Robert’s column

Robert Barron column: More people need to vote

I can’t understand why people refuse to participate in a process that impacts their lives.

Voter participation in this week’s federal election was not too bad compared to other elections, with 65.95 per cent of eligible voters across Canada casting ballots.

Of course that means that 34.05 per cent of the voters didn’t bother to cast a ballot, and I bet they’ll be the first ones calling people like me complaining when Ottawa isn’t performing to their standards over the next few years.

Voter turnout was slightly higher in the federal election in 2015 that gave Justin Trudeau a Liberal majority government when 68.5 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots.

But previous federal elections before that saw many more potential voters stay home and twiddle their thumbs.

In 2011, 61.1 per cent went to the polling stations, and in 2008, a paltry 58.8 per cent voted.

I can’t understand why people refuse to participate in a process that impacts their lives so significantly.

Federal governments are responsible for a variety of services and functions; from the collection of taxes to the delivery of social services, and from the supervision of international trade to the safeguarding of national security.

But it’s telling that the record for voting in municipal elections is even worse, even though local governments are responsible for local services that we deal with on a day-to-day basis, such as water supply, sewage and garbage disposal, roads, sidewalks, street lighting, building codes, parks, playgrounds, libraries and establishing what your property taxes are each year.

These are issues that fill our letters-to-the-editor section of the paper all the time, yet just 36 per cent of eligible voters in B.C. cast a ballot in the municipal elections last October, a figure largely unchanged from prior municipal elections in the province.

That’s really pathetic and I have to wonder if the people that usually show such passion for the issues have become so frustrated with the political system that they refuse to participate in it by voting; a strategy that solves nothing in the end.

Or is it simply that a sizable percentage of the population (maybe somewhere between 34.5 and 64 per cent?) are just full of hot air when it actually comes to doing something about changing the system for the better.

It’s been said time and time again that you’re dishonouring the Canadians who died in battles defending our country and its democracy by not voting, but people’s patriotism should not have to be invoked to get them off the couch and to the polling stations for just five minutes of their time to cast a vote.

It’s really about trying to make you and your family’s life, and the lives of all those you share a community with, better by voting for those who best represent your views and ideals.

Winston Churchill, that great British statesman and war hero, once said that “Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

It’s true that democracy has its faults, but staying at home on voting days is not the way to make it better.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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