If you’re like me, you welcomed news of our spring election with as much enthusiasm as you welcome some other signs of spring: mud, slush, puddles. Those things, at least, are free. You have a right to be unenthusiastic about this election; Elections Canada shows the 2008 election cost $288 million. A similar sum could be spent now in scores of better ways than wasted on another election.
Opposition parties give various reasons for forcing this election: the budget, fighter jets, contempt of parliament. They also claim Canadians want an election because they want a new government. These parties fail to recognize that many Canadians don’t know about these issues, and others don’t care, even after weeks of campaigning. Many Canadians simply want the government to govern and the parties to quit playing political games nobody wins.
Opposition parties believe Canadians are weary of minority government stalemates. Even if opposition parties are right, it appears increasingly likely the Conservatives would win any potential majority. That, of course, is the opposite of what the opposition wants. If that is the outcome, they’ll have played a dangerous game and lost. The biggest losers, though, will be Canadians when we pay the bill.
Although some journalists have urged us to quit complaining about this unnecessary election and vote, I have slightly different advice: Keep complaining, if that’s what you want to do or if that’s what you like to do. But vote anyway. Have your voice heard in both ways.
We live in a democracy. With democracy comes the power to vote. With the power to vote comes the responsibility to vote. Many of us do not take that responsibility seriously. Many of us say we believe in democracy, but then fail to fulfill our democratic obligations. My question to Canadians is this: do you believe in democracy, or do you just say in believe in democracy? If the former is true, then get out on election day and vote. Fulfill your obligation.
Canada is a representative democracy. We elect others to represent our interests in the government. If you choose not to vote, you are essentially choosing not to be represented. If you want to be represented, take some time—and truly, it isn’t a great deal of time—to vote.
I’ve heard some Canadians say, “There’s nobody worth voting for.” To those people, I say, “You may be right. We don’t have any inspired leadership choices right now, but how can choosing nothing be better?”
I’ve heard other Canadians say, “My vote won’t count anyway, so I’m not going to bother.” To those people, I say, “But if thousands of you think that way and then act that way, of course your votes won’t count. Think of the difference all those people together could actually make if instead they vote.”
Yet other Canadians say, “I’m going to throw away my vote to send the politicians a message.” To those people, I say, “Throwing away your vote sends no message. Except perhaps that you don’t value your vote to begin with.” If you value your right to vote, use it, and use it wisely. Think about how much you would miss it if it was suddenly gone. Think of how many people in countries around the world, most recently Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, have fought for and died for democracy and all that comes with it. Think of how many Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, and Canadian soldiers in wars past, have sacrificed their lives for democracy and all that comes with it. Treat your vote with the respect it deserves.
Yes, many of us did not want this election. Yes, many of us think it’s a colossal waste of time and money. Yes, many of us are deeply disappointed in our choices. Complain about those things if you must; I know I have and that I will probably continue to do so all the way to the polling station. But, whether we like it or not, the election is upon us, so do the right thing. Vote on May 2.