Help restore democracy to Canada

Stephen Harper must have surprised everyone over the weekend when he told an audience, “We always say in all these elections in a democratic ethos, voters are never supposed to give absolute trust to anybody.
“They’re supposed to constantly question and that is part of the process.”
A recent Angus Reid-Toronto Star poll has determined Canadian voters have dashed hopes and remain unmoved by what they are witnessing among the political parties. Voters, according to the poll, are full of mistrust and cynicism.
Voters today believe politicians are less honest, and more than half of those taking part in the poll said none of the parties had satisfactory positions on issues that matter to them.
When a leader tells an audience not to trust political parties, and polls confirm that voters already are not trusting politicians, one can expect fewer Canadians will vote on May 2.
In the last federal election, voters from the highest-income neighbourhoods had the highest voter turnout. Those from the least affluent neighbourhoods, and who were less well educated in Canada, had the lowest turnout.
And when the total voter participation is examined, it is questionable whether Canada really has a democratic government. More voters declined to vote across the country than any party received in votes.
Perhaps the answer is to follow the example of Australia. The next Parliament should pass legislation to compel every Canadian to vote.
Today, political parties focus on their core electorate. Knowing that more than 60 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds don’t vote, the major parties do not speak to the issues of that group, nor do they speak to less well off Canadians.
Those voices are not important.
Mandatory voting would compel the political parties to address the needs of those groups who today feel there is no reason to cast a ballot and feel disconnected with the democratic process.
In 1924, compulsory voting was introduced in Australia following a national voter turnout that had dropped below 60 percent. In Belgium, compulsory voting began in 1894.
In both those countries, voter turnout now exceeds 90 percent.
The ballots show the names of the candidates running plus one more selection (none of the candidates). In other words, the system counts dissatisfaction.
And if the Angus Reid poll is accurate, we might see more than 50 percent of Canadians tell the parties that they are dissatisfied with the political shenanigans that take place daily in Ottawa.
Compulsory voting is not coercion; it would make it a civic responsibility. It would be no more onerous than wearing a seat belt. It would, in fact, demonstrate to each Canadian that government believes that voting is important and that each vote has value.
More than 70 percent of Australian voters support compulsory voting. There is a penalty for not voting and in 17 countries where no penalty is enforced, compulsory voting is no more successful than what we currently see in Canada.
Compulsory voting would change the way all the major parties treat the electorate. The last time in Canada a major change took place was when voting was extended to women.
Following the passing of “An Act to confer the Electoral Franchise upon Women” on May 24, 1918, women no longer were disregarded by politicians. Liberal and Conservative politicians then began talking about women’s issues.
Through compulsory voting, any party failing to address and talk with the youth, or the under-privileged, would suffer at the polls.
If we don’t increase our participation, we are continuing to make a mockery of our democratic process.
Please exercise your vote this coming Monday. Help restore democracy to Canada.

Posted in Uncategorized