If you’re a non-voter, you’re part of the problem

Russell
Russell Wangersky
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Don’t care about politics? Chances are, you’re just the kind of voter a heck of a lot of politicians in this country love to have in their districts or ridings. Why? Because if you only have to convince three out of 10 people to vote for you instead of 10 out of 10, it’s easier to gather a smaller col
lection of the like-minded.

Don’t bother to vote?

Strange as it seems, you’re only doing a favour for whatever party ends up winning. They don’t have to find you or convince you: your interests and values and ideas are a big fat zero to them. And they’re not going to spend even one iota of

their time thinking about what the zeroes need.

We all have different feelings about governments. Mine are pretty straightforward.

I don’t expect the government to guarantee me a job. I do expect that, if they collect employment insurance premiums from both me and whatever employer I have, that those premiums will only be used for the purpose they have been collected for. There’s a special word for claiming to collect money for one thing and then using it for something else. The word’s fraud.

I don’t mind paying taxes. I think there’s a place for things like public health care and public broadcasting. I think, if I drive on a road and expect it to be plowed and safe, I have to expect to pay for that road, like I expect to pay for garbage collection and safe disposal of that garbage and other waste in as environmentally acceptable a way as possible. And yes, I know that costs money — and since those services are services I use, I expect to pay for them, not simply use deficit budgets to shift the debt to future generations.

Don’t agree with me? That’s perfectly fine.

People have different tastes in food — why shouldn’t they have different tastes in governments, too?

Think the current federal government is doing just great? I don’t agree with you — but vote for them. Just vote.

It’s astounding how many people I talk to in the run of a week for whom any talk of politics and government generates something close to a shrug. “There’s nothing we can do about it,” is the common refrain, right after, “They’re all the same anyway.”

There are lots of reasons for that — you can hardly be blamed for shunning any sort of political romance when you’ve had your heart broken enough times.

Those spiffy Conservatives under Stephen Harper were going to clean things up — why, they weren’t even going to take those hugely unreasonable parliamentary pensions. Except they did — and the Mike Duffys among them took much, much more.

The Conservatives were supposed to clean up after the patronage-riddled, ethically challenged AdScam cash-stuffing Liberals — who themselves got into office as a result, all those years ago, because of the backlash to the corruption-battered Mulroney Tories.

Sure, politics is often a scummy-looking business where, time after time, the people we elect go on to demonstrate that power corrupts.

Fact is, the media isn’t helping the process — it’s devilishly seductive to watch the angels fall, and it’s a far easier story than any kind of hard-fought redemption tale ever will be.

But we’re close now to a land where, literally, three votes out of 10 could mean a majority government at the federal level.

And what does that mean? That means that we are ripe targets to be taken for a four- or five-year ride by ever-more extremists factions out there closer to the edges of either the right or the left.

Most Canadians sit at neither edge of the spectrum. The sad thing is, most Canadians are more likely to sit on their hands.

Fanatics do many things — one of them, consistently, is to vote.

And that’s why I say I don’t care if your views on government are diametrically opposed to mine. Just take the small amount of time it takes to familiarize yourself with the issues and then vote.

The more of us who do, the more likely our government will actually represent the ideals and direction of the majority of Canadians, and the more attention our governments will have to pay to those folks.

Doesn’t matter which side it is; as the popular vote sinks, we sink ever-closer to special interests that otherwise couldn’t come up with enough votes to buy lunch.

And when those special interests get special deals on taxes and investments and everything else, don’t shake your head and say the government failed.

If you didn’t vote, you failed.

Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s

editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at rwanger@thetelegram.com.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • bill
    February 23, 2014 - 11:42

    What difference will it make so far everything is smoke and mirror

  • Cashin Delaney
    February 23, 2014 - 11:25

    Even the most despotic government follows the masses. It may use every tactic at its disposal to shape the peoples will and direct their intent, but they still follow their people, ultimately. Whether I vote or not is immaterial, if I manage to affect a few hearts and minds with my propaganda and agitation for very limited government (almost anarchy). I know that the ‘winner’ of the government, and the ‘losers’ in opposition are bound to not stray too far from the status quo, determined by the public. So, the leading party changes, slightly different promises are backed by the ideology du jour, but, it is still bound to the tenets of ‘democratic’ governance, from the Greek conjunction of mob + rule. In democratic systems, people are challenged to bring change, not the governing party. I believe my participation in sensible, earnest debate, even in this troll-pit, is more fruitful than voting, or spoiling a ballot, or even not voting. Of these activities, only debate holds any power to change perceptions, instigate dissent, or turn the guts of the people toward an intuitive way forward. So, let our debate at least be a record for future ‘democracies’ to judge us by. I contend that the current socio-political provincial system within a Federal ‘situation’ like ours, demands government to: 1)Please Everyone 2)Retain Power 3)Maintain Power 4)Change legislation to further tenet #2, and #3 5)Help those who help them succeed 6)Exit strategically, making powerful friends and unpowerful enemies, if any. Even the most despotic government follows the masses. It may use every tactic at its disposal to shape the peoples will and direct their intent, but they still follow their people, ultimately. Whether I vote or not is immaterial, if I manage to affect a few hearts and minds with my propaganda and agitation for very limited government (almost anarchy). I know that the ‘winner’ of the government, and the ‘losers’ in opposition are bound to not stray too far from the status quo, determined by the public. So, the leading party changes, slightly different promises are backed by the ideology du jour, but, it is still bound to the tenets of ‘democratic’ governance, from the Greek conjunction of mob + rule. In democratic systems, people are challenged to bring change, not the governing party. I believe my participation in sensible, earnest debate, even in this troll-pit, is more fruitful than voting, or spoiling a ballot, or even not voting. Of these activities, only debate holds any power to change perceptions, instigate dissent, or turn the guts of the people toward an intuitive way forward. So, let our debate at least be a record for future ‘democracies’ to judge us by. I contend that the current socio-political provincial system within a Federal ‘situation’ like ours, demands government to: 1)Please Everyone 2)Retain Power 3)Maintain Power 4)Change legislation to further tenet #2, and #3 5)Help those who help them succeed 6)Exit strategically, making powerful friends and unpowerful enemies, if any. With respect to # 1 as being nearly impossible, and #5 being one of two basic tenets of classic anarchy (mutual association), the other being non-aggression, I am inclined to recognize #2,3,4 and 6 as the only difference between classic anarchy, and democracy with one other revision – 'Please Everyone' - becomes, of course, 'please yourselves', as far as non-aggression, and mutual association will allow, of course. Where would NFLD and LAB be without community-based anarchy? Sure, churches, unions, and politicians will always take the credit for civilization itself, and claim they are indispensible. Community finds a way to seek balance between the two basic tenets struck on each of the Benjamin Franklin, Fugio Cent, naturally. These are “We Are One”, and “Mind Your Business”. NDP party stared too deeply into the ‘we are one’ ideal, and have not minded their business. We realize which side of the coin “COKE” and “PEPSI” are on, as I enjoy calling our leading tandem of traditional syrupy political parties. As we get less stupid, ‘we are one’, will make more long-term sense (and The Media will reflect less race-bait/foreign-worker-bait content, NEWFIE-defamation-fandangos, QUEBEC bashing, etc ) and as we get more smarter, mind your business becomes second nature (The Government, The Nalcor, The Judiciary, The Feds will have to keep up with us). It is not to vote, or not to vote. It is to think, evolve, and become engaged somehow, or to regress into comfort as a society in safe disgrace. I try to recognize everyone in equanimity (we are not equal, but unique) and respect, until proven unrespectable. I mind my business above all others, take great exception to those attempting to mind mine. In this case, I am responding to this 'Editorial Pepsi Coke' commercial that paints me, the non-voter, as modern scapegoat. None of us is as smart as all of us. Unfortunately, many are stupider than the politicians, business leaders, union leaders, and clergy they continually fail to direct properly, as the organizational body. I don't deserve all the credit, as scapegoat for their lack of intelligence, logic, love, levity – their general stupidity – no. P.S. Please don’t tell me brave men died so I could vote. How many infants died since the dawn of humanity, so we could survive the odds, how many women died in childbirth? They all died, so I could stand here, and choose. At this time, I choose not. Given a choice, anything is possible. In contrast to Wangersky, I believe that the non-vote puts more pressure on the government to recognize that “the ideals and direction of the majority of Canadians” is so individually unique that only less attention paid to folks by government is really a long-term solution toward self-determination, the survival of our rural communities – almost anarchy.

  • Peter
    February 23, 2014 - 07:10

    Sir, be honest, Who is there to vote for. There no honesty any more with our leader's, Just power trips, and the hell with the people afterwards. Look at what going on with the NDP's, Then look at the PC's bunch, Their gone crazy, by spending like drunken sailor, trying to buy people votes. Then you got the Liberals, there so much in fighting going on in their party, they are lucky if they can keep it under control, Before the public fine out about it. Show me the leadership abilities, of the three provincial party, Now sir once more, who is there to votes for.

    • david
      February 23, 2014 - 08:59

      You lament the quality of candidates who run for office. Not voting not only solves nothing, it attracts even WORSE quality candidates, emboldened by the fact that a low turnout (thanks to people of your ilk) actually increases the odds for those who would 'steal' a cushy job for themselves. So you're helping make a bad situation worse....thanks so much.

  • Jeff
    February 23, 2014 - 06:46

    As Tommy Douglas put it in Mouseland, the mice continue to vote for either the black cat or the white cat, naively expecting that they will work in the best interests of the mice. So vote for a mouse!

  • Winston Adams
    February 22, 2014 - 16:23

    Russell once wrote on article o how St.John's could save 1 megawatt of energy by using LCD street lighting. Along comes Muskrat Falls, and as an alternative we can save hundreds of megawatts with efficient heating and other methods, that is cost effective and can save ratepayers 25 percent on energy bills. Most other jurisdictions do this via Efficiency Corporations. Here, not one political party has indorsed or promoted such a plan. Russell believes in it but has written not a word on it , nor any other telegram journalists. How is the voter to be enlightened if the media are silent on such important issues? Does it conflict with the Telegram revenue income from the power companies and government ads, whose programs gives no meaningful benefit to the ratepayer? And so we are expected to vote for the dumb an dumber?

  • yo mama
    February 22, 2014 - 15:47

    Perhaps more WOULD vote if there were someone worth voting for...like you've heard, "they're all the same anyways"....I'm not going to waste my time voting for the lesser of evils.

  • Graham Bursey
    February 22, 2014 - 15:09

    Well Wally after reading your apparently mindless rant I now tend to believe that in some cases abortion may be a viable option. Do you grow your own or buy it illegally because you apparently are on some mind altering drug.

    • John
      February 24, 2014 - 10:25

      Well, I believe it is extremely important to vote, because I see something in the wings that is disturbing with those who want to legalize abortion, legalize euthanasia and legalize illicit drugs. You bet you Hiney I will be voting in the next election, voting against the party of death.

  • Val B. Russell
    February 22, 2014 - 13:45

    Russell darling, you do realize that politics is a farce, don't you? Each party is precisely the same as the other but they dress up in different colours to make people think there is an ideal called democracy. This is designed to make the masses 'think' they have some control when in fact they do not. Of course, this paper is under varying degrees of government control depending on the material poised for potential publication and whether it embarrasses or exposes the people in that architecturally ugly building where the premier has an office. Perhaps the agenda behind this little diatribe of yours is less about voter responsibility and more about preparing the way for the party you want to endorse and promote in the next election. Lots of back scratching and very little journalistic integrity. This paper and its allegiance are so transparent, its existence a joke.

  • crista
    February 22, 2014 - 13:38

    Reading your article???? and think about when you started noticing what was going on???? and then you started to see what was going on???? and how you were being effected for what you did not know what was going on ???? that is education!!!! Read the article and think about it in your own words???? NOT in a nasty way and decide for your selves if their is truths to Russell Wangersky's article and not only his article(s) that would be the right way of doing it????

  • Buster Garvick
    February 22, 2014 - 12:37

    If the candidates do not meet with a voter's smell test, rather than not voting at all, the voter can always spoil his/her ballot. This is the proper way for the voter to register disapproval of the candidates whilst exercising the voter's civic duty of participating in the democratic process.

  • david
    February 22, 2014 - 12:31

    The way the radio blares out call-in shows every waking minute and the message boards fill up with dozens of posts, you'd think the voting participation rate here would lead the free world. Nah....we're just (world class) whiners. It's Harper's fault!

  • Linda
    February 22, 2014 - 12:24

    Thank you for such a timely and accurate commentary. When I think of the huge numbers of people , worldwide, who would love to have the opportunity to vote, and then of Canadians who don't, I am appalled. Those who feel that " not voting" makes some sort of statement could not be more mistaken.

  • gb
    February 22, 2014 - 10:40

    ok.so I don't particularly like any of the candidates from either party, I don't know any of them personally just like the vast majority of voters, I don't know their real values, how they treat their friends or family and the only time I may actually speak with one of them is if they knock on my door when they are on the campaign trail. So this fellow Wangersky says I don't count? I as a person don't mean anything to the elected gov't? What does that say then about the elected govt..lol? I pay my taxes, I contribute to society and whatever gov't party gets in I expect them to do the right thing for the people. Just because I choose not to vote for a smiley face on TV is none of Wangerskys concern nor is it any of his business.l

    • david
      February 22, 2014 - 12:09

      It took much more time and effort to write that post than to vote. And one vote contributes infinitely more -- as little as it does ---- to your society than posting does.

    • Steve
      February 22, 2014 - 14:25

      I have yet to vote in my life 49 now.. reason why is because no mater who gets in half way through the term you always start to see the lies unfold promises that they don't keep fighting among themselves and with other party's. But I will be voting next election just so the harper government goes but in doing so I know I will only be voting for more lies and broken promises ..The 10 dollars of gas money and my time in going to the polls probably could be put to better use

    • david
      February 22, 2014 - 17:33

      How much does your voting day wardrobe cost? Or your personal opportunity cost of that 10 minutes you waste? Those are equally relevant 'democracy expenses' for you to resent.

  • SayWhat
    February 22, 2014 - 10:15

    Why don't we do it like Australia with compulsory voting and preferential voting? How about lowering the voting age to 16 like they are doing this year for the Independence referendum in Scotland?

    • david
      February 22, 2014 - 10:59

      Needing to force people to vote by law is in 180 degree opposition to the tenet of freedom espoused by a democratic system. But that's more than just ironic...such an act shows that the bare minimum prerequisite of participation to make a democracy work is more than the people are willing to supply. S oforget tinkering with it....the answer is obvious as it is inevitable : a non-democracy.

  • wally
    February 22, 2014 - 09:52

    Russell Wangersky is an idiot. How is it that in his infantile opinion that I would fail if I didn't vote. I served this country for almost 30 years so that morons like him could vote or not depending on how he felt but he has the freedom to choose and so do the rest of us. He can take his opinion and shove it where the sun don't shine. I dare you to publish this one.

    • david
      February 22, 2014 - 10:43

      This post is very disturbing. Perhaps we are simply too stupid for democracy, and actually need to be protected from those who (systemically) abuse our ignorance of it.

    • Edith
      February 22, 2014 - 10:49

      I'm grateful for my freedom. But some of you military (and ex-military) have huge ego problems. Where do you get off with the name calling? Is that really necessary?

    • Comrade
      February 22, 2014 - 11:06

      By not voting, you now do your country a disservice.

    • hua mulan
      February 22, 2014 - 17:06

      you do realize , maybe in your sober moments at least, that when we point one finger at another person, we are pointing three back at ourselves?

  • Spoil your Ballots
    February 22, 2014 - 09:45

    I welcome the day when the majority of voters who don't vote decide to spoil their ballots by claiming a non-vote and why they are non-voting. Maybe then we can see true reform in this country.

  • Colin Burke
    February 22, 2014 - 09:29

    If you voted, you're responsible for what the bastards did on being elected, at least as long as the only way to get them out is to vote against them: that is, simply to wish them out instead of doing something to put them out.

  • david
    February 22, 2014 - 09:15

    There are two responsibilites of the public in a democratic system: 1) vote; 2) accept and abide by the result. The first has been ignored by too many Canadians for a long time. The second has been all but erased in the public arena recent years (aka. "Harper!").......encouraged and cheered on by a media that sways with the wind. So: 1) Start respecting the power of your vote. 2) Stop being so mindlessly selfish and arrogant as to think your vote counts more than anyone else's.

  • Will Cole
    February 22, 2014 - 09:03

    That the term "voter suppression" only became a part of the Canadian political vernacular after the Harperites came on the scene speaks volumes.

  • Harold
    February 22, 2014 - 09:01

    total agreement. voting is your means to speak up so either speak up or shut up..

  • Pierre Neary
    February 22, 2014 - 08:41

    Great column. Well said Mr. Wangersky.

  • Graham Bursey
    February 22, 2014 - 08:32

    Well said and 100% true. My stance has been that if I don't vote I give up my right to complain. Guess what? I have voted in every election since I was old enough to do so. By the way I still have the occasional complaint as well.

  • Crazy
    February 22, 2014 - 06:57

    Sir people look at politician as being very dishonest people, They feel they are only in it for themselves, here on the provincial scene democracy die, all because of the liberal, who should be leader, or not. That choice should of been left to the people to decides, not few in the back room.