Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sorry Canada, we're just not that into you

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1982: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms embeds into the Constitution the right of all citizens to vote.

Nineteen eighty fucking two.

So, consider your ancestry. You’re likely to find a period in Canadian history when you would not have been allowed to vote. 

You would have been deemed not important enough, educated enough, rich enough, male enough, white enough. You didn’t own enough land, or cows, or women. You were too aboriginal, too Asian, too Black. 

So for centuries, people fought for the right to vote in Canada.

There are multiple countries whose citizens are still fighting for the right to cast a ballot. 

Annnnnnnnnnd yet many Canadians have decided that we just can’t be bothered to exercise a right that others are willing to die to protect. 

Since the 1980s voter turnout has decreased significantly from 75 per cent down to 61 per cent in the last federal election.*

So why don’t people vote? In 2003, Elections Canada asked the same question. 

The most common reason that eligible voters, ages 18-57 didn’t vote, was general disinterest in Canadian politics and apathy with the process and the candidates.**

Sorry Canada, we’re just not that into you. 

Let’s forget for a second all of your ancestors who would throttle you for wasting the right they fought to give you, and look at a different argument. 

I get it. Our political system is a little screwy (technical term). We’ve got this “first past the post” system where you don’t need the most votes, just more votes than the other guy or gal. This gets messier the more parties involved. For example, in the 2008 federal election, the Conservatives got only 37.6 per  cent of the votes  with 46.4 per cent of the seats (no, I don't get it either).

But that does mean that a whole bunch o’Canadians, in fact, the majority of them, didn’t vote Conservative.

Yet here we are. 

So some days it makes you want to throw your hands up and say why bother.

BUT in 2008, only 59 per cent of eligible Canadians voted. What I understand that to mean is this: the other 41 per cent could have been the landslide needed to change the Conservative regime, er, government. Change out the scenario and the result is still the same. 

Your vote matters. 

Voting, and your responsibility to do so, is the foundation of democracy. And we like democracy, right? Right??

As I heard eloquently expressed by someone else recently: Don’t vote if you don’t want to, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that not voting is not a vote in itself.***

I'd like to add that you shouldn't fool yourself into thinking that politics doesn't play into every part of your life. Post online about how politics doesn't matter to you? Be thankful we live in a democracy where you are even allowed to post online

Let’s randomly make up a number and say that 75 per cent of elected officials don’t want you to vote. They work long and hard spewing bullshit to ensure that you are apathetic, uninterested and helpless. 


Because when you don’t vote, you’ve checked the box that reads “I don’t care what you do. Please make all my decisions for me. Do whatever you please.”

Then we sit at home on our couch and complain that we don’t vote because elected officials are all the same, they make all the decisions for us, they do whatever they please. 

See the vicious cycle? 

So don’t vote if you don’t want to. 

But don’t complain that no one is ever held accountable when you’re not there to hold anyone accountable. 

Don’t complain that no one listens when the only place you make your opinion known is Twitter.

Don’t complain that nothing ever changes when you don’t make any effort to make change. 

Don’t expect anyone to take your "I’m a voter” argument seriously because the numbers show that you probably aren’t one. 

Don’t complain when elected officials pay more attention to the things that are important to the groups that are showing up to vote. 

So I ask you to vote. 

In 2015 and beyond, whether it be municipally, provincially or federally, shock elected officials with the numbers that show up to polls. Send the message that you are watching. You are paying attention. You are holding them accountable. 

Things will not change overnight. But if we take back our role, and stop expecting everyone to fix everything for us, things will change. In our immediate, results-oriented world, we need to relearn that not everything has immediate results. Especially politics. 

I don’t care who you vote for. OK, that’s a lie. I totally care who you vote for (#HeaveSteve2015), but I can’t control it. Majority wins and all that jazz. But, by God, let the majority at least have voted. 

Have some gumption. All those Canadians, some in our very recent past, who marched, who protested, who wrote letters, who showed up - they made change. 

So why do we find it so hard to believe that we can?

** "Explaining the Turnout Decline in Canadian Federal Elections". Elections Canada. 05 March 2007
***Paraphrased from actual quote from David Foster Wallace which can be found at

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