As a rule, I dislike blanket statements…but I’m going to make one anyway: You should vote. “You” meaning anyone in a democracy, but specifically my fellow Canadians, in the election that’s creeping up on us. I’ve heard a lot of excuses why people don’t vote, but in my opinion, not one of them is a good enough reason to skip voting:
Excuse #1: I can’t get to the polls.
Reality: Find a friend (or neighbour) to take you, and nag them into voting too. Or you can call any of your local candidates and ask for a ride. They will give you one. Once you’re there, vote for WHOEVER THE HECK YOU WANT TO, regardless of who gave you the ride.
Excuse #2: I don’t like any of the party leaders.
Reality: In Canada, our vote goes to a local candidate, not the party leader. Vote for the local candidate who most closely represents your values.
Excuse #3: None of my local candidates represent my values.
Reality: Prioritize your values, and vote for the candidate who is closest to your most important one(s). Nobody even close? Vote based on the party’s platform, or consider running as a candidate yourself next time… 😉
Excuse #4: I have a (child, parent, pet, paint drying on the wall) and nobody to watch it while I go vote.
If it’s a child, TAKE THEM WITH YOU, and increase the odds of them growing up to be an involved citizen. If it’s a parent and they’re healthy enough to vote, TAKE THEM WITH YOU. If it’s a pet, grab a neighbour who also has a pet and TAKE THEM WITH YOU…you can take turns standing outside and holding the leash. (If you’d really rather watch paint dry than vote…turn on the news and see what’s happening around the world. Be ashamed. Then get off your butt and vote.)
Excuse #5: All politicians are corrupt, I don’t want to support any of them.
Reality: They’re corrupt because we as a nation don’t bother to hold them accountable BY VOTING. Politicians think we don’t care, so they can do whatever they want without consequence. Prove them wrong.
Excuse #6: The candidate I like most will never win in my riding anyway.
Reality: They might, if you and the 1000 other people in your riding thinking the same thing actually voted. (Two elections ago here in Huron-Bruce, the MP was elected by a slight 971 vote lead. That’s not a big number.) And if you really want your vote to count? Consider voting for a local candidate who supports electoral reform. Our “first by the post” system was designed for two parties, not multiple parties. If we moved towards proportional representation, every.single.vote would help get an MP elected, and those who vote with their conscience (like the 1,000,000 Canadians who voted for the Green Party in 2008) will have fair representation.
Excuse #7: I don’t know who my local candidates are.
Reality: All of the party websites have the option to enter your location and be shown your candidate. If you’re short on time, check out CBC Canada Votes 2011 for a list of all the candidates in your region, complete with contact information. Local debates are a great way to see your potential MP’s in action, and they’re usually more civilized and vastly more interesting than the televised party leader debates – plus you get a chance to ask your questions and meet your candidates face-to-face.
Excuse #8: Politics are confusing, I don’t really understand the issues, and I don’t want to vote for the wrong person.
Reality: If you don’t vote, you increase the odds that the “wrong” person will be elected. Pick one or two key issues that you care about personally (childcare? extending EI benefits? green energy? improved public transit?) and spend 5 minutes at each candidate’s website to see what they have to say about it. Can’t find the answer there? Call or email them. You may not agree with everything in a party or candidate’s platform, but if they agree with you on a couple of key issues, it’s a vote well cast.
Excuse #9: I’ve never voted, and I don’t know what to expect.
Reality: By now you should have received a voter’s card in the mail, telling you where to go vote. If not, go to Elections Canada and find out. It’s easy. You’ll also find information there on what kind of ID you’ll need to bring (simplest is a driver’s license, but the website clearly explains other options.) On Election day, go to the appropriate location. There will be many helpful people working who will tell you what to do…and they’ll be happy to do so.
Additional Resources: (I’m including links for the parties represented in my riding. Yours might have others – don’t forget to check them out.)
Liberal Party website
Conservative Party website
Green Party website
New Democratic Party website
Vote Compass (quiz designed to help you figure out your voting priorities; mildly controversial, but interesting.)
May 2, 2011
Be there. Show you care.