies, greedy, corrupt, untrustworthy... and boring.

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But "boring" doesn't really apply to this month, does it? According to a CBC poll, 83 per cent of Canadians were paying attention to the Senate, and it was nearly impossible to go without mention of Mayor Ford in a coffee shop or newscast -- even Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert weighed in.

Is any increase in political interest good for politics? Probably not. The temptation is to step back (or further back) and wash our hands of this whole business of politics altogether.

Samara's research documents that our formal politics is already starved for the talents and time of Canadians: In 2012, 55 per cent of Canadians reported that they had volunteered in the last year, but only 10 per cent said they had volunteered on a political campaign in the last five years. A full 58 per cent of us are active in a group, but only 10 per cent report being part of a political party. Our politics cannot thrive when such a limited number of our population is supporting it -- particularly when the future is forecasting a generation of young citizens who prefer to look outside politics for a way to make change.

Even though 40 per cent of Canadians say they talk about politics in the course of a year, this week seemed an exception to that statistic. It seems that the only popular topic of political conversation is talking about how terrible politics and politicians are.

Beyond those in office, however, are thousands of Canadians who help get them there, and thousands more who engage with them on behalf of causes that improve communities and Canada. Whether it's door knocking or rabble rousing, these contributions often go unrecognized or uncelebrated compared to other forms of volunteerism.

Imagine if we celebrated Canada's democratic volunteers in the same way we celebrate our entrepreneurs, sports stars and community leaders? Samara is trying to do just that, by finding and highlighting the work of these people in the Everyday Political Citizen project.

In need of some political sunshine? Read some inspiring stories. Know an #EPCitizen who should be recognized? Nominate before December 31 -- it takes only five minutes.

And a bonus? Jury members, including Rick Mercer, host of CBC's Rick Mercer Report, Preston Manning and Kristine Stewart, head of Twitter Canada, will select from among the nominees the best Everyday Political Citizen of 2013 (adult and under-18 category).

Move over mayors, senators, and the media circus. Everyday Political Citizens are changing the narrative around politics. After all, politics will only change if citizens show the way.

Everyday Political Citizens - Samara
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