Why we need to think about who to vote for

This week's editorial discusses the importance of consideration before voting in the federal election.

We have less than two weeks left to the polling day and for those who have already made a decision who to vote for, early voting starts the day after tomorrow, on Friday, Oct. 9.

On the one hand, a portion of the electorate may have already started to feel a fatigue after hearing so many conflicting promises and recipes for Canada and Canadians to be happier and more prosperous.

On the other hand, the length of the campaign period, up to 11 weeks this time as opposed to only four weeks of official campaigning in the previous federal elections, does seem to have helped us all to hear more about the variety of issues that surface one after another on the political agenda.

The picture of a little boy, drowned in the sea and driven ashore by the waves, carried the refugee crisis to the centre of the election debate and the Syrian and wider Middle East conflicts were also tagged to the discussion. Then it was the budget, whether it should be surplus or deficit or balance and then the F-35 fighter jet debate suddenly sprang up when Liberal leader Justin Trudeau promised to cancel plans for their acquisition to the angry reaction by Conservative leader Stephen Harper. In the meantime, NDP leader Tom Mulcair continued to tread the middle-of-the-road line in discussing various issues, in an apparent effort to appeal to the widest possible section of the electorate. And most recently, Stephen Harper declared Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal a victory for Canadian economy while Tom Mulcair predicted it would lead to loss of 20,000 jobs while Justin Trudeau said he would review the whole thing carefully.

Now the question is whether and how we, the voters, are benefitting from these discussions and debates.

Are we really educating ourselves with regard to how our votes will or will not make an impact on the outcome?

The reason why we should be thinking about the answers to these questions can be justified by the results of a recent opinion poll.

The poll was commissioned by the Alberta Federation of Labour and its results show a baffling picture, according to which while a majority of the interviewees (mostly residents of Edmonton ridings) express their wish that the Conservative government should be gone, their votes will still get Conservative candidates elected to parliament.

According to the results, majority of Liberal voters say they would prefer NDP as opposed to Conservatives and NDP supporters say the same thing for Liberals in rejection of any Conservative government.

But it is the current (and outdated) “first-past-the-post” election system that will provide the Conservatives with the opportunity to have their candidates elected or reelected in the Edmonton ridings that were covered by the poll.

It is widely accepted that this election system fails to do justice in representing the will of the electorate. Like the poll just mentioned showed, in most of the ridings covered by the poll, Conservatives have almost razor thin majorities like one or two percent over the prospective votes for either NDP or Liberal candidates. If in a riding, a Conservative candidate gets, say 35 per cent of the votes versus 33 per cent of one opposition party and 28 per cent of the other, that candidate still goes to Ottawa to represent 100 per cent of the riding where 61 per cent voted against.

For those who are happy with Stephen Harper at the helm, there is not much to think about it seems. They can just vote Conservative again without losing any sleep about it.

As for those who think it is time for Harper to go, however, it seems there is some thinking to be done on whether to support NDP candidates or Liberal candidates.

Unfortunately, the election campaign debates have never focused, at least so far, on changing the election system. That is a pity, because it looks like all the parties still aim to benefit from the same system.

But it is up to us voters to push for change to have our votes respected more in a proportional representation system. And for this the first thing to do is to go to the ballot box.

 

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