The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

Winter has fallen on Canadian democracy

By in Opinions

ALEXANDER QUON

When it comes to politics, the current question is when — or if — Prime Minister Stephen Harper will call an early election. Regardless of when an election happens however, Canadians are likely to be plagued with their usual voter apathy.

It’s doubtful that anyone beyond the Prime Minister and his closest advisors know when the election will be, so the date is probably not worth speculation. However, media pundits across the country will needlessly fill the airwaves for the next few months as we gear up for another election. It doesn’t really matter when this election will happen because — just like every other election in the past 20 years — barely anyone will show up to vote.

According to Elections Canada, voter turnout has steadily decreased since the 1988 federal election. While turnout was once as high as 75.3 per cent of electorate in 1988, it has slipped to 58.8 per cent in the 2008 election. That statistic gets even worse when you examine the rates of youth voters — the category that most university students fall into.

If the 2011 federal election is anything to go by, the national estimate of voter turnout for 18 to 24-year-olds was an abysmal 38.8 per cent. In Saskatchewan, the numbers were equally disappointing. For the same age group, only 29 per cent of males and 32 per cent of females cast a vote.

We are young educated Canadians. We will be captains of industry, doctors or artists. We might be students now, but we will be the professionals of the next generation. We should be using our talents and our education to shape this country — but we aren’t.

I can hear the disillusioned voices now: “A first-past-the-post (FPTP) system means that my vote will never count so why should I care?” In many ways this is correct; a FPTP system does marginalize your vote. The point being that you still have one to use.

To quote Winston Churchill, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Our current system of government is far from ideal, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use it. It’s an imperfect system for an imperfect political culture.

I’m not saying that you can change the system merely by voting — at least not right away. But by choosing to not vote, you are disenfranchising everyone who shares your views. You are weakening their voice as much as you are removing your own. Canadians are encouraging lazy — and even bad — governance with their apathy.

When fewer people show up to the polls, even in a FPTP system, it is almost impossible to ensure that the party who wins will represent the majority of its constituents. This means that the majority of Canadian citizens may not support the policies the Canadian government chooses to enact.   

That may be well and good for as long as your chosen party stays in power, but if you wish to change anything in the long run — or if your party gets knocked out of power for instance — then we must become a better civic society. We need people to vote — and to vote now. There’s no sense waiting to vote in later years of life if you don’t bother now.

If you want Canada to reflect your voice and your views, then voting is a duty that you cannot ignore.

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