“The only way to change it, is to vote. People are responsible.” ~ Paul Wellstone


Settled deep into the halcyon days of summer, mid-August triggers a sense of urgency for many Canadians regardless of where you live. Every day is a tick of the clock counting down the coveted days of  a northern summer that for many, is all too short.

And while most of us will use every free second of this month to simply relax with friends and family,others are already preparing for winter – cutting and stacking wood,harvesting gardens to freeze,pickle and can everything they can. Even a look into my deep freezer would show you bags of IQF local berries and fruits, and the blackberry harvest is ongoing. When you plan for 6 months of fall and winter, it takes a significant amount of your time and energy.

But in offices and certain homes all across Canada, there is a different sense of urgency developing as political parties move into high gear in the wake of  Prime Minister Harper’s early election call on August 2nd. And while most of my followers will already know this, I also know that there are thousands more Canadians who truly are not aware yet that an election is even happening this year,sad as it is.

This will be one of the longest and most expensive election campaigns in the history of Canadian politics,and every political party would be wise to pace themselves to avoid over-bombarding Canadians, which is likely to increase voter apathy. Indeed voter apathy is perhaps an even bigger threat to the future of this country than Harper when you look at the turnout in recent federal elections.

In 2011, the population of Canada was 31,612,897 million people. Only 24,257,592 were registered to vote and on the electors list.

And of those electors, only 14,823,408 people actually took the time to vote- it works out to 61.1%. A look back at the chart from Elections Canada shows the low voter turnout still is a really big issue.


Now don’t get me wrong – I am firmly in the ‘Harper needs to go’ camp – from the treatment of veterans to silencing of scientists, from his turnabout on the Chinese government to ‘quiet’ meetings with propaganda ministers and now Bill C51 -there is ample reason for pragmatic if not partisan objection to his governments actions and policies.

But when only 60% of people who are registered to vote actually do, it brings a perspective to the campaigns I think is often overlooked in the quest to win. Let me tell you why I feel that way.

I recently posted a link to http://www.votetogether.ca/ to my Facebook page and asked: “If the goal of this election is to defeat the Harper government, would you vote for the candidate in your riding that is most likely to defeat a Conservative, if that candidate was not of the party you are a member of, or support? ”

Surprisingly, for the very few willing to even answer that question, even fewer were honest enough to admit that they would not. So is this about getting rid of Harper, or is this about power?

The premise of the VoteTogether initiative is to vote strategically to oust the Conservatives, and they promote voting for whichever candidate has the best chance of doing so in your riding,regardless of the party they represent.

Now, if all the rhetoric we have heard about Stop Harper were true and meaningful, one would think the federal Liberals and NDP must come to some sort of an agreement to ensure that happens. But no, that’s not happening.

Why? Because while both parties will ultimately resort to some kind of gobbledygook about not being able to support the policies of the other and how they alone are the only viable option to undo the mess the Conservatives have created, it’s really about power.  The intense yearning for power not only at the top but in the backrooms behind the top. Trudeau has nixed an alliance outright while Mulcair says while they are aiming to replace the Conservatives,when the votes go down he will not support a Tory minority.

But why not unite now, to get the job done before the election?

This is something touched on in a column by none other than Martyn Brown, who was lauded and elevated to near celebrity status by those on the left recently,for his columns bashing Christy Clark and her LNG dreams.

But today- not surprisingly -those same people are silent as his recent post heralding Green Party Elizabeth Mays performance in the Macleans debate, strikes a nerve for some and appeals to others.

For me, this is where he gets to the heart of the matter, because I too found May’s debate performance compelling:

May has also proved that her participation stands to change the entire tenor and content of any debate that might take place—and decidedly for the better.

Set aside that, as the only woman in the field, she alone stands to temper her competitors’ macho tussle of ideas and insults with some much-needed gender balance and a unique perspective.

Why the Globe is prepared to discount that imperative is as mystifying as it is glaringly inexcusable.

The larger benefit of May’s involvement is the option for change and democratic representation that her party stands to offer Canadians. It is an option that will be aided by her participation in the debates and that will be unconscionably suppressed if she is excluded.

Whatever the practical challenges may be in translating the Green party’s ideas into action and its often-lofty positions into workable policies, May’s views are important for another less obvious reason.

They remind us all that idealism still matters in politics.

Her positions are grounded in unyielding beliefs and values of what is right and what is wrong. They are often anything but “political” in the typical partisan sense, insofar as they tend to marginalize her own voter support base, as they also transcend party lines and their associated ideologies.

The trouble with being on the cusp of power—as the NDP now is, in lockstep with the Liberals and Conservatives—is that the power game becomes the only thing that really matters.

Ideals get thrown out the window when push comes to shove in the battle to play it safe with positions that always have the polls as their main object of focus.

The last place you want to be, if you want to be the last person left standing, is out on a ledge like May, defending your ideals with an uncompromising commitment to stand fast for right over wrong, come what may.

The parties and their leaders all tend to speak in code to their prospective supporters by saying enough to win them over and by saying nothing that is not open to constructive interpretation in wooing any target audience.

This is the real value of May’s involvement. She is inclined to say exactly what she means, as if it really matters.

And some of what she says speaks directly to voters like me, who long to hear politicians stake their claim in ideals that are more concerned with right and wrong than with the narrow confines of their orthodox ideologies….”

“The power game becomes the only thing that matters…” 

And sadly, this is what I see in the comments of some friends and acquaintances who speak to me now as if I too were the ‘enemy’ simply because I believe Canadians not only have a right to choose who to vote for, but that they deserve to hear what May has to say.

And I voice that. I’m not naïve, but nor am I a party member. I’m a concerned Canadian with no political affiliation,just like hundreds of thousands of other voters. So this matters to me.

I’ve been told that because the Green candidates aren’t ‘whipped’, they have to represent their constituents views regardless of what that is( like that’s a bad thing?)  – from a Liberal supporter.

That Green’s are actually Conservatives and vote Right – from an NDP supporter.

And all the while, the NDP and the Liberals keep telling people why they shouldn’t vote for the other parties, instead of telling people what they can do differently. And supporters of both are mocking the decisions and opinions of those who are undecided but maybe leaning towards their Green candidate?

Gee, do you think that after 3 months of this going on, we have the potential to see more voter apathy than ever? That the undecided, non-party member voters who don’t spend every moment following politics or even the news for that matter, will just say: “Forget it!” yet again and lead us to another Harper government? Perhaps – only time will tell.

Call me crazy, but telling someone their vote is wrong, that their opinion is stupid or doesn’t matter, might not be the best way to get people to vote. Something for those ‘influencers’ out there on social media to think about, if not the party brass.

I very much enjoy the diversity of opinions and thoughts of all my partisan friends whether I agree or not, but partisanship alone isn’t the problem. It’s the inability or the unwillingness to look beyond the confines of that partisan view to a bigger picture.  Please, when engaging potential voters, think about what your goal is for Canada- and not just your party. An increase in voter turnout is good for all of us.

Indeed,apathy is the biggest threat to democracy  and the Conservatives know this well…Don’t unwittingly feed the beast that allows them to get re-elected, in your zeal to unseat them.

“The job facing voters… in the days and years to come is to determine which hearts, minds and souls command those qualities best suited to unify a country rather than further divide it, to heal the wounds of a nation as opposed to aggravate its injuries, and to secure for the next generation a legacy of choices based on informed awareness rather than one of reactions based on unknowing fear.” ~ Abherjhani


14 Comments on ““The only way to change it, is to vote. People are responsible.” ~ Paul Wellstone

  1. Elizabeth May is truly a breath of fresh air. I’m a pretty cynical old “pol” but she’s truly different. Ever since Trudeau I’s time, when victory gave 100% to the winner, party disciplie has steadily destroyed democracy. Until we find a way to destroy First Past The Post forever and come to accept minority governments which must accommodate their rule to Parliament, we will always live with the threat of a Stephen Harper.

    • Amen to that. People need to ask the parties and candidates where they stand on that issue. But again, many people don’t even understand how that works or why it matters. And how does one know to go looking for it if they haven’t heard of it or have a clue?

      These are the enormous hurdles. It really is a matter of educating one person or a group of people at a time. But to do that, you have to reach that non-party base and that is where I excel. And when summer vacation is over, I’ll be back at here in full force to try and reach even more people. Right now, it’s like I said in my opening paragraphs. Everyones either relaxing, vacationing or harvesting…. 🙂

  2. Lizzie also ‘works’. She is the only one who reads all the crap that passes for legislation. It is she who waded through Bill C51 and saw it it for what it is. It is she who who actually does the job we expect of our MPs. I confess that I want rid of Harper MORE than I want May so I would vote for ‘anyone-but-Steve’ if it comes to that. But May deserves the chance.

  3. Laila , i agree totally.
    The majority of election results here and internationally seem to be the “anti vote”.
    People arent voting “for” someone but “against” the incumbent.
    If that means electing the village idiot….so be it…..better the idiot than the devil…..does that explain Christy’s surprise win?
    Get out and vote people.
    Unfortunately most of the people that read this blog are voters, the rest of the folks that sit mesmerized by inane “reality” tv…..probably dont know there is an election going on……

    • Actually over the last few years writing for 24Hours Vancouver, I’ve continually been gaining new readers who are really outside the audience I normally have had. A lot of youth are reading as well as people who normally don’t get into politics which is why I really feel strongly about furthering the discussion. Those are the people I like engaging with and who all parties need to engage with.

      The emails via my contact page are very heartening. They give me hope. Every person who tells me they are going to start paying attention and finding out more, gives me hope. And yes, it has to happen one person at a time.

      What does worry me is how many people write to say they dont like speaking out or asking questions because they dont want to be mocked- because they have been in the past.

      We need to move past this, to move forward.

  4. I would never call anyone who’s concerned about the environment “crazy,” but I would call the same person who would aid and abet in the re-election of Harper by splitting the vote misguided: a re-elected Con government’d be the worst thing that could happen to the environment. Martyn Brown’s been smart enough to get out in front of inevitable forensic assessments of BC Liberal governments in which he was employed, and experienced enough at controlling messaging during his tenure as Gordon Campbell’s Chief of Staff to take his adulation of Ms May with a grain of salt.

    May never went out on a ledge in defence of ideals during the televised leaders’ debate—never said anything that anybody wouldn’t expect her to say. Her comments were remarkably intelligent and realistic, not idealistic. She could afford to set herself apart, the reality being she’s not really a contender (except in her own riding which she probably clinched with her debate performance), yet stands a good chance of becoming a coalition partner—or of holding the balance of power—as long as Harper is defeated. She therefore needed to look statesmanlike, above the fray the others are obliged to contend. It was easy for her, in the circumstance. She needed on one hand to show she can work with whomever wins, and yet make it plain on the other, except in not so many words, that she means with anybody but Harper. Otherwise her moves are as considered and calculated as the others’, her unique non-contender status granting her the fortuitous opportunity to stand out, to look better, which she naturally took, this potentially being her only chance to debate the others altogether.

    It would be unfortunate, however, if viewers try to “reward” May’s outstanding debate performance by voting Green on some interpretation or ideal of democratic principle, particularly if it elects a Conservative by splitting the vote—Cons will happily take all the Green votes they can get. It’s not wrong or stupid to forgo one’s preferred vote-choice now in return for better opportunities later. May herself knows both the two big opposition parties have committed to electoral reform which would be the best thing—short of holding the balance of power— for the Greens’ near-term prospects. Implication in Harper’s re-election would doubtlessly postpone Green-favouring electoral reform, and potentially relegate the party to fringe status for the longer term.

    Mulcair’s and Trudeau’s mutual rejection of pre-election coalition should not be interpreted as anything other than practical reality: all parties depend on volunteer party work and financial donations, and no party would jeopardize critically vital volunteer morale, nor take the risk of offending traditional supporters; it’s an entirely different situation when the necessity of forming a coalition is decided by election results. The Liberal and NDP pre-election position on cooperation should neither be interpreted as an undemocratic tell, nor unfavourably compared to some higher ideal May is supposed to have displayed. She did what she did because she could, and Mulcair and Trudeau did what they had to. The real message is all three want Harper gone.

    • I like your analysis and largely agree. But I have to say; how can we expect a higher standard from our politicians when we, ourselves, won’t vote our conscience and instead vote strategically? Don’t get me wrong – I am going to do just that, myself. I wanna vote Green but I will vote (gag) LIberal or NDP if the strategists advise it so as to oust Harper. So help me GAWD they (NDP/LIB) had better introduce voting reform pretty damn quick, tho. I will feel dirty and compromised from the moment the vote is cast. But, really….with proportional representation we can all be honest and vote as we freely choose for the best candidate rather than the lesser of two evils.

      • I’m happy to hear you’re going to help get rid of this corrupt government. I’m going to vote strategically too—but it’s easy for me to say that because the strategic choice for getting rid of Harper also happens to be my personal choice for protecting our environment and social services.

        I really want to thank you for what you’re doing—it’s hard for me to imagine how difficult it must be, and I really respect that.

        Thanx again,

  5. So now 109 reasons?
    Oh so 110 reasons?
    Subject: Mum on TOIFA benefits | Vancouver 24 hrs
    30 million viewers not 400 million so 8 %(92 percent off)
    Why only 2013 for awards in BC election year.none before none after.BC paid 11 million for this.Vaporware?
    Click on winner and select year and only 2013 shows up so only one year of awards being the BC election year.

  6. Pingback: “Good morning Laila, My name is Derek and I’m a very rare man.” | No Strings Attached : Laila Yuile on politics and life in B.C.

  7. Pingback: ” This is not ‘their’ election…it is ours. ‘They’ do not get to choose what this election is about,WE do!” ~ Rick Mercer | No Strings Attached : Laila Yuile on politics and life in B.C.