It is not hard to cast a ballot if you care.

 Yesterday’s federal NDP leadership convention was little less than a gong-show. The accusations are still flying over what caused the delays and disruptions to the online voting process. Whether it was an outside attack on the online system or whether the system was simply overwhelmed, the result is a loss of credibility on the party as a whole and questions will be forever asked rightly or wrongly wondering about the validity of Mulcair’s win. Quite a high price for a party to pay in the mad and premature rush to move to online voting systems.

The excuses that people make for not voting are endless as are the theories on how to get people engaged. I covered that in a posting here years ago. Personally, I think the reason that the vast majority of people don’t vote is that we are simply in a spoiled first world society that does not want to distract itself with paying attention to politics much less participate in them. The apathy is simply a form of intellectual sloth that only hard times will change.

Declining turnouts are a concern no matter what the reasoning is. Some folks have taken to trying to address the most lazy of excuses in not voting through making casting a ballot even easier than it already is. Online and telephone voting mean that a person does not even need to leave their house in order to vote. Vote casting periods can be extended as well so a person need not even set aside a certain day to spend a minute to vote. So how is that working?

 The federal NDP members had weeks to vote in the first ballot. Barely 50% of MEMBERS bothered to take the literal minute it would take to cast their vote. We are not even talking the general electorate here folks, we are speaking of members of a party.

 Closer to home, the small social media based Alberta Party held a leadership race last year. If twitter alone were an indicator, the Alberta Party would be a contender for the Premier’s office as their membership is indeed very active in social media despite being invisible on the ground. With such an internet engaged membership base one would think that this party would have a great turnout through phone and internet voting. Again barely 1/2 of the members took the minute required to select a candidate.

 The Wildrose Party did mail in ballots and got a much higher turnout in their leadership race than the aforementioned two parties. The Progressive Conservatives did better as well with balloting stations set up around the province. Why do more people actually bother to vote when it actually is more trouble to vote that way? It takes more time and effort to seal an envelope and find a mailbox and even more to set aside a narrow period to take yourself to a dedicated polling station than it would to log in online and vote. Despite that, the more troublesome methods of voting are pulling better turnouts than the easier means.

 I think part of it is that people used the ease of voting as a selling point when pushing memberships. People who claimed it was too tough to get around to voting found it hard to use that excuse when a dedicated partisan was trying to sell them a membership and pointing out that the person could vote online or by phone. These people bought the membership to get a salesperson off their back and in reality they simply did not care. When the window of weeks opened up with they could take a minute to vote they simply did not bother despite GOTV efforts.

 There is a video out there poking some fun at the well meaning by naive Alberta Party goal of targeting people who typically don’t vote. It is pretty blunt but pretty much hits the nail on the head.


 The bottom line is that a growing number of people simply don’t give a crap and don’t want to bother themselves with voting no matter how easy it may be.

I am not saying for a second that we should simply give up on addressing this growing disengagement. This is a very real problem in the evolution of our society and taking democracy for granted is never a good thing.

What I am saying though is that the difficulty of getting out to vote is not the problem. If people care, they will vote. Perhaps new online systems will indeed one day be superior to the old ballot box method. I can see many advantages in it with the efficiencies it could bring. The technology is not here yet though and if one thinks it will help improve voter engagement they are simply mistaken.

 Get out in election campaigns and try to get people engaged. That is a worthy effort no matter what your political stripe is. If the person you are working on claims it is too tough to vote though, I strongly suggest that you quit wasting time with them and move on to somebody else. Those people will not vote if you show up on their doorstep and put the pen and ballot in their hands. They simply don’t care.


Partisan! Not a dirty word.

We often see people spitting out the word “partisan” as a pejorative. Some feel that political parties in and of themselves are what is wrong with policy making today. There may be a glimmer of truth to that but lets face it, political parties and partisan politics are simply never going away and it is not necessarily a bad thing.

With floor crossings, whipped votes and hyperpartisan exchanges between supporters whether in legislatures or on twitter it is not hard to see how some people can become sour and cynical on the entire system. Still, that does not justify turning one’s back on the entire process or trying to tear it down.

Let’s look into a simplistic dream world where we imagine that political parties have been banned and only independents represent people in legislatures and chambers throughout the country. Many people have called for such things but then many people still think Elvis is alive too. Our provincial legislature would be populated with 83 independent members who have managed to win votes in their local constituencies and I imagine a premier was elected through some weeks of battle in the legislature seeking some form of consensus. In other words, we would have absolute chaos.

Getting to that selection of a premier, just how messy do you think that would get? We can’t have a leaderless legislature. This dream chamber would be dysfunctional enough as it is. Being without a formal leader and representative would only make things worse.

Now with a legislature populated by 83 ambitious souls, I think we can safely say that at least a dozen of them would like to wear the crown and would be madly lobbying and working to gain support from other MLAs. As consensus is found to be nearly impossible to attain, groups of MLAs being to form alliances and choose common candidates to support. Jockeying and positioning continues as deals are cut for cabinet and weaker candidates for Premier fall by the wayside. We get down to four or five groups who bond and begin to sit together in the legislature. Eventually, one group manages to pull of a majority and their person is selected as Premier. Meanwhile, three other collections of MLAs have gathered themselves to act in opposition to the dominant political alliance.

We have just observed the evolution of political parties and how quickly it would happen were we to try and get away from them. Even if the Premier was chosen directly through a vote of the electorate (republican system), the evolution described above would still happen as a gridlocked legislature battles to try and produce passable policies.

What would be worse in this imaginary post-partisan world would be that these parties would be informal and uncontrolled. Without the controls and scrutiny that our current system provides, these informal parties would be wide open to corrupted lobbying and fundraising. The goals of these groups would be hidden as there would be no member based system to keep the representatives transparent and policy directions would vary widely. Voter confusion would be rampant as it is discovered that the general outlooks of MLAs are difficult to determine at election time and apathy would grow as members turn out to be pursuing different goals than anticipated.

Committees would be completely haywire and policy development would be in shambles. Political parties bring developed policy to the game before they are even elected. A gang of independents even when their informal alliances are formed will not have a visible or comprehensive policy direction or set. Studies will not have been properly performed and policies would never have been exposed to the general scrutiny of a membership as they are in a partisan system.

The electorate needs to see a goal and a clear direction in their representatives and parties provide that. The Alberta Party tried to play the oxymoron of being some kind of “post-partisan party” and they generated a policy model based on a consensus model much like that done at the “occupy” squatter camps. This idealistic approach led to a pile of directionless motherhood policies and other policies that were simply too broad and odd to be embraced by the public at large.

The Alberta Party has been in it’s current form for a couple years now and their revolutionary post-partisan concept has been roundly rejected by the voting public as the party can barely break 2% in the polls. While perhaps well meaning, this group of idealists has pretty much wasted their time. Voters need and want parties.

Political parties provide a degree of order in our messy but democratic system. People who want to see more productive politics in Canada should be embracing partisan politics more strongly rather than rejecting it. Quit whining about the parties and work to change them. Join one or even form one. It will have far more impact than simply complaining. Party involvement allows you to participate in policy formulation and the selection of representatives. Rest assured if you refuse to participate, others will continue to form policy on your behalf and they will be much more effective in pursuing their goals.

An organized group working together such as a political party will essentially blow all independents out of the water on every front. Parties can effectively fundraise and campaign. Parties can share collective experience and wisdom. Parties can bring forth targeted policy concepts and market them to large numbers of voters. Parties can also provide a social aspect and participation in them can actually be fun at times too.

Our system is far from perfect. Things have evolved to where they are over the decades for very good reasons.

People have two choices in our system. You can reject party politics and be left behind or you can get involved and have a real voice. Small or large, parties are much more effective in pursuing change than individuals will ever be.

A person does not need to stick doggedly to one party for life nor do they need to follow a party line at all times. When push comes to shove at election time though, a person needs to make a partisan choice (as I said, that can be done between elections too).

I am partisan. I am proud of that as it indicates that I am engaged and that I am trying to do my part for positive change.

Partisan is not a dirty word, apathy is.

You don’t vote? I don’t care.

 Every election whether it is a by-election or a general one, we will inevitably hear about those poor, hard-done-by disengaged folks who could not be bothered to vote. Often the losing side likes to play with the numbers to try and undercut the support that was there for the winning side. We saw that when people tried to downplay the victory by the Stelmach PCs in 2008 and we see some of it now with the Hinman win in Calgary Glenmore. “well ya know, with all eligible taken into account the support was only 20%…” yadda yadda yadda.

 Well, people always claim they want honesty from politicians (though they often regret asking for it). As  a person who has run in an election or two I am going to say something honest. I don’t care what people who don’t vote think!

 Ahh, that feels better.

 I tire of people yelping about how politicians have to reach out to those who are taking their great democratic right for granted. I tire of those who are too intellectually (or physically) lazy to vote asking for others to cater to their concerns.

 We are extremely fortunate in that we have a democratic system that allows everybody to participate whether it is running for office, forming a party or doing the extremely simple act of voting. It is almost cliche, but it is extremely valid; people around the world are dying for the right to vote. In light of the risks some folks take to participate in democracy, why should I shed a tear for somebody who can’t pull their ass off the couch for 20 minutes every few years?

 I will relate a story about an election I was in a few years ago. I had a couple native reserves in my constituency. I got a phone call from a resident on one of these reserves howling that I had ignored their area in the campaign and implied that this was due to racism. Now an irony in this is that I was the only candidate with some native heritage in that election and that I did indeed waste an entire day campaigning on that reserve. When I say wasted my day I mean it. The turnout was something like 6% in that election on that reserve.

 Look at some political reality people. I had 28 days to convince as many people as possible to choose me as their representative. A campaigner has to be strategic in that scenario as opposed to idealistic. Realistically a politician would be very lucky to meet 30% of the constituents face to face in a campaign. Now in light of that, why on earth would a candidate pursue a demographic that is prone to not going to the polls? Left. right or center it is sort of stupid to pursue the vote of people who do not vote.

 We only have so many means to keep our elected officials in check. The most important one by a long shot is the vote.

 Voter apathy is a problem, of that there is no doubt. We should discuss and try to find means of increasing the participation of the electorate. If people think that they are sending any sort of message to any politicians by staying at home however, they are deluding themselves (this stands for people who think ballot spoiling sends a message or something too).

 Whether a person votes for a fringe party, an independent or a frontrunner, they have at least had an impact no matter how small it seems. When a person does not vote at all they have had utterly no impact and they only have themselves to blame.

 Quit blaming politicians for your apathy. While many may say otherwise I will answer honestly; we don’t care if you won’t vote.

 I do care about issues that go beyond election issues. I certainly will never model any form of campaign about what the chronically apathetic take issue with however.

 As for excuses not to vote, they are nothing less than that. I covered the commonly used excuses for not voting here some time ago.

 If you have concerns and you want politicians to pay attention, may I strongly suggest that you vote. It sort of only makes sense doesn’t it?

There is no excuse for not voting.

 Within days of the federal writ being dropped, I observed people making their lame excuses as to why they will not take part in the election. The only honest answer is when somebody says they don’t care. Aside from that, those who keep spitting out their excuses as to why they wont vote must know that they are turning their backs on a very important responsibility thus they scramble to try and justify their sloth.

 We see some journalists and pundits talking about how systemic changes or different advertising initiatives may bring out more voters. That is all simply a load of crap. The bottom line is that an increasing amount of Canadians are simply too lazy and apathetic to make that twenty-minute effort once every couple to few years.

 Lets look at some of the common whining excuses:

None of the candidates/parties fully represent my views.

 Well suck it up princess. Unless you yourself are running or leading a party (there is nothing to stop you from doing just that by the way), you will never have a candidate/party represent 100% of your views.

 Whether you take that supreme effort to vote or not, one of those candidates will end up in the position of representing you anyhow. What a voter has to do is examine all of the candidates and choose which one most  represents their views and cast a vote towards them. This of course will take at least a few minutes of time and a little mental effort thus many use lame excuses to avoid such responsibility and forgo the right to vote.

 Of course in seeking (not really) information on the candidates, we get on to another common and sad excuse:

I don’t know enough about the candidates/party to make a decision. I have heard nothing from them.

 To put it bluntly, the above excuse is simply bullshit. During the entire campaign every form of media whether radio, newspapers, TV or internet has been barraged with coverage of the parties and candidates.

 Teams of volunteers and candidates spent a month knocking on doors and dropping flyers. I hear some people claiming that they never receive any information to their homes. While I guess it is possible for there to be some strange Bermuda triangle zones in parts of the city where campaign literature disappears and doorknockers magically shy away, just about every household in Canada gets at least a few flyers during the campaign. FSM knows my household hardly passes a day during a campaign without something in the mailbox about the election.

 I have heard some whine about the lack of candidates at their doors as well. In a federal election, each candidate has over 100,000 constituents. Rest assured that in any serious campaign, the candidates will knock on as many doors in person as possible. It has been proven countless times that the most effective method of campaigning is to have the candidate meet as many constituents as possible in person. It is physically impossible for any federal candidate to hit every door in a riding in one campaign however. If your household is missed, if you take a few minutes to call the headquarters of virtually any candidate, they will arrange to get the candidate to your door if possible. Truly undecided voters are difficult to identify and no decent campaign will ignore one that contacts them.

 The internet has given us a great resource in elections. Even the most low-budget of fringe candidates can set up (and they do) a campaign website offering info on where they stand, contact information etc. If you are reading this, I can safely assume that you have access to the internet and some degree of literacy. In a couple minutes on google, you can find out who is running in your riding and what they are proposing in general.

 Even without internet, it is rather easy to get information. Every party has a headquarters and a phone line. They will gladly direct you to contact information for their candidates if you simply contact them.

 The information on all the parties/candidates is abundant and easy to acquire. For one to claim that they did not have enough information is simply a BS excuse and does not hold water. The real reason is simple laziness.

 Another of my shallow favorites is:

They are all the same.

 Again dear reader I must call bullshit. Using the means of gathering the information on the candidates I proposed above, anybody will find out within minutes that the candidates are all indeed very different and go to great pains to point out how and why they differ from each other.

 Do you honestly think that an NDP member will vote the same way on bills in Parliament as a CPC member? Do you think a Liberal party member will raise the same issues as a Bloc member? The parties/candidates are different and their behavior in office shows that rather clearly.

 To say they are all the same is just a simplistic and lazy excuse not to trouble yourself to choose among them.

 The above excuse invariably leads to the next one if the whining non-voter is questioned:

They are all crooks and in it for themselves.

 To be a politician is on of the most unstable and thankless career choices that anybody could imagine making.

 Remember, in every riding there are at least four candidates running. That means at least three will have nothing in personal gain to show for their efforts after the campaign. The reality is that most of the candidates are running for idealistic reasons and are not expecting personal gain. Hardly a selfish endeavor.

 Many of the winning candidates are often professionals who made pretty good cash when in the private sector. While MPs get pretty good compensation, many lawyers, doctors and business people actually take a pay cut upon being elected.

 If all those people running for office are simply in it for themselves, they certainly are taking a painful path to personal gain.

Below is another common excuse:

My vote makes no difference/doesn’t count.

 Hmmm how will I respond to that one? You guessed it! Bullshit!

 I wonder how many people in Edmonton thought that Rahim Jaffer was a sure thing and did not bother to vote for him? There were countless other races that were determined by a handful of votes as there are in every election. Even in  a jurisdiction as huge as the United States, we saw in 2000 how a tiny number of voters actually determined the presidency.

 Lets say however you feel more closely aligned with one of the alternative/fringe candidates. Surely voting for one of them is a waste of time as they will never win right? Wrong!

 The old cliche out there with elections is that the only poll that counts is on election day. While tired, that cliche is very very true. There is no better cross country poll for measuring the views of the electorate and you can rest assured that the results for every riding will be dissected and studied in the next few years as future candidates prepare to challenge the incumbents. Had Jaffer seen the rising trend of NDP in his riding, perhaps he would still have a job today.

 To win a riding a candidate has to follow as well as lead. This means measuring what the voters want and to provide that for them. If an incumbent sees the vote creeping up for the Green party in their riding for example, they will likely adopt a more environmentally friendly stance in the house in hopes of undercutting that rise in their riding. The NDP member who won in Edmonton will likely swing more right than other NDP members as she knows that if a Libertarian candidate takes even 1000 votes from her she may very well lose her seat next time.

 There is some truth to the fact that our elected representatives often ignore us between elections. Those MPs do pay very close attention at election time however and it is foolhardy to waste that window of opportunity by not taking part. There is no better time to get their attention.

 I don’t care for the new system where tax dollars are dedicated to parties based on votes. Whether I like that or not, the system is there and it does add a great deal of incentive for people to select non-mainstream candidates at times. The Green Party never came close to winning a riding in the last election. They did however get thousands upon thousands of votes which will translate into annual funding for their party. Money is essential in politics and any party trying to build up needs a regular flow of it. No Green Party supporter can truly say they wasted their vote on that party as they have contributed not only a vote of support, but a portion of funding so that the party can retain a voice and prepare for the next election.

 There is no such thing as a wasted vote.

I couldn’t find out how/where to vote.

 As with the other excuses, this one is simply more bullshit.

 Every election Elections Canada makes it easier and easier to vote. Advertisements are running on all forms of media, the internet provides all the information required and of course there are toll free numbers that will direct you to your voting station and the requirements for voting.

 I work in the oilfield and am rarely in my riding on voting day. Despite that I don’t miss the vote as they make it incredibly easy for me to walk in and vote by special ballot.

 Voting is a twenty minute task and there is no excuse aside from laziness in not doing it.


 The bottom line is that people simply want to dodge any form of personal responsibility (a disturbing trend in many areas). True democracy is the epitome of personal responsibility whether we want to deny that or not. Our system is not perfect, but the bottom line is that the electorate chooses who runs it. If a person refuses to take part in that, the system surely will not represent them.

 It seems that the chronic whiners who refuse to vote are often the same ones who whine about those who assume office. Complainers are rarely doers and it shows in voting patterns.

 We are lucky to live in a democracy and to have control over our government should we choose to exercise it. Anybody can run for office, form a party or simply vote to take part in the system. We can freely join parties and vote on policy or nominees. We can be vocal whether on the streets, internet or in the press with our views.

 Due to our having it so good, many have unfortunately slipped into lazy apathy and take our great right of voting for granted.

 It is an embarrassment and people should be ashamed of not voting rather than belching out shallow excuses as to why they wont.

 I see people and some journalists whining saying that the electorate needs to be better inspired. Inspired? By who? Why? Why is it the responsibility of others for you to be inspired? Inspire yourself you lazy electorate and take part in the system. The means are there, you simply have to make use of them. Again so many people dodge any form of personal responsibility. Our system is referred to as a participatory democracy. Uhh, that means you are expected to participate rather than whining that you need to be inspired and have your hand held all the way to the polling station.

 There is the saying “In a democracy, the electorate gets the government that they deserve.” This is true.

 When half of the country is too lazy to spend the few minutes that it takes to vote however, I often get the government that those lazy assholes deserve.

 That sort of grates on me.