None of the Above
Here we are in the tail end of summer and Canadians are facing an upcoming election; two, if you are a Manitoban. Personally, I am looking at both elections with trepidation. As far as I can tell, none of our potential leaders look like a good deal for the people they claim to serve, be it provincially or federally. It looks like yet another election(s) of picking the guy I hate and distrust the least. Not a good way to vote, but the way things are, it’s all we have. But does it have to be?
First, let’s break it down. Even though there are a number of potential choices to work with: Progressive Conservative (PC), Liberal, New Democratic Party (NDP), Green Party, People’s Party of Canada, Parti Quebecois (in Quebec), as well as various independents, the choices will invariably come down to PC verses Liberal federally and PC verses NDP provincially in Manitoba. On a federal level, our standard way of doing things for years has been to elect the Liberal party because we are mad at the PC’s, then elect the PC’s when we inevitably get mad at the Liberals. In Manitoba we do the same thing with the NDP and PC’s.
Historically, there have been two notable exceptions to this rule. Once, when Parti Quebecois became the official Federal Opposition. You heard that right, a party representing one province actually became the Federal Opposition. Fun times. The second time, the NDP actually made it into the Federal Opposition spot. Now that was historical. Where is Jack Layton when we need him?
But, aside from those two exceptions, our politics has been strictly same ol’, same ol’. The pendulum swings to the left, then back to the right, then back again. Projects get started, then scrapped, new ones start, only to get put aside when the new party assumes its rule. Politicians go in and out the revolving door of government, collecting their government pensions on their way out, as they go back to their private businesses, as our health care, education, justice department and infrastructure slowly crumbles, weighed down by bureaucracy and apathy. The only ones who seem to benefit are the politicians themselves.
Why bother, some say. What is the use in voting if nothing changes? But that is the wrong attitude. Around the world, people are fighting and dying for the opportunity to do what we take for granted. In Canada, it has barely been 100 years since women fought and won their right to vote, less in some provinces. First Nations people only got the right to vote in 1960. That’s right, less than 60 years ago. Voting is a privilege that has been hard earned by many, and not something to be taken lightly. By not voting, you are not letting your voice be heard, you are remaining silent about the future of your country.
In fact, the country of Australia takes voting so seriously that they have made it illegal not to vote. You will get fined for not voting in Australia.
But before we adopt that in Canada, I recommend changing the ballots to give Canadian voters an opportunity to truly express how they feel. What I would like to see on the ballot is a “None of the Above” option. The obvious response to this is, isn’t that the same as not voting? No it isn’t, and I’ll tell you why. When you don’t vote, you are not recognized. You have simply chosen to do nothing. The election only records the people who actually cast a ballot and picks a majority winner based on that. Those who protest by not voting are ignored utterly. They aren’t recognized as making a decision, they are simply seen as having chosen to let someone else decide for them. Their choice has no meaning at all. The same thing happens when you write in a name that wasn’t originally on the ballot. It is simply seen as a spoiled ballot, not a vote.
But if “None of the Above” was an actual vote on the ballot, it would be recognized and counted. The results would be recorded. Politicians and governments would have no choice but to take it seriously. So would the people. I am willing to bet that if you added “None of the Above” as a voting option, more people, particularly young adults, would be mobilized to vote, knowing that their voice would truly be heard.
Could you imagine what would happen if “None of the Above” got a majority vote? What if a majority “None of the Above” vote meant that each party had to find a new leader, develop new policies and rerun the election, and keep doing it until they found someone the majority of Canada could agree on. The government could no longer ignore the people, and would have to make an honest effort to find a leader and a policy that truly represents what the people of Canada want. And that’s what we need. A government truly that represents the people. After all, it is our government, isn’t it?
That would be my ideal anyway. In the meantime, we have to work with what we have and make the best choices based on what we have. But I do want to remind everyone that you do have a voice, and it is your responsibility to make it heard. Get out and vote, even if it is for the one you mistrust and dislike the least. But more than that, get involved. Call your local and federal leaders and tell them what you think of their policies. Invite those guys in, who are canvassing your neighbourhood, and quiz them on what they are planning to do to make our province and country a better place to live. Pick up your phone, text, or email your provincial and federal representatives and let them know what you think of how they are running our province and our country. And while you are at it, maybe suggest that you’d like to see a “None of the Above” option on the next ballot.