Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Alberta Election 2008 (28)

Alberta Election 2008

March 23 - Happy Easter if you're into that, or Happy Long Weekend otherwise.

It’s been about 20 days since the provincial election here in our fine province and I’m still mad. So with apologies to Rick Mercer, the king of the rant, I’m going to have a little rant of my own.

Forty-one percent (41%) of all eligible voters actually voted in this election. That means fifty-nine percent (59%) did not. That’s just pathetic and speaks volumes by virtue of grim silence.

If electorates get the governments they deserve, then 51% of Albertans deserve NOTHING. They have no right to complain, no right to make suggestions; they simply have no moral rights at all in a democratic place.

There has been a lot of speculation as to why voter turn out in this province has been so low, and dropping. Reasons like:
· Alberta has a high rate of in-migration and “new Albertans” do not feel a vested interest in the province so do not vote;
· Life is good in Alberta, so why vote? No change is needed – things are going well;
· There was “no one” to vote for – people are uninspired by the selection of candidates;
· Policy debates were lacking in substance – there were no urgent issues; and here’s the big one;
· “My vote won’t do anything to change things. My vote doesn't matter.”

Preston Manning apparently mused something like the following: what would happen if no one went out to vote?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I hate to think of that possibility but I do have a few thoughts on why EVERY eligible voter SHOULD vote, so bear with me here…

We are all familiar with air pollution, smog, global warming. These are things that affect our lives daily. Even in our “blue sky” province of Alberta, we see murky brown smog days more and more – at least here in Calgary. What causes this? Not me, surely. I don’t cause all that brown smog. But I do drive my car. I do have a furnace. I do use electricity. Sure, not a lot compared to the grand total of cars, and furnaces and electricity users. But my little bits contribute ever so minutely to the total amount of smog in my city, and in the case of electricity – around the province where the power is generated, because in Alberta, more than half the power I use comes from a coal plant somewhere.

If I didn’t drive my car or turn on my furnace and if I shut off every electricity-using item I own, the little bit of difference in smog reduction would not be noticeable or even measurable. However, if every single person in the province were to do that, most of it would vanish. (I say most, because we export a lot of our stuff, so there would be some smog/pollution/GHG in the province associated with our exports.)

Economists call this sort of dilemma a common property problem: each person, as the result of certain actions, contributes a tiny tiny bit to the total big problem. But because ceasing their actions would not result in a measurable difference and because the benefits each person gets from the actions far exceeds the individual cost of the action, everyone continues with the action.

I think elections are like a common property problem. People, for whatever reason, feel that the effort to vote, far exceeds the benefits they would see by voting. In a province like Alberta, where the same party seems to have a monopoly on government, most feel it is a forgone conclusion, so they don’t vote. And voila! They were right – it is a foregone conclusion.

This is faulty logic. In this case, essentially 59% of Albertans have decided the direction of the province by merely not getting up off their butts and getting to a polling station. If each eligible voter had voted, the outcome may have been much different. We’ll never know. Maybe we would have some resemblance of an effective opposition. Even if the final outcome was still overwhelmingly Conservative, maybe the total votes for other parties would have been higher, which in itself would have sent a message to the incumbents that there is some discontent in the land. And if the result still demonstrated overwhelming support for the PCs, well then at least we’d know the PCs aren't in power due to an apathetic electorate.

Will this lack of voter enthusiasm change? Well – who knows? But I can predict one thing: the PCs will only change what they are required to change in terms of voting patterns, because they are the big winners here.

Voting is not hard! Here are the steps:
1 – get to a polling station;
2 – get your ballot;
3 – go to the little desk where they have the short stumpy pencils; and
4 – make an “X” in the box beside the person you want to vote for.

If you didn’t vote – shame on you. Move to some country where there are no personal freedoms and no vote. Maybe you’d wish you could vote then.

Who do you vote for? Frankly, I don’t care – just vote. Your vote DOES MATTER. In combination with everyone else's vote, it is very powerful: it is the power of a democracy.

But if you want to know how I decided to vote, here’s what I did:
· Pay attention to the literature that comes to your mailbox (in this case, not too much – one or two items for most candidates/parties).
· Talk to candidates that come to the door. Who came to my door? No one – at least when we were home.
· Since no one came, I sent out a couple of emails to ask questions. I was very disappointed with the answers from one candidate, happier with another’s answers. But to their credit, they did answer.
· Is there an all candidates forum? Yes! Oh good – go to that and watch and listen closely. All will be revealed. Seeing the players "live" is always revealing. I can always pick a favorite.

At our forum the PC, Lib, and Alliance candidates were a waste of time. The NDP person was good, but I’m not a big fan of many NDP policies. I liked the Social Credit guy and the Green guy too. The Socred guy was sort of a Grandpa type who wanted to roll the clock back 50 years or so, which is a nice heartwarming thought, but simply not realistic.

I ended up voting Green as the Green guy was most articulate and explained his party’s position and his personal concerns very well. The policies made sense to me. I knew he didn’t have a chance, but I wanted to vote for the person I liked best and at the same time register the fact that not everyone in this province is blue to the core.

My point: it doesn’t matter who you vote for – just get off your bum and VOTE!

OK – if you got this far, congratulations! My rants may not be as good as Rick’s, but they are longer!

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