How to prevent the non-voter from winning a majority for the first time in our country’s history

The last time we as a nation went to the polls was on Tuesday, 14 October 2008. Granted, when I say “we as a nation,” I mean just 58.8 percent of eligible voters, according to Elections Canada.

Yes, the turnout during our last election was the single lowest voter turnout for any federal Canadian election ever. And as far as I can tell, we’re running the risk of beating that record in just a few weeks.

For all the worry over the Conservatives winning their coveted majority government, I worry that the real majority in this election, for the first time in our country’s history, might very well end up being the non-voter.

It’s not excessive to say that our democracy is currently in crisis. Hell, our opposition leaders are among the first to say it, whenever it suits them to do so.

And clearly, the main reason why it’s in crisis is because the current government is fundamentally corrupt. In 2011, on this basic point, there can be no debate among rational, reasonable Canadians who have been paying any attention at all since 2006.

But in spite of that fact, a lot of Canadians are about to vote Conservative again. Some of them are surely about to vote Conservative for the first time. And as much as we on the left might be tempted to look down our noses at those people, we’ve also got an obligation to acknowledge that a lot of them are about to vote to the right because they simply don’t see any better alternative.

That’s not some ignorant, simplistic “Toronto versus the rest of the country” issue. It’s a leadership issue – or more to the point, a lack of leadership issue.

With all due respect to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff – and with a wealth of respect for NDP leader Jack Layton, who’s one of the people who first inspired me to get passionate about Canadian politics – this election is theirs to lose.

And there’s a very good chance that they’re both about to lose the damned thing in a big way.

Why? Because all three of these parties are showing every sign of running once again on the same narratives, and with the same strategies. And the Greens and the Bloc, to be fair, seem set to do the same.

And if you’re like me, you’re long past hoping that the news media won’t continue to let us down to greater and greater degrees, parroting polls and party lines instead of debunking myths and outright lies, like the media’s supposed to do in a democracy. And after the paltry number of votes are counted, they’ll have the nerve to ask why Canadians don’t seem to care about voting anymore.

To be fair, it’s still our duty to vote. I’m not saying any of this in order to excuse anyone who just doesn’t feel like serving their country by voting in the next election. But more and more these days – hell, more than I ever have in my life, if I’m being honest with you – I can relate to the people who feel like the whole thing’s a bunch of bullshit.

The onus is on our political candidates to change their approach and change the game. It’s on our journalists, with all due respect to the good ones, to once again acknowledge their responsibilities and do their jobs. And it’s on us, when the pollsters ask our opinion and the party volunteers ask for our support, to tell them that we’re no longer content to participate in a system we’ve come to resent by voting for the least difficult candidate to stomach.

I’m sure this entire post has been a bit of a downer so far, and I hope you’ll forgive me. I’m still a major fan of democracy as a system, and although we all engage with it in our own personal and political ways, I’m sure I’m not alone in having lost a lot of faith in our government and our media during this particular period in our history. In fact, I know I’m not alone, because the numbers bear me out.

Well, we can whine and complain, or we can work to reclaim the system we deserve. If you’re like me, you care a whole lot more about getting the country back on track than you do about any particular party or candidate. It’s up to them to change the game, sure, but it’s up to us to compel them to do it. What do you say we make them work for our vote?

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2 Responses to “How to prevent the non-voter from winning a majority for the first time in our country’s history”

  1. toby says:

    One problem I have is that I love my local NDP representative and she has been the MP for a number of years (at least since I have lived here) With the belief that the NDP can’t win, I might be forced to vote for a Liberal MP that I don’t know much about and might be brand new to politics, just to try and push the Liberal seats up.

  2. Matt says:

    For me it’s not as much of a concern, because I live in Jack Layton’s riding. It’s his to lose, and he’s got little chance of losing it. I think it comes down to the likelihood of winning seats in each specific riding, and mine is quite a safe one. Others, not so much.