Well Ontarians our provincial election is over. Tonight was the night of the Newfoundland and Labrador election, and before those were the Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Prince Edward Island elections. Across the country so far provincial governments have been re-elected, though sometimes under different leaders. Our nation’s punditry is extrapolating this to mean that Canadians are embracing experienced leaders and restoring them to power in the face of uncertain uneconomic times. This is plainly stupid. As is the notion that Liberal and New Democratic Parties are being elected to government as resistance to the Harper majority federally. Provincial elections are shaped by provincial issues. Besides, every one of these Premiers have been returned with a smaller majority, aside from Selinger in Manitoba, and reduced popular vote.
I have opted this week not to obey my standard format of addressing an issue carefully and exactly but instead to just rant a little. I do not have the skill of Rick Mercer, so please bear with me.
The 40th Ontario General Election had an utterly abysmal turnout of just 49.2%. A majority of the voting population decided to sit at home and likely watch the home opener of the Toronto Maple Leafs or whatever things they had going on in their personal or professional lives. That means that a majority of Ontarians did not aid in the selection of their local representative.
I’m a democracy nerd. In my perfect world voting rates would be approaching 100%. I understand that is unrealistic and utopian, but I feel the 80% that is achieved in other countries would be tolerable. Why care about voting turnout? If people wanted to vote they would have, they either are apathetic or dislike all the candidates. This is unacceptable. It was also never easier to vote, there were 29 days of advanced polls.
In a democracy the citizen’s job is to select the best candidate to be his or her voice. Do you like any of the party leaders? Do you like any of the parties’ platforms? Do any of your candidates particularly appeal to you? Finally, which candidate is the most qualified by your assessment? And, which candidate mirrors your values most closely? Democracy isn’t about perfect, it’s about compromise and preferred choices. If you don’t like the choices, run for office or help someone you do like.
Why does voter turnout really concern me? Because it delegitimizes our government and system. In our electoral system, which I have problems about which I’ve discussed previously (and have hinted at multiple times), you don’t need to get a majority to win. The McGuinty Liberals received 37% of the vote, and will operate a functional majority or a very strong minority. However, only 18.2% of the people of Ontario supported them in the election. If they received 18.3% it would have been a majority government and they would have absolute control. Less than one fifth of the population selected our government, does that seem right at all?
At one point do our representatives fail to be representatives? When turnout is at 45%? What about 40%? Or 30%? Or 10%? At what point does our democracy fail to be a democracy? The voice of the citizenry is as critical component as the cabinet, and legislature, its absence will only lead to greater problems and alienation of the public.
Note: In the future I might make a comprehensive post about how our democracy may/should be improved.