13 November 2011

Use it or lose it: Conspicuous in their absence

I attended the final parks all-candidates meeting today at Douglas Park Community Centre. There were about 25 people in the audience, which for this campaign was a good turn out. Sad. At Britannia there were 11 candidates and 24 people in the audience; at Hastings it was 9 candidates and 14 in the audience; and Coal Harbour I think there were 12 people sitting in the chairs--which is a vast improvement on the week before when only one person showed up for a school board candidates debate.

There is something fundamentally wrong with our electoral process when the public is so disengaged that they stay away in droves for meeting after meeting. Perhaps parks and sewers and traffic lights don't capture the imagination, but they are what we pay our taxes for and I would think people would want to know who makes the decisions to spend the money. It doesn't help when the media takes little notice of the campaign or candidates. My press releases are routinely ignored by the major press and only occasionally picked up by the smaller outlets. If the media won't report then the citizenry doesn't know.

Some think that on-line voting will make a difference. I think this is just feeding into the apathy and lethargy. If only 30% get out to vote given all the opportunities, and less than 1% come to find out who the candidates are, then I doubt voting from your armchair will make much difference.

In Australia they have upwards of 95% voter participation. This is because voting is compulsory, and there are fines for not exercising your democratic right. I think maybe they have it right. We can't take our rights for granted. If we don't participate we all lose. I don't think it is too much to ask for a citizen to take half an hour out their day to cast their vote. Voting is one of the most important tasks a citizens has to do. If you don't vote, you are letting someone else decide for you. As the kids like to say "use it or lose it".

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