The Value of Voting

I will never forget the federal election of 2015.

Standing in line with my husband and daughter, giving the poll clerk my name, being handed my ballot.

Sitting behind the folding cardboard screen, pencil poised and looking at the list of names. Then I see it, my name!

I cry and promptly vote for myself.

The joy of that moment was replaced by gut-wrenching disappointment 11 hours later when I found out I lost. Lost, came second, a loser!

If I ever get a tattoo, it will be the number 23,666. That’s how many people voted for me. They shared my vision; they believed I could represent them in the House of Commons. But, aside from making me feel a bit better, did their vote count? 

I worry that we are losing faith in the value of our vote. This lack of confidence threatens the very foundation of our democracy. Ten million Canadians don’t vote. When Elections Canada surveyed these non-voters, they found one of the most common reasons for not voting was “I’m just not interested.” Even more concerning is a quote from a university student, Cam McCoy. “I would say our generation doesn’t see the value in voting.”

Voting is a right protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is right we have fought for and represents our voice in the way we are governed. If Canadians are losing confidence in the effectiveness of their vote and, by association, the government it elects, we should all be worried.

We should be talking about what’s creating this lack of interest in voting and what can be done about it. It didn’t help that in 2015 the Liberals, NDP and Greens all ran on a platform of reforming our electoral system. Justin Trudeau famously stated, “2015 will be the last election under ‘first past the post.’” Then Less than a year into office, he broke that promise with apparently no consequences; he was re-elected in 2019.

One proposal to increase engagement is to lower the voting age to 16. There is evidence to suggest that if you vote in the first election, you are legally entitled to, you will vote in every election after.

There is also concern over the increasing power of political parties in determining who can run for office and how free they are to vote once elected. We didn’t even have political parties listed on the ballot until 1974; it might be time to review how that’s working. Maybe we need to be more practical when it comes to who can run for office and consider the value of funding political participation. Should you be eligible for employment insurance if you're a political candidate? After all, you are looking for a job!

In 2015, one of my campaign volunteers was a refugee from Somalia. The day he was eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship, he found out the government had changed the rules, and he was going to have to wait at least another year. I asked him why he was working so hard on my campaign when he couldn’t even vote. He replied, “This government holds my future in its hands. I have watched people in other countries die fighting for the right to vote. I want Canadians to know their vote matters.”