Thursday, October 6, 2011

It’s Election Day!*

*Assuming of course, you’re reading this on Thursday, and I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t be because everybody waits with baited breath for the new issue of Echo, right? Right?

After three years, covering four elections, I get a rarefied opportunity to release a column on an Election Day, rather than just before or after. Perhaps you’re reading this on your way to the polls. Perhaps you’re reading afterward. Perhaps Election Day is over and you already know who won. Perhaps this knowledge disappoints you verily. Either way, I think it’s time to articulate my views on elections, why vote every Election Day and why you should do the same.

There were two elections within a year I turned 18, and I voted in both. It was 1997, and the first was that year’s Municipal Election and the other was the Federal Election that elevated the Jean Chrétien Liberals to their second term. Two years after that was the 1999 Provincial Election that returned Mike Harris’ Tories to Queen’s Park, and as a university student at the time, I have to say that that wasn’t the way I wanted things to go.

But you know what I didn’t do? Throw up my hands in exasperation and renege on the notion that democracy doesn’t work. This is an attitude I find all too common: democracy doesn’t work because the outcome we wanted wasn’t achieved. No, democracy works, you just didn’t get what you want. And while I agree that an electoral system that lets the party that achieved only 40 per cent of the popular vote to form a majority government is broken, it’s only because another 40 per cent sit on the bench believing their either too busy or too unimportant to vote.

In the short term, electoral reform is out because no party in power is going to legislate change that will mitigate their own power. But if the 40 per cent that sat out the Federal Election this past spring threw their support behind an independent candidate like, say, Communist Party candidate Drew Garvie, then right now he would be MP for Guelph. Or to go back to last fall’s Municipal Election, where two-thirds of electors sat out exercising their franchise, if even half of those people voted for antique store owner Ray Mitchell or skateboard enthusiast Scott Nightingale, then they would be sitting in the Mayor’s office this minute.

Having said all that, I do understand why people still think that their vote doesn’t matter, but like the man said, with all things, you’ll miss it when it’s gone. That’s why I’d like to propose a simple amendment to election law: If you do not exercise your right to vote in three consecutive elections you should lose that right. Not forever. I’m not quite mean like that, but almost.

My proposal is modest: if you shirk on your vote for any reason, for three elections in a row, at all levels of government, and you decide that you would like to exercise your right to vote in an upcoming election, then you will have to writer a 1,500 word essay explaining why you didn’t vote, and why you’ve decided to vote again. You won’t get marked on it, and if nobody likes your essay you won’t be refused the right to vote, but the point is the effort. You have to put in the effort, and you have to prove that you want it. Like most things in life, the work is its own reward.

Sound harsh? Especially in light of the fact that essay writing was at the bottom of a very long list of things you didn’t like about school? That’s what I thought, and that’s why this idea occurs. So before someone with real authority not bestowed upon them by the publishers of Echo snatches up this idea, then you might want to get off your duff today, find your polling station at, and put an ‘x’ beside the name of someone that you’d like to see speak for you in Queen’s Park. Even if they have, in your mind, no chance of winning.

Besides, unless either the McGuinty Liberals or Hudak PCs are returned to Queen’s Park in a minority government, then this will be the last election for us until the year 2014, and let’s face it, if those conspiracy theories turn out to be true, we could all be dead by then. But in all seriousness, to go from four elections in three years to no elections for the next three years, will be a tough adjustment for us happy few politicos. And if voter fatigue is a real thing, I expect to see record turnout for the Municipal Election in 2014.

To get all the scoop post-election and other political stuff, visit my blog, Guelph Politico, at

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