There is lots to be said about the malaise felt by many voters in the current federal election.
I personally feel this election is a joke. We go to the polls, exactly one year earlier than previously legislated by our own Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Oh well, politicians are allowed to break their own rules when it is convenient.
People get interviewed on the street and respond by how much they are "tired of voting". Well, it is better than the alternative, I suppose. That is, we can stop elections altogether and just appoint a dictatorship or allow one to appoint itself.
The Conservatives haven't proposed any new policies except what their policies would NOT be. I am interested in hearing their position on health care and the Canada Health Act. It was Stephen Harper himself that spoke a few years ago that people should be allowed to purchase private health insurance for any type of service and that physicians should be allowed to choose to deliver privately any service they wish ... arguing this would not erode into public health care or access for everybody else.
Well, news flash. We don't HAVE enough doctors to fill both coffers full of medical staff and if private medicine proves to be more promising, many physicians and other care providers will skip public health insurance altogether to see private patients exclusively. I personally don't know Harper's position on health care right now, as he is not saying anything. Sometimes it is what politicians DO NOT say is more important than what they do say. I would advise people to study all candidates of all parties, their personal backgrounds and their positions on issues that are important to you, before you mark that ballot.
For example, an astute letter write wrote a letter to the Welland Tribune to "educate" voters in the area that the Conservative candidate for the Welland Riding, Alfred Kiers, was formerly a candidate for the Family Coalition Party. For those that want to learn about that small party's politics, you can always visit its website to learn about its policies. This does not necessarily mean Mr. Kiers will push these values on the party, but one should be wary that some politicians do impose their religious beliefs on the electorate. This is commonly known to be the Religious Right in the United States, where many states have backward policies on a number of issues, imposing certain morals on the electorate through legislation as opposed to personal choice. We certainly do not want that attitude imported to Canada.
Current election gaffes include a number of Conservative (as well as at least one Liberal) bloggers that have been reprimanded or asked to withdraw from the race once their blogs and posts on various websites were uncovered; it is not hard to find out if your local candidates have been actively keeping a blog or journal online. All you need to do is google their name via the web or even blogsites. You can also try finding them on sites like MySpace and Facebook, where many candidates have formed web pages to keep in touch with supporters. While they may have "official" views on these pages, you may wish to explore various discussion groups to see if they also posted there. That way, you can learn about your candidate and see if their views are something you could support being represented at the political level.
Another method is to meet your candidates and talk to them personally about the issues that concern you most. Ask your candidate the difficult questions and do not let them get away with political double-speak, which is either answering your question with a question or answering your question by giving information that does not answer your question. To get them to be truthful, play devil's advocate with some of the issues you care about. For example, if you strongly support universal health care, ask your candidate if there are instances where they believe the private sector can deliver health care effectively and efficiently and to identify what circumstances these might be. If you care about the homeless, ask the candidate what they believe is the cause of homelessness and how it should be addressed.
Get involved with political websites of parties you are not necessarily likely to support, but have questions about. There are likely people that post to these discussion boards that present ideas or opinions that might represent the position of the party and the majority of its candidates. If something bothers you, ask for an official interpretation of the party's position on that particular subject, not necessarily what the writer actually believes. For example, the Conservative's official position may still support universal medicare, but some of its candidates may not. The other thing is don't assume that parties of the so-called "left" all agree on positions either. There are Liberal party candidates that have supported the war in Iraq, privatization of health care and vouchers for religious schools. These are not necessarily bad policies, but if you feel they are not good - learn about what your candidates actually support.
Another cue to learn from is to go to the Elections Canada website to get a list of last election's donors to the various political parties. By law, donors that give funding or services in kind to any political party have to be named and reported to Elections Canada. Which businesses and organizations appear to be likely to donate to your political party? Does the party appear to have more organizations donating or individuals? You may want to google the names of individuals that appear to give significant amounts of money to any party to see who this person is. Many times, they are former candidates or executives in the party or they are part of an organization whose interests would be served by the particular party. For example, if a person is active in the labour movement, they might be supporting the New Democratic Party. If they are academics or policy analysts with private think tanks, go to the academic site and search up articles they've written or co-authored. If they are part of a think tank, such as Canadian Policy Research Network, the Fraser Institute, CD Howe Institute or Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, you might want to go to these websites to learn about what policies these organizations support and who is behind them.
Being an educated voter is hard work, but I would rather educate myself as to who I intend to vote for than to vote blindly or as in the United States, vote through some kind of middle man at an Electoral College. The campaign is getting silly here and this, unfortunately, benefits the incumbent party. People get sick and tired of listening to negative ads, finger pointing, opinion polls and other "media coverage" of the election. This coverage sadly is very incomplete and does not tell you who the people you vote for really are. Some people are comparing the Green Party to the Liberal Party of Canada, by saying that the Green Party is simply campaigning for the Liberals and if you vote Green, you are supporting the Liberals. Skip the middle man, they say, and vote Liberal directly.
As for the so-called "left", there are people out there advocating that the Liberals, NDP and Green Parties unite in their efforts to defeat Stephen Harper. Some are setting up "strategic voting" sites to encourage people to vote for one candidate in an attempt to prevent another candidate from getting elected. Nobody votes for who they want anymore. They vote against who they do not want or dislike the most. Our election system is antiquated to the point that strategic voting becomes necessary if we want to prevent massive majorities at 38% of the vote, meaning that instead of appointing them - we are ELECTING dictatorships. I prefer some type of proportional representation, but whenever something like this is proposed to the electorate, representatives from the two main political parties put on an anti-reform agenda to prevent people from choosing change ... simply to protect their own butts!
In my own view, they should have an option called None of the Above. If you are in the voting booth and NONE of the candidates appeal to you, which is slowly getting to be the case with people like me, folks would have an option to register their "vote". However, this can present itself in the likely scenario that None of the Above forms a "majority" of the votes in the majority of the ridings. Or people can always vote for the Marijuana Party, the Work Less Party, the Communist Party or even the Marxist Leninist Party. I'm sure there are equally bizarre options out there; maybe I might form my own political party someday.
Anyhow, people whine and complain and wonder why we have to go to vote again! I say, why not ... voting just takes a few minutes of your day. You can call the office of any candidate and ask for a ride. That doesn't mean you have to vote for the candidate of the office that provided you with the ride ... it is a secret ballot! You can even go in there and write on the ballot in bold block letters, "Throw the bums out!" or decline your ballot. If you decline your ballot properly, your "vote" is registered. However, do anything ... just don't stay home.
Happy Election Day (which will be October 14, 2008). Check the Elections Canada site for advance polling dates, special polls and other ways to vote to make sure your voice is heard. See you all there!