Monday, October 6, 2008
Who will hear your two cents?
Arguably Canada has one of the most transparent democracies in the world. We can vote in whatever way we feel for one of a number of parties or candidates who are able to freely campaign. In addition, your vote will have as much weight in deciding the next government as the vote of any other person in your riding. It is a right unfortunately that Canadians increasingly take for granted with a voter turnout of 64.7% supporting this comment.
Excluding a few scandals throughout Canada’s history we have been an open democracy since 1867, when our population was a 10th of it's current size. Some would argue that you should vote because your fore fathers died for your right to vote. A valid statement: without their efforts, if we were lucky enough to be living at all it would likely be in an entirely different world.
To play my own devil's advocate, let’s say that this is a dated and irrelevant argument. We'll disregard then this 140 year history of democracy. You will find however, that in comparison with many if not most of the current political systems around the world Canada's is still one that will make you proud.
A few examples if I may:
Last year during the tornados in Myanmar, the government prevented humanitarian aid from arriving. At the Beijing Olympics this summer, reporters and protestors alike were said to have been beaten and possibly imprisoned. Only recently has Cuba lifted the ban on home computers.
Frankly I’m hesitant to list these countries as it may cause problems when I visit them. None the less, in Zimbabwe last spring, the leader of the opposition party, the MDC, was jailed days before the election. Meanwhile citizens were given red ink on their fingers if they voted for the incumbent President Robert Mugabe. Individuals who could not produce inked fingers were either punished, or lived in fear of punishment.
In his defense, somewhat more open re-elections were recently allowed and 84 year old Mugabe, who has ruled since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980, has negotiated a power sharing agreement with the MDC leader. Thigns are looking up for Zimbabweans, but only after bloodshed of it's people, and external pressure from neighboring countries like South Africa.
Again irrelevant arguments you say? This is Canada, not a communist or developing nation. However, it would be very hard to argue that even our Southern Neighbor has a more open democracy. The self proclaimed “Greatest nation on earth” and home of Bruce Springsteen re-elected George Bush in 2004. In my opinion, this alone solidifies the argument In Canada's favour.
In continuing to play the devil’s advocate against myself I’ll go one further and remove all comparisons. Disregard them if you like. Two incredibly valid reasons still exist for voting.
Actively working to improve a situation grants you the right to complain about it.In fact, you’re more advocating for the cause then complaining. Following this theory, if you don’t vote, you give up your right to complain and your voice. Your ability to comment positively or negatively on anything from our military missions abroad to cuts in arts funding is justifiably quashed. Sadly however it is often those who do the least to improve the situation that complain the loudest, especially about government and the bad breaks they’ve handed them. Next time you hear someone on such a rant ask them if they plan to vote in the next election and if they have in the most recent. If the answers are no, I would claim it is not less than your democratic duty to inform them they’ve given up their right to be heard until the next time they vote.
Two: If you are reading this, you’re probably in a position to make an informed decision. That is, if you have the ability to read this blog you probably have the mental wherewithal, time, and physical resources to do some research on the candidates. You have to register your informed opinion by voting for those who don't have the ability or desire to inform themselves.
Still don’t like these arguments? Fine, disregard them all and vote to be heard. It is unlikely you’ll agree with a candidate on all issues, but vote for the candidate who will best represent your ideas on the issues you feel most important about.
Do you think the environment needs to be protected? Which candidate will provide that protection and simultaneously take care of our infrastructure and health care?
Do cuts to arts funding make you sick? Which candidate is more likely to increase funding for Canadian Artists?
Are you worried about the economy, which has the track record and plan that you’re most comfortable with.
Do you think Canada should stay in Afghanistan until the job is finished?
Are you in support of tax increases or cuts?
What are your thoughts on immigration? The arctic? Roads? Tobacco taxes? Public Health Care System? Humanitarian aid?
Or is it about the person for you? Do you want a smooth talker? a statesman? someone who keeps their word? Do you want it all? Can you have it all?
Decide what matters most to you, do the research and go vote, persecution free.
Stay tuned for updates on voter logistics.