Make this election matter: Vote!

Canada's 41st General Election is on May 2nd, and it represents one of the most critical elections in recent memory. Five years of minority government have only highlighted the deteriorating state of Canadian politics, and this has turned many people off of voting. Broken promises and a focus on winning at the expense of the interests of Canadians makes it difficult to see hope. But now, more than ever, it is critical that Canadians, and especially working Canadians, union members and lower and middle-income Canadians, stand up and make their voices heard.

Voter turnout in the last Federal election was the lowest in the history of Federal elections; less than 60% of those eligible to cast a ballot did so. Our political system, that rewards parties for strategically winning ridings, rather than winning the votes of Canadians, heavily favours the established parties. Many politicians and commentators treat the issues as though Canadians can't understand them, and they need to be spoon fed. They analyze the election races and draw conclusions based on simple polls and analysis of past elections.

The reality is that each and every one of us has the power to change historical trends, to make this election an election of historical proportions. In her interview with Peter Mansbridge, as Leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May made a powerful observation: It isn't strategic voting that is the real concern in this election, it is Canadians not voting. She noted that in the last election the percentage of Canadians that did not vote was greater than the percentage of the vote received by any of the parties. This is a powerful fact: En mass, those who did not vote in the last election could sway this election to any party, including the Green party. If anyone tells you there is no power in voting, simply remind them of that fact. Not voting is the abdication of power, influence and, indeed, responsibility.

This post is not about telling anyone how to vote; how you vote is not nearly as important as the fact that you do vote. So many voices in Canada are not heard because they are not represented at the ballot box. Aboriginal people, working people, the less educated all have issues that need to be addressed, yet all have been less inclined to vote in Federal elections. Of course the frustration that is at the root of this apathy is understandable: Why vote when your voice is not represented and, when promises are made, they are not kept by the elected government? Remember, however, that all it takes is for those who haven't voted to go to the polls and vote for change, and change will come. And every election, if the government doesn't keep it's commitments to Canadians, as opposed to corporations and corporate interests, we can throw the bums out.

This is you chance to be the boss.

So, no, there is no answer here to how to vote, but here are a few things to consider:

  • If you are a working family, with two incomes, how does a government handout for child support help when there are not enough licensed child care spaces, and not enough Early Childhood Educators trained to staff existing spaces?
  • If you believe government programs and government actions should be based on evidence as to what is most needed and effective, rather than the influence of corporate and issue lobbies, can you support a government that sees no value in collecting such information and, indeed, shows open contempt for evidence-based policy?
  • If you think that Canadians should have access to information from Government, and be able to hold their representatives to account for what they say and do, can you support a party and a Prime Minister that obsessively control information and restricts the freedom of its own Ministers to speak on issues using their own intellectual faculties?
  • And finally, if you believe that a Government should stand behind its commitments and values, how can you support a government that, while campaigning for election, trumpets the need for transparency, accountability and ethics in Ottawa and then, once elected, displays a contempt for these principles rarely, if ever, exhibited in the history of Canadian politics?

Obviously this post is not about telling you who to vote for but, as you may have sensed, it is suggesting you consider who not to vote for. Much of the Conservative message is centred around the idea of stability and that to elect any other government would jeopardize this. However, the idea that a Liberal, NDP or even Green government would result in chaos is ridiculous, and the idea that stability is valuable for its own sake even more so.

The reality is we need change. Income inequality in Canada is increasing every year, The rich are getting richer, corporations are getting a free ride, and the average Canadian is fighting for their jobs, to pay the bills and, in some cases, to feed their families. For those with that reality, what does the Conservative government have to offer?

So stand up for change. Any change is good. To be apathetic, to accept the status quo, is to tell Mr. Harper that we, as Canadians, do not care enough about our own welfare to oppose his agenda, that we accept growing inequality, poverty and disrespect for our democratic rights.

Of course none of us accept these things, but until we speak out, nobody will know.