Pumpkin spice latté season is here! This fall, however, has more to offer than just the usual spooky season delights: Democracy! This October, Canada is holding a federal election.
In a little over a month, we will once again be going back to the polls. Here’s a disclaimer before we go any further: I’m not here to tell you who to vote for. I’m here to tell you to vote.
Since Canada is a representative democracy (we elect people to make decisions for us instead of having the whole country vote on every issue directly), we don’t get many opportunities to directly intervene in our country’s affairs the way we do when a federal election rolls around.
When we vote in a federal election, we pick the people who will be creating our laws and representing us internationally for the next four years. That seems pretty important.
So why do so few of us vote?
“Voter apathy,” as it’s called in my political science classes, is a growing issue.
In the last federal election, voter turnout was more than 60 per cent of the population … and that was the highest voter turnout in recent history. Think of that: every Canadian citizen has a right to vote, to influence how the country is going to be run, and little more than half of us actually go and do it?
Again, I can only ask – why?
It’s actually encoded in law that work can’t be an excuse. Legally, employers cannot dock you pay or keep you at work if it’s voting day and you need to vote.
There is even advance polling for people who really don’t want to leave during a shift. You can even vote by mail if you don’t want to vote in person! The possibilities are endless.
So the real answer to the question of why many people don’t vote isn’t because it’s difficult, or that they don’t have an opportunity: it’s often because we feel like we can’t change anything.
There is a perception that because political parties are big and wide-reaching that there is no way a single person can influence their decisions.
There is also a sense that all political parties are essentially the same, and that electing a new government won’t change anything.
That isn’t necessarily true.
Members of Parliament are our link to the federal government. While some of them may have specific ministerial duties or positions, all of them still have an obligation to represent the interests of their riding: and anyone can talk to them.
Currently, our MP is Dan Ruimy. Not only is Dan Ruimy available to the general public, he’s also available to youth through his Youth Council.
Because federal elections only come every four years, this election marks the first time voting for many young people.
There is something important about voting.
It’s what separates us from tyrannical states and defines our democracy.
Even if you don’t agree with any of the parties, go to the polling station and spoil your ballot. In ancient Athens, it was the duty of citizens to vote and engage with their democracy.
It was their democracy that made them different from the other city-states of their time.
This October, let youth define our democracy and decide what defines our country.