When I became old enough to vote, I remember my mom telling me that our family votes NDP, which was the trend within the working class immigrants who had settled in East Vancouver, where we resided.
The riding remains solidly NDP at the provincial level and flips between Liberal and NDP federally.
And even though my mom also raised me to not talk about politics in polite conversation, I am going to, because I am feeling politically homeless right now, and I suspect that I am not alone.
When I was young, I never paid attention to politics. It was not discussed at home, and if high school taught it, I have no recall. But then I have no recall of anything I was taught in high school. Is that normal?
So no surprise there. My post-secondary training did not require any political science courses, so I fell statistically in line with my age group and I rarely voted.
The most common reasons for this age group not voting are: not knowing the issues; too busy; not interested. This carries over to the age of 34.
When I did vote, even though my parents expected me to vote NDP, it was never rammed down my throat to do so, so I was not party loyal, preferring instead to pay more attention to the individual candidates.
I moved from my NDP roots to Social Credit, back to NDP, then onto Liberal at the provincial level. At the federal level, I started NDP, moved over to Liberal, then onto Conservative.
Each move was not because I was disappointed with the candidate, but because of bonehead moves that reflected on the party leadership that turned me off of voting in general — conflict of interest charges, Bingogate, Sponsorgate.
It was after Jean Chretien shoveled a bunch of our money off the back of the truck to his friends in Quebec, culminating with the Sponsorgate scandal, that I really sat up and paid attention to the party platforms, as opposed to just the candidate, and committed to being an informed voter.
At that time, I was staying home with the kids and my husband was working two jobs to allow for that. Revenue Canada contacted us, saying they were going to audit us. Seriously? The government’s representative wants to find out if we’re being honest?
I lost it on the poor guy, who agreed with the hypocrisy of the situation, as he too was not pleased with what was unfolding in his Camelot. But he still had to do his job and he asked me to not take it personally, as it was a random audit.
He did show up at the scheduled time, looked at our books, making sure to not make too much eye contact, thanked us, left, and we never heard from him again.
Apparently, the ease at which we went through the audit was rare. But then sitting with a potentially crazed woman was probably not a usual occurrence for him, either.
Regardless, with the level of taxes we were paying and having had them so blatantly disrespected by our government, it made me start to pay closer attention to what each party planned on doing with our taxes and the party platform became the determinant for who got my vote, which is the reason I now feel politically homeless.
I supported the B.C. Liberals in the last election, even though I didn’t feel they went far enough with assisting some of the social issues and would not commit to fully banning the grizzly bear hunt. But being someone who is fiscally responsible, I still felt the party’s platform was more affordable than that of the NDP and the Greens.
But with all of the platform swapping and deal making that has gone down over the past couple of months, I have lost faith in the whole lot of them. My only saving grace is the fact a Green supporter has to be feeling more homeless than I do.
As for the federal arena, Justin Trudeau, just like Stephen Harper did, has flip flopped on a number of key promises, especially ones that the youth were counting on. So I am wondering if the youth vote will drop back down to the usual ‘not interested status.’
As for me, I truly look for fiscal accountability and, well, the deficit says it all. Promises made, promises broken at the federal level has aged to perfection, which could explain voter turnout.
Aside from the occasional blip, voter turnout has been on the decline for the past 50 years. There are many contributing factors, but surely parties must see that by reneging on a fundamental agreement between the party and the voter — you make promises I agree with and I vote for you — they exacerbate it and drive up the ‘I don’t know, I don’t care, I don’t vote’ sentiment.
So how do they solve my political homeless issue? I believe the parties need to start building realistic platforms that they can commit to, because the door-crasher, throw-a-way ones of late are making a mockery of the whole system and need to stop.
Cheryl Ashlie is a former Maple Ridge school trustee, city councillour, constituency assistant and current
citizen of the year.