By Allison Wilton
Canada prides itself on its democratic tradition. Legally, we are all equal under the law, regardless of our differences. Part and parcel of this tradition is our right to vote.
Why then do we take it for granted, and settle for uninspiring leadership?
Tactical voting — casting our ballots against rather than for a political party — is on the rise.
When combined with record low voter turnout levels in the last few elections, the Canadian government’s increased detachment from the public interest seems unprecedented.
Not since the Second World War have voter turnout levels been so low. In the last federal election only 63 per cent of eligible voters flexed their democratic muscle, one of the lowest turnouts in Canadian history.
The Liberals coasted to their third consecutive majority government, winning 161 of the 301 seats in parliament.
It was widely viewed as an overwhelming victory for the Liberals. However, for many so-called Chrétien supporters, it marked the crushing defeat of Stockwell Day and the Canadian Alliance, who had been drumming up an unsettling amount of support in the polls.
Many smaller-party supporters feared wasting their ballot and threw their support behind the Liberals to keep Day and his counterparts out of the PMO.
Basing our votes on the recent practice of choosing between the lesser of two evils challenges the democracy we supposedly hold so dear.
Can you remember the last time you really voted for a politician? An iconic leader has been absent from Canadian politics for decades. Trudeaumania, a phenomenon throughout the late prime minister’s term saw his popularity grow to celebrity status. People really believed in him and his visions for the country.
But, Canada is not alone in this ongoing quest for motivational leadership and disconnectedness from government. In the last U.S. presidential election, the politically-divided American public was forced to play eenie-meenie-miney-moe in choosing their leader.
After a mellow campaign, both Al Gore and George W. Bush were neck-and-neck. Torn between what the media deemed a race between an unintelligent Texan and a dull, departing vice-president, the Americans voted in what would become one of the closest elections in American history and the ‘accidental’ presidency of Bush.
Similarly, the presidential elections in France this summer sparked massive protests when extreme-nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen won the first round of votes due to unusually poor voter turnouts. Jacques Chirac went on to win the second round with over 80 per cent of the vote.
The French were put in a position where they had to choose, because they didn’t like either of their options.
Around the globe democratic voting processes are somehow or another being transformed into childish games like eenie-meenie-miney-moe. We may as well close our eyes and point our finger at the ballot when voting if we’re not going to vote based on our beliefs.
It’s amazing that over the course of history, women, minorities and the lower classes have had to put themselves on the line just to have a voice. So why are we wasting their efforts because of our own silence and inability to demand stimulating leadership?
Canada needs a fresh face with fresh ideas to instigate enthusiasm in the voting population.
We need leaders in the truest sense of the word — to guide, direct, influence and govern.
With both federal and provincial elections on the horizon, let’s hope that transpires. Canadians deserve a leader they are proud to say they voted for. I think we’ve all had enough of voting against.