Tuesday, 3 May 2011


I'm going to start by sharing some of my favorite quotes from today:

"Don't know why everyone is so steamed about the election" 
"Hehehe! But look how good the NDP did!!!" 
"I don't care - they're all gonna fuck us in the ass anyways" 
"There's no way I could vote for that Ignatieff guy!" 

I'm not about to start making the "our democracy is broken" argument - because there is no perfect system (although there are certainly more perfect ones). I don't feel like our democracy is broken - and I also don't think the world is about to end. I'm absolutely concerned about the way that this country is about to be reshaped - but I'll come to that some other time. 
Right now, what worries me more is the appearance of an unplugged electorate. I have a hard time believing that this election was decided by policy. I have an even harder time believing that the election was decided by facts.

I find it more likely that this election was decided by an unengaged and uneducated electorate - and I also don't think this is new for this election, I think it's probably true of every election. I think the fact that this is the third election in five years made it increasingly easy for us as voters to only marginally (if that) take note of the issues or facts. 

This is the part where I feel the obligation to note that your vote is your right. The fact that we can choose to vote in any direction for whatever reason we like is absolutely our right. There are no thought police - in fact we have the freedom to say and do (mostly) whatever we please. 

With that part out of the way
When are people going to start acting like their duty as citizens isn't just to show up and vote on election day - but instead to have something of an understanding of what you're voting for and de facto what you're voting against? I think we can all agree that the person who ends up running this government has a very important job, and has to deal with a lot of very important issues. If we're deciding who's going to hold this job, shouldn't we take some time to learn about these issues and look at the options and then take a look at who has the best solutions to them? Also: If you're not willing to do that - to take 20 minutes of your time to figure that out - shouldn't you just stay home? 

Now I know that I just did something there that's a cardinal sin in the western world. "Voting is your duty - your right - people in China and Syria and Egypt have been dying for this right damn it - how dare you suggest people stay home and NOT VOTE!?!?!?"  

Those people halfway across the world fighting for democratic rights aren't doing so out of blissful ignorance or because they "just don't like the guy". It's usually because they've been marginalized and shut out by a tyrant concentrating wealth and power to a small segment of the country.* 

There are plenty of centre left voters that flipped to the NDP last night. I'd venture that a whole lot of them did so because of the leader and not nearly identical policy. Some of them might have done so because Jack's campaign had a large focus on health care. As one of my friends said to me, "I'm voting NDP because he's going to do something for nurses and my Mom's a nurse." and another, "My Mom is asking what they're going to do for people who have [illness]...". Health care is a provincial jurisdiction though. With the exception of the amount of money that the Government hands out - there's nothing they will do that has any impact on health care employees or specific strategies towards any illness. 

I want to be clear about one thing: My suggestion is not that people stay home and not vote because they don't know these things... my suggestion is that it's time for people to take their citizenship seriously. If I voted for a female candidate because I thought she was hot - I'd certainly raise some eyebrows. However not voting for someone cause you "just don't like them" is perfectly acceptable. "They're all going to fuck us in the ass anyways" -- well, maybe. They'll do it differently though. Depending on the perspective you might be asked to clinch through it. It might last an hour - or it might last 4 1/2 years. You might just be into it too. So at least be aware of the kind of ass fucking you're about to receive.

I understand that this goes directly against my general stance to be realistic instead of idealistic. The most common response to a suggestion like this is, "I don't have the time" or "I just don't care enough". If either of those are true, then yes - I'm suggesting you should stay home. 

The truth is, barring some kind of catastrophe people aren't about to start taking things more seriously. If your world's not flipped upside down - then the status quo is oftentimes acceptable. Sheeple will be sheeple, and votes will be cast for the sole purpose of not wanting to cast another vote for 4 years. Citizenship can be frustrating that way. 

So anyone who has a problem with the result of last night needs not to look at the system, or the parties, or the horrific campaign management by the Liberal party -- no. Instead look to your friends and neighbors, brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents. It was us - the citizens of this country with no time or use for serious citizenship who elected this government. In four years we'll be faced with a slightly different decision - an election coming out of any majority government is inherently a referendum on the job done by that government. However, one thing is certain:

We'll be told many stories then by many different people. Our ability or inability to seek out the truth - to take seriously our democratic duty - will more than likely dictate the result of that election and therefore the very serious issues that our government deals with every day. 

*Canadians can come back and read this sentence in four years again and think about starting their own riot.

1 comment:

  1. So we will try posting this again.

    First, let me note that the idea of an informed an engaged electorate is certainly agreeable.

    Yet the suggestion that those who are not informed should stay home is problematic. It is problematic as being informed is not a dichotomous variable, an individual is not either "informed" or "not informed", there are degrees of how informed an individual.
    Where then should the line be drawn between who stays home and who does not? And who should draw that line?
    Lets use the health care example from your post to illustrate a potential problem. You note that health care is a provincial jurisdiction and that beyond giving to the provinces there is not much the federal government will do.
    Yes, health care does classify as a provincial responsibility. However, there is quite a large role played by the federal government. The amount of money transfered to the provinces dictates how much control the federal government has over service deliver. Based on how much money the federal government delivers to the provinces, the federal government does have the ability to dictate national standards such as wait lists times. Funding arrangements are of particular significance considering that the current transfer agreement between the provinces and the federal government expires soon. Secondly, the federal government has an important role to play in enforcing the Canada Health Act. This Act contains standards that the provincial governments are expected to uphold in their delivery of health care services. Granted the Harper Conservatives might not be overly active on enforcing regulations against private care, it is not unforeseeable that the NDP would be active in this area. This indicates that the federal government does play a large role in Health care delivery.
    Focusing on employment, the federal government can also take on active role and has suggested doing so through the provision of tax expenditures to doctors and nurses who practice in certain areas.
    The point is that this challenges your assertion that there is not much the federal government can/will do for health care. If this challenge were to show that your stance on health care to be inaccurate, could it not be suggested then that you should have stayed home too?

    I am not sure that placing the blame on society is fully appropriate. While they are ultimately the ones deciding whether to engage or not engage with the process, it must be remembered that they are products of the institutional environment they live in. From birth they are subjected to strong influences and forces that dictate how life should be lived. Based on that it is difficult to put the blame on them.