Your Vote Matters
For many Canadians, politics is not part of their daily life. Political decision making is the murmur muffled on television while dealing with immediate daily problems. For some Canadians there is no attempt to engage in understanding why elected officials stand in Parliament and act like children. The statements of 'they are all the same' 'how can they help me?' 'what about the issues that affect me?' show the disconnect between elected officials and the general public.
For the Canadians struggling to pay their bills, find a decent job or worry about their retirement, there is no time to focus on politics. The sense of disengagement of what politicians preach compared to the realities of daily living is understandable. While some Canadians cheer for tax cuts or increases in retirement investment options, there are many struggling to find adequate affordable housing or reliable public transit. Students who spent years and mounting debt to get an education face a reality of high unemployment or underpaid under-employment options. For those falling behind, where is their voice being heard?
But during an election, the disparity between the rich and poor, young and old, engaged and disenfranchised is equalized... a bit more. One person, one vote. If only those millions of Canadians who don't vote realized how important their voice is for one moment, there could be a shift in what is put before Canadians.
Since August Canadians have had the pleasure of being inundated with political ads, mailings, phone calls, door knocking and a constant barrage of polls. The talk about change or trust has laid a foundation of platforms for various parties. The campaigns have all had stumbles and moments to highlight during the past 50 days, with several more weeks ahead.
Messaging and branding seem as important as substance and policy. Hashtags and catchphrases fill social media and front pages. Polls on who is going to win within a riding is analysed by those who believe a small sample size represents the larger community. Percentages fill websites, political discussions and news articles... and yet there are those who still don't pay attention.
Does your vote matter? Are you a progressive in a highly conservative riding, what benefit is it to vote? Conversely what if you were conservative in a progressive riding, will your concerns be heard? The idea that your vote doesn't matter is wrong, every vote matters.
When I speak to people about why their vote matters, I mention that I live in Etobicoke Centre. In the federal election in 2011, our riding was won on election night by a mere 26 votes. Court challenges all the way to the Supreme Court regarding voting irregularities occurred, which did not overturn the results. Given a riding is on average over 100,000 people, a minuscule amount of votes decided an election result. It shows that 'your vote counts'.
For those who engage during election cycles, there are missed opportunities to shape who is running in local ridings. The election is structured around the candidates and platforms built months (if not years) before the campaign begins. Local riding associations pick a candidate; meaning the options on election day have already been narrowed by those engaged within political parties. The candidates available for election have already been chosen by a smaller engaged group. In essence, your vote is to validate the choice of a party within your riding.
Allowing others to make decisions on your behalf (by not voting) is a powerful right to forego. How can the topics or policies important to you be addressed if you are unable or unwilling to vote? I have always stated: "If you don't vote, you don't get to complain".
I will not tell you who to vote for; it is your decision to make. I would offer a few simple pieces of advice.
- Pay attention to the race in your riding.
- What are the important issues and how are they being discussed
- Determine who is running and why the are running
- Attend debates and ask questions
- Try to get as much information to make the right decision for YOU
This election may set the foundation of government for the next decade. Will you have a say?