I haven’t voted in the past several elections.
There I said it. My dirty little secret is out there. Once a proud member of the voting minority (you can’t complain unless you vote, blah, blah, blah), my faith in politics is at an all-time low. I feel like my vote doesn’t matter, hence I have kept it stored in my back pocket for the past few elections.
I mean, I really like former Kelowna city councillor and now Conservative MP Ron Cannan. He works hard, he knows my name, he talks to me like I’m a real person and he’s not some sort of robot, and I’m sure he works his tail off trying to do good things.
But if Stephen Harper wants to sign a shady trade deal with China or send our troops into war or sell our resources off to his buddies in the states, Mr. Cannan isn’t going to be able to stop him, no matter how good of a person he is.
And so I haven’t voted federally and that apathy has continued to the provincial election and into local politics. Surely one vote doesn’t matter.
Call it apathy or whatever you want, but the sense that our vote doesn’t matter is a big reason why voter turnout is low in Canada, lower in B.C and the lowest in municipalities across our province.
“What the public has increasingly been seeing is that their input (vote) fails to produce the kind of outcomes that they would like to see,” said Wolf Depner, a political science instructor at UBCO. “When people see their input not producing the outcomes they desire they are increasingly going to turn away from the political system. People see their vote doesn’t matter.”
It’s just one part of the problem, said Depner. Turns out the economic disparity between the well-to-do and the working class has a big impact too. Rich and retired people have more time to properly investigate political candidates and parties and make an informed decision to vote than working folks who are working two jobs and running kids around.
“Political participation requires a certain degree of material comfort,” said Depner. “If you are struggling to make ends meet, out hustling a couple jobs trying to put food on the table, you are not going to have time to follow politics and eventually you’re going to turn around and say it doesn’t matter.”
So young, working class folks don’t have the time to care or properly participate in politics and aren’t voting while retired people and folks living in luxury do. They are holding the power (big shocker) and this is not a good thing. It results in the few making the decisions for the many. It’s the very opposite of what democracy stands for.
“Democracy means ‘rule of the many’ but what we have instead is an elected aristocracy which means “rule of the few,” said Depner. “You can get elected with a relatively small number of people voting for you.”
Depner also said withholding your vote actually gives more power to the votes cast by those rich folks, even though they too, only get to cast one ballot.
So if ‘rule of the few’ (hello, Mr. Harper) isn’t enough to make you get out and vote, maybe giving more power to people who don’t share your philosophy or your social status will. Or perhaps you just don’t care.
But for me, I’m not happy with what Canada is doing under this elected aristocracy so I’ll be back in the minority of the voting public from now on out. Here’s hoping more working class folks will join me. And what better place to start than in the upcoming municipal elections?