Don’t care about politics? Chances are, you’re just the kind of voter a heck of a lot of politicians in this country love to have in their districts or ridings. Why?
Because if you only have to convince three out of 10 people to vote for you instead of 10 out of 10, it’s easier to gather a smaller collection of the like-minded.
Don’t bother to vote?
Strange as it seems, you’re only doing a favour for whatever party ends up winning. They don’t have to find you or convince you: your interests and values and ideas are a big fat zero to them. And they’re not going to spend even one iota of their time thinking about what the zeroes need.
We all have different feelings about governments. Mine are pretty straightforward.
I don’t expect the government to guarantee me a job. I do expect that, if they collect employment insurance premiums from both me and whatever employer I have, that those premiums will only be used for the purpose they have been collected for. There’s a special word for claiming to collect money for one thing and then using it for something else. The word’s fraud.
I don’t mind paying taxes. I think there’s a place for things like public health care and public broadcasting. I think, if I drive on a road and expect it to be plowed and safe, I have to expect to pay for that road, like I expect to pay for garbage collection and safe disposal of that garbage and other waste in as environmentally acceptable a way as possible. And yes, I know that costs money — and since those services are services I use, I expect to pay for them, not simply use deficit budgets to shift the debt to future generations.
Don’t agree with me? That’s perfectly fine.
People have different tastes in food — why shouldn’t they have different tastes in governments, too?
Think the current federal government is doing just great? I don’t agree with you — but vote for them. Just vote.
It’s astounding how many people I talk to in the run of a week for whom any talk of politics and government generates something close to a shrug. “There’s nothing we can do about it,” is the common refrain, right after, “They’re all the same anyway.”
There are lots of reasons for that — you can hardly be blamed for shunning any sort of political romance when you’ve had your heart broken enough times.
Those spiffy Conservatives under Stephen Harper were going to clean things up — why, they weren’t even going to take those hugely unreasonable parliamentary pensions. Except they did — and the Mike Duffys among them took much, much more.
The Conservatives were supposed to clean up after the patronage-riddled, ethically challenged AdScam cash-stuffing Liberals — who themselves got into office as a result, all those years ago, because of the backlash to the corruption-battered Mulroney Tories.
Sure, politics is often a scummy-looking business where, time after time, the people we elect go on to demonstrate that power corrupts. Fact is, the media isn’t helping the process — it’s devilishly seductive to watch the angels fall, and it’s a far easier story than any kind of hard-fought redemption tale ever will be.
But we’re close now to a land where, literally, three votes out of 10 could mean a majority government at the federal level.
And what does that mean? That means that we are ripe targets to be taken for a four- or five-year ride by ever-more extremists factions out there closer to the edges of either the right or the left. Most Canadians sit at neither edge of the spectrum. The sad thing is, most Canadians are more likely to sit on their hands. Fanatics do many things — one of them, consistently, is to vote.
And that’s why I say I don’t care if your views on government are diametrically opposed to mine. Just take the small amount of time it takes to familiarize yourself with the issues and then vote.
The more of us who do, the more likely our government will actually represent the ideals and direction of the majority of Canadians, and the more attention our governments will have to pay to those folks.
Doesn’t matter which side it is; as the popular vote sinks, we sink ever-closer to special interests that otherwise couldn’t come up with enough votes to buy lunch.
And when those special interests get special deals on taxes and investments and everything else, don’t shake your head and say the government failed.
If you didn’t vote, you failed.
Russell Wangersky editorial page editor of the St. John’s Telegram. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.