With Canada one week into an election campaign I have been quite struck by my total lack of interest in the political theatre that surrounds me. I glance periodically at the headlines, grimace and shake my head at some of the inane posturing, then move on to something that has more substance. I note that I just don't seem to care what ANY of the politicians have to say, including those that I may agree with. Why is this?
Well, it all seems so predictable. Everyone strategizes to win, appealing to what their handlers tell them their base is. Our first past the post electoral system guarantees this behaviour on the part of our political parties.
The vast majority of the Federal electoral districts are considered "safe" seats for one party or another. My riding of Ottawa-Vanier is one of them. I will vote for the Green Party candidate Caroline Rioux. However, the odds are better that I will win the lottery, (and I don't buy lottery tickets), than is the possibility of her winning this vote. Other than giving two dollars to the Green Party of Canada, my vote will not affect the outcome. It is exactly the same for the NDP and Conservative voters in this riding, (although their odds of upsetting the incumbent may be slightly better).
This scenario is replicated across the country in every riding that might be deemed "safe" for one party or another. Do those NDP, Green or Liberal voters in Calgary Centre really think their vote has anything other than symbolic meaning? Do they really think that they could possibly unseat Stephen Harper in this election? Oh yes, we will hear the cry that "every vote counts" and "you can't complain if you don't vote", etc. etc. But, the truth is, more and more voters feel they are being treated like sheep as they are herded into various voting pens. They don't see their vote making a difference.
I want every vote to count. Every voter in every riding needs to know that their vote makes a difference. Whether you are a lonely Conservative in Liberal red Ottawa-Vanier, a despondent dipper in Alberta, or a Green anywhere in the country you will be more encourage to participate in democracy if you have a sense that your vote will make a difference. Sadly, that currently is not the experience of the majority of voters.
This election will be decided in those 40 to 50 "swing" ridings where the seat may change hands, that are not "safe" for one party or another. Voters in these ridings will be showered with an inordinate amount of attention. All kinds of promises will be made to appeal to these voters in the hopes of scoring the big win. As to the rest of the voters across the country? More of them can see the manipulative game that is being played. Yes, many of them are voting, but not necessarily at the ballot box. Increasing numbers of them are voting with their feet, as they walk away from those ballot boxes, and they will continue to do so until they feel their vote counts.
Don't worry - I'll be voting, at a ballot box, but I certainly understand why increasing numbers of us don't bother anymore.