When I was fifteen, I took a mandatory civics course that changed my life forever.

My teacher was a middle-aged black fellow with a strong accent who let us watch famous political films in class like Hotel Rwanda. He was one of my favourite teachers, and he often stopped to talk with me after class.

Why? Because I was the only person who identified myself as Liberal in a class full of Conservatives.

Many of those who were in my class won’t remember this day, but it is engrained in my skull forever. It was the day my teacher first gave us the characteristics and values of each party and asked us which we identified ourselves with. I had grown up in a household with two very Conservative parents, so I thought the answer would be obvious for me.

But it wasn’t.

The more I read about each Canadian party, the more I found myself siding with the Liberals. I was confused at first, thinking I had somehow gotten it wrong. But no, there it was. I was left-winged, if you pardon the phrase.

My teacher then had us each stand and go to different corners of the classroom depending on which political side you were on. Liberals in one corner, Green Party in another, etc.

Imagine my surprise when I faced off alone in one corner against 23 Conservative classmates in the other.

“Now,” my teacher said. “We’re going to have a debate to see how much you retained from the papers you read just now on different issues.”

This was my worst nightmare. I have social anxiety, and to have to stand and argue (“debate”) against my entire class felt like torture. But somehow, I managed to do it. I stood there and passionately was able to argue why I was at a different political side than they were.

And about halfway through the debate, one of my classmates changed corners.

By the end of it, five or six others had joined him, and I was no longer arguing my points alone.

So why am I telling you this? Is it because I want everyone to go out and vote Liberal in this election today? No, it’s not. I’m trying to emphasize the importance of having an opinion in this election, regardless of what it is, and the importance of understanding the issues. The classmates whom I managed to convince to switch corners didn’t switch because I offered them up any made-up information; I was just restating facts that they had overlooked on the sheets of paper my teacher had handed out.

So today, don’t overlook any facts. Don’t side with someone because that’s what they tell you to do. Read up on each political party carefully and vote accordingly. It doesn’t take long and it doesn’t hurt. Please vote today, regardless of who you vote for and why.

Only if you vote do you have a right to complain.

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