I cast my vote last Friday. It’s looking like I will be out of town on election day so I went to the advanced poll on Good Friday and, to my surprise, had to stand in a short line before marking my ballot.
I say it was surprising because while talking to my editor, Aaron Orlando, who covered the last federal election for the Times Review, we both commented how there didn’t seem to be as much excitement in this campaign. There were far fewer lawn signs, he said, fewer letters coming in about the campaign, and, in general, less discussion about the campaign.
It’s a much discussed fact that voter turnout has been declining in Canada (and many other democracies) over the past decade. In the last election, it was less than 60 per cent.
Some of it has been attributed to election fatigue – this is the fourth in seven years – but that argument doesn’t really hold water. After all, between 1957 and 1968 there were six elections and turnout ranged from 74 per cent to 79 per cent in that period.
Voter turnout in Revelstoke has mirrored national trends over the past three elections, though in the past two it has been slightly lower.
Election fatigue is also a weak excuse for not voting. Democratic participation does not end in voting but it is the easiest way to take part in the political process and have your say in the direction of the country.
At the very least show up and spoil your ballot. I actually did that once in a provincial election about a decade ago when I was more cynical and anti-establishment. I didn’t care much for any of the choices but instead of not voting I decided to spoil my ballot and hopefully send a message that way.
I don’t know how effective that is since there’s no place to say why you spoiled your ballot (a ‘none of the above’ option would be great) but it’s better than not showing up. It at least shows that you care enough to show up.
This election, with the retirement of Jim Abbott, the riding of Kootenay-Columbia will send someone new to Ottawa for the first time since 1993. It’s likely to be Abbott’s Conservative successor David Wilks – the political website threehundredeight.com has consistently pegged his support at about 55 per cent – but NDP candidate Mark Shmigelsky has been running an aggressive campaign and could pull off an upset if he can attract the vast majority of the left-wing vote and NDP support continues to trend upward in the province, as it has throughout the campaign.
The various candidates offer different visions. Wilks is pushing a tough-on-crime agenda, in addition to focusing on the Conservative Party policy of focusing on the economy and promising to scrap the long-gun registry.
Shmigelsky is running on the NDP platform of raising corporate taxes to help pay for a variety of social programs, including an increase to the seniors’ Guaranteed Income Supplement. He is also promising to actively meet with constituents, councils and other groups throughout the riding.
Bill Green has been focusing on the Green Party agenda and trying to make voters aware that the party is more than just a one-issue environmental and has a full set of policy’s on all federal issues. The Green Party vote has increased in this riding in each of the past two elections and he hopes to continue that trend.
Liberal candidate Betty Aitchison is the only candidate to not visit Revelstoke. In interviews with the media she has pushed health care as the number one issue and has also stressed the need to improve women’s position in society.
Independent candidate Brent Bush, who ran for the NDP in the 2004 and 2006 elections, has focused his campaign on the need to re-negotiate the Columbia River Treaty so Canada gets a good deal. Negotiations for a new treaty can begin in 2014.
All candidates have promised to do something about the Trans-Canada Highway, which has emerged as one of the most significant issues for Revelstoke in this election.
The election takes place on Monday, May 2. The choice is yours – at the very least make one.
With files from the Kootenay Advertiser/Black Press