The long awaited 2015 federal election has been called, so Canadians are now being treated to one of the longest Federal Elections in Canadian History. Because of strict spending caps, the standard election period has traditionally been half as long as the one we are having now. Since the passage of the Harper Government’s Orwellianly titled “Fair Elections Act,” any party with an absurdly large budget (like, say, the Conservative Party of Canada) has an even better chance to outspend the other parties. Will they be able to effectively “buy” an election win in this way? I hope not.
Right now all the parties are scrambling to put on their game faces, but I have no doubt election fever will slow down a good bit until we get closer to the election. We have time to catch our breath. More important, we have time to start conversations about the Canada we want to have. About the future we want for ourselves, and for our kids.
They call it “voter apathy” but I believe that’s a misnomer: we ought to call it “Voter Disillusionment.” Although our electoral system is not only antiquated but unfair, a great many Canadians — on the order of 40% in 2011 — have become disillusioned or have other reasons for not getting out to vote. The fewer Canadians who vote, the weaker our representation in Parliament, as we can see from much of the legislation pushed through with little or no scrutiny by our current majority government.
Originally, our First Past The Post electoral system was designed to serve rich white men. It was only well into the 20th century that all Canadian citizens of legal age finally achieved the right to vote, but still, the system adopted before confederation wasn’t never intended to serve all Canadians. No one knows better than I — after 30+ years of voting in every election without ever sending a representative to Parliament — just how unfair our winner-take-all electoral system actually is. However, this year, meaningful electoral reform to Proportional Representation is indeed on the table. The Harper Government has a majority government– and 100% of the power — based on less than 40% of the vote. In the last election, more eligible Canadian voters did not vote than those who voted for the Harper Government’s majority. If all the disillusioned Canadian voters were to vote this year, things would indeed change.
Canada’s fortunes will certainly improve with a switch to a better form of representative democracy, so I encourage everyone reading this to do your best to engage any other eligible voters you know who might ordinarily not vote to go to the polls this fall. We see enough attack ads on tv… it is time for civil discussion about politics in our real lives. My own strong hope is that the disillusioned voters will cast their votes for candidates who support Proportional Representation, but just voting for what you want is just as important. Please consider: it is the Canadians who don’t vote who have the least representation in Ottawa.
It may help to direct any such potential voters to the many valuable online resources (here’s a borrowed list) to help them get informed, but please try not to influence their decision. People who don’t believe they can vote for what they want are much less likely to vote at all, so please try to encourage them to vote for the candidate they believe will best represent them in Ottawa.