April 28, 2011 10 Comments
Up until in what was probably sometime in 2008, I was a dedicated listener of a particular Calgary radio station. With some notable exceptions (*cough*Nickelback*cough*), this radio station generally plays the kind of music I prefer and has a popular morning show I would listen to on my way to work.
But one fateful morning several years ago would be the last that I listened to that particular radio station.
Since 2006, the Progressive Conservatives headed up by Stephen Harper have been in charge with a minority government. And regularly since then, the opposing parties have threatened at various times and in various ways to dramatically topple the government and either force another election (surprisingly, not responsible for the 2008 election) or take over with a minority coalition.
This particular morning show – as many here are – was unabashedly in favour of the party you would expect a Calgarian show to be openly in favour of. Which was fine, I suppose; I was mostly just listening for the music.
But then the namesake of this particular morning show said something unforgivable.
Rather than advocating for a particular party, politician, or platform, he suggested that if those hooligans in the opposition go forward with a motion of non-confidence and force an election, everyone should just stay home. Don’t vote. “Send a message”, he said. Don’t participate in that treachery.
And since that morning, the dial on my car has been elsewhere on the FM bandwidth. Because that is actually worse than the occasional Black Eyed Peas song.
To advocate voter apathy – even in an uneducated attempt to label it a defiant political statement – was the last straw on the morning show that devised the “ass cream sundae” as part of a listener contest. Should I have drawn the line earlier? Probably.
Pity my poor husband who had to put up with me, still ranting and raving when I got home that evening about how it was completely irresponsible of a public figure, even just the local celebrity kind, to be promoting voter apathy. October 2008’s federal election saw a voter turnout at a record low: 58.8%. Pathetic.
If you want to “send a message”, sitting at home watching Two and a Half Men reruns is no way to do it. If you don’t show up to the polls, no government official sits up and thinks about it. They just think you don’t care, because there is no way to discern your staying at home out of protest from those who actually don’t care.
Want to send a message? Vote!
Vote for a party or particular MP you’d like to see in power.
Or see it the other way, and use your vote to count against a particular party you definitely do not want to see win a seat. If you’re not sure how to do this, check out websites like Vote Swap and Project Democracy.
Hate them all? Or the system generally? You can still show up to the polls and reject your ballot.
Provincial elections in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia and the Yukon allow voters to show up at the polling station and actually refuse their ballots, keeping a tally of refused ballots.
For federal elections, the option is to reject your ballot. This is different than spoiling your ballot. Spoiling you ballot is to damage or deface it and to do so would run you a $500 fine if the nature of voting weren’t so inherently anonymous (unless you try to eat your ballot, which spoils both your ballot and your appetite). So while you might get satisfaction out of folding yours into a paper airplane or writing a big “F-U” on it, those ballots don’t get counted and are just recycled away with other ones that are accidentally damaged.
To reject your ballot is different. You can do so by submitting your ballot blank, by checking off two or more choices, or by writing in someone who is not a candidate. Elections Canada actually tallies the rejected ballots, and in the 2008 election, 94,799 rejected ballots were counted (0.7%).
Though I suppose this method runs the risk of your ballot being lumped in with those honest/stupid mistakes that can also lead to rejected ballots, it still means you are politically involved. Ballots are pretty straightforward and as idiot-proof as possible, so I might be so bold as to say the majority of those are intentional, which actually sends a message.
But the bottom line is: vote!
On Monday get off your ass and have your opinion counted if you didn’t already make it to the early polling stations. Employers are required to give at least 3 consecutive hours so employees can make it to the polls. Your card should be in the mail, but you don’t even need to be registered – just show up at your polling station on May 2 with your driver’s license.
I know, I know. Canadian elections aren’t nearly as sexy as the campaigns put on by our neighbours to the south. No one is asking for Stephen Harper’s birth certificate. No one is calling Michael Ignatieff a “secret Muslim”. And we have no noisy, crazy fringe groups naming themselves after 18th Century hot beverage disputes.
But it’s still important, and while they are trying (“hashtag fail”?), citizens in several other countries are fighting desperately for the right we take for granted. It is our simple duty (how very Kantian) to spend at least an hour looking into the various parties and their candidates and determining where our priorities align. Besides, the more you pay attention to current political events, the more interesting they become – even the French debate!
And like every major decision out there, there are a variety of online resources to help with this, not to mention the actual party websites themselves.
Want to vote with the party that best represents your animal welfare concerns? WSPA asked each party about where they stand on animal-related issues, and you can see the results here.
Like to use online quizzes to best see which character from Friends you are or which party best represents your opinions? CBC has a fun Vote Compass here. Now, I’m not saying you should take the quiz and vote the results; I took the Vote Compass twice, got a different result each time and still plan to vote neither.
Listen. I get it. The same party wins by a landslide each time in my riding and it’s not the one I vote for. But I’ve never missed an election, and this year will be the first time I wasn’t able to hit up the advanced polls like the keener that I am. Actually, until Calgary’s 2010 municipal election, I had no idea what it felt like to have my chosen candidate actually win. It was unsettlingly satisfying.
Yes, the first-past-the-post system sucks. There are several blogs, websites, and undergrad poli-sci classes dedicated to the injustice that allows a party to govern with as little as 35% of the votes, and how 37% of the popular vote absurdly translates to 46% of the seats.
It’s a dumb system, I know, but that’s not grounds to stay home on Election Day.
Nothing’s going to change if you don’t have your vote counted. On the other side of that same coin, if you like the status quo, you better get out there and vote to maintain it.
In short: VOTE ON MONDAY.