Friday, February 2, 2007

Voter Turnout

Democracy is something that is all too often taken for granted in Canada. Even though so many people throughout the world are desperate to live in a democracy, most Canadians have known no other way of life. So what are the effects of taking democracy for granted? Well, for many people, watching the news means watching TSN or reading the sports section, and they don't even listen to the biggest issues that are happening now. Also, people don't think much about how they can get involved in politics. Most voters who have always supported a political party throughout their lives are not active in it, and even the majority of party members are not active. For instance, in Saskatoon Wanuskewin, we have over four hundred members (if not five hundred), but there is (if we're lucky) 30 or 40 people at the Annual General Meeting. This also brings me into the next point, the voter turnout. In the last general election (2006) the voter turnout was 64.7%. Do you see what is wrong with that? Another problem: in the 2000 federal election, the youth (18-24) turnout was 25%, while the average of all ages was 61.2%. I'm not sure if they'll grow out of that habit or not as they get older, but if it were to stay like that, or even just double (50%), we would still have a major problem in the future.

Shortly after the 2000 federal election, Elections Canada had a survey of 2000 people from all age groups. The survey was asking people why they think voter turnout is declining. 68% said it was because of the negativity surrounding politicians and political institutions. Also, 32.5 percent felt that it was due to an impression that it is meaningless to vote for various reasons. So, the best ways according to the people to get a better turnout: a) politicians need to be less negative, and politics overall has to be less negative (and actually work); and b) people have to feel that their vote means something.

Let's start on b in Edmonton—Centre. Pre-January 23, 2006, E-C was the riding where Anne McLellan was MP (she was also the Deputy PM for Paul Martin). In the 2004 election, she won by only 721 votes. In fact, in her first election (1993, Edmonton Northwest, she won by 12 votes. While I do not know the voting turnout in Edmonton Northwest in the '93 election, it probably wasn't 100%. I am sure that there were eligiblevoters who supported the runner-up but didn't bother to vote. I wonder how they felt? That was an election where every vote counted. So what should do about that? We need to talk to everyone we know who doesn't vote (and who would vote for our party!) and tell them examples like this and show them why their vote makes a difference for themselves and the party they support.

Problem a. As there is not much that us average citizens can really do about this, I'll keep it short and talk about what the politicians need to do about this. To put it bluntly, MPs and party leaders (especially the Prime Minister) need to actually get work done. Most people do not care (or want) politics to happen, they want progress and plans to happen.

Democracy is something that all Canadians cherish somewhere deep-down (some very deep-down) in them. All we have to do is show them that.


SammySam said...

Well, yeah, people gotta get out to vote. I think that if 90% or more of people voted--and 100% of youth, the NDP would do much better.

Julian Benson said...

I have to disagree with a few point in your post. I agree all people should get out to vote, but this will only occur when they have something they believe in to vote for.
Apathy doesn't just spontaneously happen naturally, it is the result of having a political system that disenfranchises a certain group of people.
The 35-40% of Canadians that don't cast ballots around election time are overwhelmingly the working-poor. These are the people that have been working on poverty wages for years, through governments of all parties from Rea to Harris to McGuinty and have seen their situation either remain stagnant or, more likely, get worse. They have no reason to vote because no one, not even the NDP (lest we forget that the NDP leaders have been catering to Liberal voters for the last several elections, not to the poor non-voters).
In my opinion the NDP needs to get a lot tougher on issues related to economic-injustice and wealth re-distribution (which we appear to be starting to do, I just hope it goes further than just ATM fees). Once we reach out to these disenfranchised Canadians and give them a reason to hope, we will also give them a reason to vote.

Joey Coleman said...

thanks for the link!