I won’t be voting on May 2. And I won’t be alone.
The 2011 Canadian federal election will likely go down as the most unpopular in history in terms of percentage of voter turnout. In fact, it’s a given that less Canadians will cast a vote for representation in Parliament than will have watched some part of the Royal Wedding three days earlier.
Even when I lived in the U.S. for 10 years, I never missed a vote. I made sure to send in an absentee ballot for the elections in 1997, 2000 and 2004, voting each time for Liberal Karen Redman of Kitchener Centre. This time, my riding is in downtown Toronto and I’m not coming out.
According to a study from Simon Fraser University, the country witnessed a drop in voter turnout for four consecutive elections from 1988 until 2006, when there was a 3.8-percent uptick to 64.7 percent as Stephen Harper managed to rally the Conservative Party and win a minority government. The trend reverted in 2008, which marked the first federal election when fewer than 60 percent (58.8, or 13.9 million) of registered voters cast a ballot. Should the initial polling results play out on Election Day 2011, it’s conceivable Harper could win his long-sought majority government with a minority turnout of registered voters. (Since not all adult Canadians are registered voters, we’ve already had federal elections where more adults eligible to vote have opted not to do so than those who did.)
READ ’5 WAYS TO GET ME TO VOTE’
If you’ve decided to stay away from the polls on Election Day, get ready for the name-calling. We’re going to be labeled apathetic by media and chastised by political wonks for not performing our civic duty. Few people who are into politics in this country will admit that the topic of their keen interest is, these days, banal, monotone, more dull than a senate committee hearing on the benefits of beaver crossing signs (bilingual, of course) in national parks and, most damning of all, spectacularly inconsequential.
Canada is orderly; it’s principled, it’s a good and decent country with enough checks and balances in place to keep it so. Canadians are, if not content, generally okay with how things are working, partly because we’re doing better than many in the States.
Harper will take credit, some of it deserved, for steering us clear of the worst of the Great Recession and winning our banking industry applause from around the world. He’ll run on the economy and Michael Ignatieff will run on being a Liberal, because he’s got nothing of substance on which to base a campaign. To win, he must convince us his red is warm and fuzzy and Harper’s blue colours are evil. And, thanks to such rhetoric, many of us will just run to something more interesting than the bickering of this pair. No, Jack Layton, that doesn’t mean you.
READ ’5 REASONS NOT TO VOTE FOR STEPHEN HARPER’
Our nation’s politics are boring. Our two leading politicians, and the parties they lead, are so similar they would each slap you for suggesting they’re alike. Even worse, our politics have become clannish to the point where many of us don’t recognize ourselves in our Members of Parliament or our interests in their debates in Ottawa. Were many constituents in Northumberland-Quinte West really clamouring to see the detailed outline of the Conservatives’ federal crime bill? No, but the failure to disclose costs related to that bill is part of the reason the Harper government was declared in contempt of Parliament, sending millions to the polls for the third time in five years.
READ ’5 REASONS NOT TO VOTE FOR MICHAEL IGNATIEFF’
This election isn’t about that bill, of course, or a budget (which was immanently passable). It’s about gang warfare, the Parliament Hill way. That means lots of subterfuge and self-serving banter that does nothing to further the policy debate in our country or improve the well being of the poorest of us or the ability of the richest of us to expand upon success.
Not only is this about Liberal vs. Conservative, it’s Liberal vs. Liberal: Those who want Ignatieff out even if it means sticking taxpayers with a bill of $300 million (what the 2008 election cost) pitted against those Ignatieff supporters, a dwindling number who stand by him for who-knows-what reason. It’s also about Harper sensing opportunity, both for a political kill and to exercise the most contemptible aspect of his personality: a vindictiveness that alone scares me away from siding with him. But about 5 million of the 13 million or so who will vote will put a check beside a Conservative Party candidate.
So, two days after he celebrates his 52nd birthday, Harper could be prime minister with a majority mandate and potentially five more years in office. I won’t vote for that election result, but I would bet on it and, if that becomes the case, Canada won’t be significantly different on May 3 than it is today, and that’s neither good nor bad. It’s okay.
READ ’5 REASONS NOT TO VOTE FOR JACK LAYTON’
Harper’s right, we don’t need an election. What we need is a politician to energize us, to motivate us to secure the health of the environment and help us capitalize on our abundance of resources to realize fantastic economic prosperity in this century. Sadly, he’s not such a force, and neither are the alternatives.
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