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voting - Musings of Unayok

2006 Jan 12

22:24voting 

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In the run up to the election, I've encountered several people who have bemoaned the fact that there's no one they want to vote for. When pressed, they become agitated that one or another party's list of promises or direction doesn't match precisely with theirs, and that this disqualifies that party from consideration. When they don't vote, they'll bitch about whoever manages to get the votes of the people who did care enough to do so.

Bollocks.

Democracy is about a little bit more than making an 'x' a few times a decade. Democracy is a bit more than waiting for some wondrous manifesto to be delivered from on high for your perusal and possible approval.

The people who design the party platforms are citizens like you and I. Every party in this country has policy conferences, for people who want input into the platform of a group. It's at that time that most voters should be making their voices heard.

"But I'm just one voice so it really doesn't matter what I say or how I say it".

Bollocks. So is Stephen Harper. So is Jack Layton, or Jim Harris, or Gilles Duceppe, or Paul Martin. A single voice can matter a great deal. Everyone could share a great and wonderful idea, but if no one says anything about it, no one will ever know that it's shared. Sharing ideas is one way that we grow. We learn, we build a shared sense of community. We sway each others opinion.

"But there's no time."

Bollocks. If that's true, then the country's direction, the country's future isn't all that important to you after all.

"But it's all controlled by Big Business, Corrupt Politicians, Big Labour, Americans, Space Aliens, or Rick Mercer."

Bollocks. If you use that as your excuse for not getting involved and taking the party "back" from those Evil Forces, then you're definitely not going to have an impact. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

If you wait until the election time, you're a little late to the party (no pun intended, but I'll take the chuckle if I can get it). By not participating earlier, you're stuck with the choices given you. You might get to make an 'x', but you're one of the ruled, not one of the rulers. The policy has already been framed and you're just rubberstamping it.

So suck it up. If you can't agree with the party platforms, look at the individuals running in your riding, to see who stands closest to your vision of the country, and vote — the individuals are the people who will represent you in the House of Commons. And if you're not happy with the policies and promises you've been offered this time around, do something about it. Join the party that's the closest to your vision (whatever that vision is), and contribute to that party's direction for the next time around.

But if you don't even make your 'x', then you're voting for all of them, and it's your fault no matter who ends up in Government.

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Comments:

[User Picture]
From:pat_the_fox
Date:2006 Jan 13 - 04:37 (UTC)
Personally I am confused who to vote for. I know who I probably won't but who I will is not an easy picking. I haven't been able to keep up with party promises and sice I am outside my normal riding since I am at school checking up on my candidates is rather hard.
From:okana
Date:2006 Jan 13 - 12:11 (UTC)
http://www.cbc.ca/canadavotes/

An excellent and easy-to-understand resource which covers probably everything you'd want to know.
From:okana
Date:2006 Jan 13 - 12:09 (UTC)
Really? I would not consider voting for a candidate if that person's party had a platform I could not support. If faced with a list consisting of nothing but unacceptable candidates and policies, I'd return my ballot.
[User Picture]
From:unayok
Date:2006 Jan 13 - 15:57 (UTC)
There are several ways to answer this. So this response may wander a bit.

Under the federal Elections Act, there is no mechanism for explicitly recording declined ballots, though reviews of the legislation have recommended (several times) that there be an official tally of refusals. Any refused or declined ballot is counted as "spoiled". This only applies to federal elections, some provinces (including Ontario) already have the option to decline.

Declining/Spoiling your ballot is at least a moderate protest at the available platforms and individuals. It is certainly more visible as a protest than simply staying away, which lumps you in with the people who don't care about the process or who governs them. (not even bothering to make it down to the polling station is so laughable). Worse, the winning candidate in a constituency will probably assume that whoever didn't even bother to vote was really supporting them and knew they would win so their support wasn't necessary.

In your constituency, there are 6 candidates. From their party affiliations, there is a wide variety of positions and visions. I would ask if you've carefully considered all of the party platforms, and not simply the frontrunners. It's not about voting for a winner. It's about voting for the person and party that best matches your views and vision for Canada.

If any little difference between your view and a given party platform is enough to disqualify them in your view, regardless of how close the rest of their platform is to your own views, then I'm afraid I will never convince you to vote. You're passively waiting to be pandered to on a very personal and individual level. This country is formed to large degree on compromise and consensus and shared views, even when views on other issues differ. Consider the weight of your disagreement with a party platform.

In theory, we Canadians are supposed to be voting for individuals and party affiliation is secondary. That's why on the ballot, the candidate's name is in larger print and comes first. The party affiliation is second and much smaller. So, in theory, you should get to know the individuals before considering their party platforms. In practise, it's currently more important the other way around. The Canadian parlimentary tradition enforces party line voting far more than other parlimentary democracies (e.g. UK).

However, the individuals running can still make a difference. Call them up, go to an all candidates meeting (if it's not too late in your riding). Talk to them about their visions of the country, not just their party's. This is another part of what I was talking about. Your democratic obligation is more than just marking an 'x'. Sharing your views and visions in discussions with the candidates and eventually your MP makes them more aware of the views in their constituency. There have been 'rebellions' in party caucuses before. And there will be again.

What I don't want people doing is just sitting on their butts at home complaining about how there's no one who matches their views perfectly when they've not even expressed them to anyone to see if there actually is a match!

Since you mentioned 'returning your ballot', I don't think you're quite in that category, though. Which is a good first step.

unay

From:okana
Date:2006 Jan 13 - 23:53 (UTC)
I have someone to vote for. Green leader Harris. I don't buy that we're voting for individuals. The vast majority of Canadians reach their decisions based upon leaders debates, the media, and party platforms. Even if individuals are what we are "supposed" to be voting for, that's just not the way it is. The party and it's policies are paramount, and while the individuals are important, they are a distant second in most Canadian's minds. Take Newfoundland. Newfoundland goes Liberal, and it's never close. And it's not because the liberal incumbent is always somehow incredibly more charismatic or wise. It's because he's liberal. Furthermore, the policy of a party is going to shape Canada far more than any one incumbent. So I vote for a party and a policy first, and a candidate second. This election, my vote will go to a platform and a candidate I can support. But I definately cannot vote for a party who's policy I don't believe in, and if all my choices were unacceptable in that way, I would not vote for any of them. And it's not "any" disagreement that turns me away, but even one major point will do just that. I cannot, for instance, support the Liberals or NDP this election because of their support for reverse onus conditions for bail. As many voters would, I'd much prefer to see proportional representation. It seems to me that it's more in line with the way Canadians want to vote: for a leader and a party, not for a member of parliament. Shouldn't five percent of the vote count for something? Those 500,000+ votes didn't elect any green MPs. But less than 500,000 liberal votes elected 22 MPs in Atlantic Canada. And what better way to fight voter apathy than to have a process where every vote counts. Frankly, if you live in Newfoundland or another similarly one-sided riding, why bother?
From:okana
Date:2006 Jan 13 - 23:53 (UTC)
It ate my spacing of paragraphs it did!
[User Picture]
From:unayok
Date:2006 Jan 14 - 15:47 (UTC)
I think you're trying to disagree with more than we actually do. I did say the original intent was for voting for individuals. I also said that this is largely not how it actually works, due to the very strict enforcement of party discipline in parliament. Parties have been the dominant feature of Canadian elections for a long time. I further only mentioned examining the individuals after examining the party policies.

Your mention of proportional representation comes a bit out of the blue. I didn't say anything about changes to the electoral system that should be done. My screed was purely on dealing with the situation we have now.

However, if you want to go off on that tangent, that's fine, too, I suppose. Personally, I prefer a mixed proportional system. I don't want to see a purely proportional system, because I also want to maintain that no matter where I live in the country, there is someone (even if I didn't vote for her) who is legally my conduit to the parliament. A purely proportional system removes any vestige of that connection.

You ask "why bother" voting in a one-sided riding. Critical mass. I've said it a couple of different ways, but I'll try yet another way: someone has to be first. If everyone waits around for someone else to start change, it's either not going to happen, or it's going to be dictated by someone else.

I believe you yourself said in one of your earlier entries, that vote counts as a couple of additional dollars to support the party you voted for next time around. That doesn't just apply to 'winning' votes. It works towards the future.

Change doesn't come instantly. I know that doesn't sell well in the instant gratification society we live in now, but that does not alter the statement's veracity. But if one doesn't start, and if one doesn't persevere, the desired change will not occur at all.

Nitpick: Oh, and Newfoundland does not always go solidly Liberal. St. John's is often enough Conservative. This time around, both of the St. John's ridings have Conservative incumbents. Two of the other ridings have switched between PC and Liberal several times. Perhaps you're thinking of PEI, which has been solidly Liberal for the last 20 years or so.

unay