I wasn’t going to bother commenting on yesterday’s election this morning, because I was up late last night watching the very disappointing results, and as a consequence I am somewhat grumpy, sleepy and off my game.
Nevertheless, the discovery that one of my very close friends and a man I admire greatly did not choose to vote yesterday due to a combination of voter/general apathy, riled me up sufficiently that I felt the need to respond to some of these concerns.
1) Re: Not Voting
There is no excuse to not vote. Everyone should vote. It should be the law that you must vote, as it is in Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, and many other countries that have legislated compulsory voting.
For heaven’s sake, your employer must ensure that you have THREE consecutive hours to cast your ballot on polling day. It took me about 20 minutes, including my unfortunate experience with incompetent electoral officers. You can also get ANY party to literally DRIVE your ass to the polls. They will pick you up, from your home, in a car and take you there. No public transit for voters, no sir! First class all the way, baby.
There are also advance polls in every riding, days before the election proper. If you haven’t voted, then you have failed to do your civic duty, and that is the end of it.
I personally recommend the advance polls, since it takes a lot of the pressure off. Last time I voted, there was the ominous feeling of “oh, I should vote for a party and a candidate I don’t believe in, just because my vote for a candidate I do think is worthy might create a situation where a candidate I loathe gets into power”.
Without the clamor of the masses drowning out your own political voice, it’s a lot easier to mark the X in the right box.
2) Re: Deal-breaking party platforms
Elections are not just about the party, they are also about the candidate. I have qualms about elements of the party platform I voted for, but the candidate in my riding who won my vote was the most active, the most involved, and the most passionate.
He did door to door personally on several weekends leading up to the election, and was at the GOtrain station talking to people and making himself available for comment at least four mornings that I was there.
To my mind that shows commitment, in terms of getting out on Saturday and Sunday and getting up for very early mornings, as well as coming out to all of the candidate debates and representing himself well.
The GOtrain visits also show him to be a strategic thinker, in that he went to a location that provided him with a captive, somewhat receptive audience and increased his public exposure with his white collar constituents (probably the group with whom he is least popular).
3) What do you do when every party sucks?
Either be ridiculous and form a new party, or join with the one that is least abhorrent to you, run for office, and work hard at transforming the platform until it is something you can be proud of.
There is no better way to register a complaint about how crappy everyone’s political ideas are than to have some of your own, and to demonstrate that they are feasable and worthy of implementation by getting off your sofa and involving yourself directly in the leadership of your riding and your country as a candidate.
4) Re: functioning multi-party democracy
Hmm. Is it really functioning if we only have 60% voter turn-out?
Personally, I think it is high time that they put the vote on the web.
Seriously, if I can do my banking and pay my taxes and vehicle fines and change my health card and passport address on line, why is voting the final frontier?
Could it be because if there was increased voter turn-out at the polls from the much-lamented 18-35 age bracket, perhaps the parties that consistently find their way into power would no longer be pulling as many votes?
Canada’s young voters are lazy, and busy, and have all sorts of reasons not to venture outside, off their beaten paths to vote – but they are constantly on the internet, registering their opinions and exchanging ideas and debating about the nature of our country’s leadership.
This has become an issue of the old-fashioned media that voting uses; we need to drag the polls into the 21st century. The only move they’ve made in this direction so far was back in early 2003, when they contracted CGI Consultants to conduct a study examining the “feasibility of developing and implementing an on-line voter registration system”. NOT an on-line voting system, JUST a place where you can change your freaking voter address online.
Which they have not yet implemented.
This explains why your voter registration card was mailed to your parent’s old house that they sold five years ago, rather thank your new address that you just updated on your driver’s license and property tax records last year. NONE OF THESE SYSTEMS ARE LINKED.
Amusingly, the Elections Canada website doesn’t even have an easy-access e-mail address available. If you go to the home page, there is a “Contact Us” section, which gives you a snail-mail address and phone/fax numbers, but no e-mail and no link to an e-mail form.
If you want to get to the form, you need to click on the right hand side bar on the splash page under “Chief Electoral Officer of Canada” (not an obvious choice), then the last link on the following page “Contact the Chief Electoral Officer”. Then finally, you get an e-mail form, but no e-mail address.
If you’d prefer to skip all of these shenanigans, and demand that the process of getting the vote online be advanced as a priority for the federal government, I can tell you that their actual e-mail is:
Please, I implore you to dash off a quick letter of complaint about the archaic nature of the whole process of voting in Canada. Toss something in about the mandatory voting, while you’re at it.