By Jason Menard,
Instead of burning with passion as a result of election fever, I find myself on the precipice of succumbing to burning out with the process — like many of my fellow Canadians apparently already have. However, one only need to look beyond our borders to find the spark that should reignite that fire.
As we enter our fourth election since 2004, I have found myself wondering if remaining passionate about the process is a waste of time. It’s not that I don’t have faith that Canadians will do the right thing – I just don’t have faith that Canadians will do anything.
I’m left to wonder whether I’ve been wrong all this time. What if politics don’t matter? What if our societal apathy is borne not from frustration with lies and false promises, but rather the realization that nothing we do really matters?
In 2008, only 58.8 per cent of registered voters turned out for the election. This was a continuation of the decline we’ve seen since 1988, notwithstanding (and, yes, I know that’s a bad term for Canadian federal politicians) a slight surge up to 64.7 per cent in 2006. Overall it’s a far cry from the halcyon days of the late 50s to early 60s, when almost 80 per cent of registered voters actually found their way to a polling station.
Of that 58.8 per cent who voted, how many actually were educated about their choice? Should we be generous and say half? How many people voted for whomever their parents had traditionally voted for? How many voted based solely upon hearsay or gut feelings? Far too many, likely. Those who take the time to understand even the rudimentary issues are in the minority.
On the other hand, are those who take our responsibility as voters so seriously more right?
Maybe it doesn’t matter who gets into power. After all, the business market has a tremendous influence on how this country fares, the provinces have responsibility for a significant portion of our key social services, and the municipal level handles those things that occur day to day in the cities and towns in which we live.
Maybe people feel so withdrawn from the process, so disconnected from their Member of Parliament, that they don’t feel that connection which is so integral to personal representation?
Maybe people are so fed up with the childlike bantering and sandbox-like environment into which the House of Commons has devolved that they’ve purposely decided to distance themselves from that behaviour?
The sad thing is that we’ve arrived at this point. And the only thing that prevents me from fully giving up and allowing myself to join the disenfranchised masses comes in the form of those who do not have the very right we’re taking for granted.
What we’ve seen recently in places like Egypt, Iran, and now Libya is inspirational. It shows how much even just the opportunity to vote is valued in places that don’t have it. Canadians take the process for granted. We look at voting as an annoyance — as if the act of educating oneself to make an informed choice is a burden as opposed to a privilege. We have become so spoiled with the process and disillusioned by the candidates that we’ve lost sight of what’s truly important — that we have the opportunity to have a direct impact on our representation.
We see people in other countries willing to lay down their lives to ensure that their leaders listen to their needs, represent their wishes, and remain accountable to their constituencies. We, on the other hand, grumble and complain, but then choose to do little to hold those who are bastardising our electoral process accountable.
In the end, we have the freedom to choose and perhaps some of us are simply exercising our right to choose not to participate in the electoral process. But, as I’ve stated before, voting isn’t just a right — it’s a responsibility.
As we approach May 2nd, Canadians should take a moment to look outside of our borders and gain inspiration from those who have shown us so clearly exactly how valuable the very thing that we take for granted truly is.
The flames of political passion may be waning in Canada, but perhaps all we need is a little perspective — in the form of inspirational behaviour from our Egyptian, Iranian, and Libyan friends — to reignite that spark.