Last Updated: April 2nd, 2019
With the Canadian federal election going on, party leaders from all political spectrums are desperately vying for your vote. If you’re like me and you receive an onslaught of emails from your political party on a daily basis, you’ll be able to attest to their attempts to get you to “commit” to vote. And, if you’re anything like me, you probably deleted hundreds of these throughout the week. However, don’t worry about making promises to your specific party and certainly don’t worry about signing some petition promising to vote. The only person you should make a promise to is yourself. I vote because I want to be a part of the decision.
Many people distrust politicians—they have certainly given us cause to in the past—but, don’t be discouraged by a few “bad apples.” If you don’t trust what they tell you about voting then just listen to me. Voting is very important. And, no, it’s never guaranteed that the person you select on the ballot will win or, become the opposition. However, that’s not why you should vote. Whether or not you selected a winning Member of Parliament (MP) on your ballot is inconsequential, because it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever receive a personal “thank you.” Keeping this anonymity in mind when you vote, choose a party or platform that you feel would reflect you best.
Read between the lines
Furthermore, it’s probable you’ll never personally know a party leader or Prime Minister, so stop worrying about whether you’ve picked an honest man or woman into power. Politics is about promises and people who make too many promises are bound to break a few. It’s more about being able to read people. When you don’t know someone personally, you have to read between the lines. Keep in mind for example that it takes a long time for bills to become laws. Hence, the policy suggestions or program reforms leaders may be talking about during their political campaigns are never set in stone and may never pass in the House of Commons.
Your greatest bargaining tool
Also note that governments, during their four years in power, cannot fulfill their entire political platforms. That’s why everyone wants to be re-elected. It’s also why you shouldn’t be discouraged if the government seems to go back on its promises. It could just mean that certain bills or policies were not able to pass through Parliament during that short four-year period. However, if you’re passionate about an issue, and you want the government to keep it on the agenda while it’s in power, you have to vote. Your vote is your greatest bargaining tool. The truth is, most democratic countries only participate in democracy during elections, so don’t pass up an opportunity to let your opinion be known.
Your vote matters to your community
Don’t let cynics fool you, your vote matters even in a First-Past-the-Post electoral system. Remember your anonymity. In our system, we vote into a constituency which means that we all fall into certain ridings given our residential address. It also means that the sum of most votes will count as the electoral result for that riding. Hence, in your riding, you have the greatest power to make a change and let your voice be heard. Even if you select an MP whose party doesn’t end up winning, that party will know where their support lies. If you succeed in simply getting a politician interested in your community, it could have huge impacts on the leverage your community could have in the next election.
Elections are cyclical
The greatest point for you to remember when you feel like disparaging an electoral outcome is, elections are cyclical. In four year or less, the government will turn to you again and ask for your vote. Therefore, never think—for a single second—that your vote doesn’t have an impact, because it does. With people spoiling votes one electoral year after another, the government is running short on its supply of eager voters and is more eager to listen to those who will vote. You can use this to your advantage. You can make them listen to you when you vote.