On Canadian Democracy

Caricatures of Parliament Hill - Photo by Peter Denton

Caricatures of Parliament Hill (Photo by Peter Denton)

To avoid the rush on election day, I voted in the advance poll.

You should know that I didn’t vote for Stephen Harper. From the pre-election flurry, many other people seem to have reached that same conclusion.

But you should also know that I didn’t vote for Tom Mulcair. Or for Justin Trudeau. Or for Elizabeth May (whom the boys could not keep out of the game though they kept her out of the debates).

A lot of other people have also reached that same conclusion, too.

You see, I don’t live in Calgary Heritage, or Outremont, or Papineau. Nor do I live in Saanich-Gulf Islands (though there are times in February when I wish I did!)

I didn’t vote for any of the leaders because they are not running in Selkirk-Interlake, where I do live. Nor will most of the people who read this.

It seems like a point too obvious to make, except for the troubling reality that campaigning on all sides this time pushes us to play Pin-the-Vote-On-The-Leader.

This strategy fundamentally undermines Canadian democracy. It turns our parliamentary system of government into an inane, anemic mockery of American republicanism. After all, if American campaigns are full of sound and fury (often signifying nothing), Canadian campaigns lamely begin with “sorry” and offer devastating attack ads in which your opponent is mocked by using his first name and then making fun of his hair.

So I ignored the earnest speeches, the pleas, the debates, the posturing, the snide commentaries by and about the leaders. (I especially ignored the ads on television!) Instead, I looked for information about the candidates from among which, in my area, I was supposed to choose and then (ready or not) cast my ballot.

Despite the length of the campaign, however, there was very little to go on (though in my riding, unlike many, the Conservative candidate showed up for the community debate), and no one ever came to my door. I didn’t even have to declare my colours to my neighbours, because none of the campaigns called and asked if I wanted a lawn sign.

It will be interesting to see how many of the rest of you roll out of bed on October 19th and cast your own ballot. It is probably the most important election in my lifetime, at least in terms of what the next government will do – or not do – to put the brakes on climate change and give my children and yours a slim chance at a sustainable future. But the last federal election saw the lowest voter turn out in a very long time. That needs to change.

The environment unfortunately has not been a campaign issue for either leader or parties, however. Instead, we continue to get the same old financial carrot-or-stick routine that begs the question as to whether (if the promises are kept) we will ever live to spend it.

In the end, the decisions that are made in Ottawa will be made by the people we elect. If you play Pin-the-Vote-On-The-Leader in your riding and elect Bozo, you can expect government by clowns, regardless of which party forms the government.

(If you consider the scandals and buffoonery that marked the last Parliament, you get my point!)

Instead, I chose to vote for someone who I think would do a good job representing me in Ottawa – with the integrity to at least try and do the right thing, instead of just doing what s/he is told. Party came second in affecting my choice, and the leaders? Not at all.

If everyone voted that way, we would end up with the best of all possible Parliaments. The party that attracted the best candidates would then form the government.

I could live with that.