Column: Don’t waste the chance to have your voice heard

In so many other countries, people continue to die to have a society as free, as safe, and as fair as the one we take for granted.

It’s Day 6 of the federal election campaign. With Election Day scheduled for October 19 there’s a marathon ahead in which to listen to all those banal attack ads, the he-said-she-said accusations, and promises piled on promises to garner voter hopefuls.

And speaking of voters, just where are all the voters on Election Day? Not in the booth, that’s for sure. According to Elections Canada, the official turnout for the last federal election on May 2, 2011 was 61.1 per cent, 2.3 per cent higher than the all-time low of 58.8 per cent in 2008. That 60 something per cent has been pretty typical for federal elections since 2000 but prior to 1993 turnouts averaged between 70 per cent and 80 per cent.

So who really turns up at the booth?

Generally, the older we get the more likely we’re going to show up. Politics is either a) making more sense or b) making us mad enough for action.

According to the stats, turnout steadily increases with age from 38.8 per cent of those voting in the age group 18-24 to 75.1 per cent for those 64-74. Then it declines to 60.3 per cent for those 75 and older.

For the youngest group, an interesting stat was that those eligible to vote for the first time (turning 18 years of age by polling day) showed up in slightly higher rates (40.5 per cent) than youth who voted in 2008 (37.8 per cent).

Staying with stats, apparently more women (59.6 per cent) voted in the last election than men (57.3 per cent) up to age 64 after which more men hauled out the door for the polling booth.

So why is it people don’t vote?  All politicians are crooks. All parties are the same. They never follow through on promises. Why should I? I’m too busy, I forgot, I…..

Nonsense to all that.

We live in the most peaceful democratic country in the world for which 1.1 million Canadians fought in World War II. In so many other countries, people continue to die to have a society as free, as safe, and as fair as the one we take for granted.

Despite a few less than stellar individuals, politicians are not all crooks. Overall, Canadians are well served by those in office and by the political process and, for the most part, politicians are pretty accessible. For all its warts, the political class does work.

All parties are not the same. Steven Harper’s conservatives have played a vastly different game than the previous Liberal Party and the yet to be nationally tested NDP.

Do they follow through on promises? OK, not always. Or maybe partly. In 2012, the Harper government proudly pointed to the abolition of the long-gun registry, the passage of the omnibus crime bill, and dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board. But pledges were broken on Medicare and pensions, and issues were exacerbated by Harper’s obsession with secrecy and, for me, his lack of commitment to the environment, mitigating climate change, and his disregard for science research.

But therein lies the very reason to vote. Whether it’s for change, for improvement, or to endorse what has gone before, a vote is your voice for a shift to something else or the status quo. True, beating up on politicians is a national pastime but being too busy is not an excuse when deciding who will run our country. So if you don’t vote, don’t complain.

For those who didn’t vote in 2011, there’s time – 73 days of it – to change your mind and weigh up those campaign debates, accusations, and promises designed to lure you into that booth.

Just make sure you get there.

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