29 June 2008

To Vote or not to Vote

Reading this post prompted me to reflect on a conversation I had the other day.

I was having a chai tea with a friend of mine at a local beverage lounge. Like me, my friend has always voted, including at all municipal, provincial and federal elections.*

My friend is also a strong health promotion activist, at both local and provincial levels, and has founded at least two provincial non-profit organizations. I mean, she is used to bucking against brick walls and despite this has kept going and going and going.

If anyone knows the importance of participation and getting involved politically, my friend does. But the state of our political institutions and the conduct of our politicians - all of them, even the ones with good (yet paternalistic) intentions - has set her to reassessing the value of political engagement.

That day, as my friend and I sipped tea, she told me she was considering not voting in the next BC and federal elections.

I was shocked, not just by my friend's statement but by the degree of despair she exuded. "I don't trust any of them," she said, with more anger than I've heard from her in a long time.

As for me, I'm still incensed by the way the referendum on electoral reform was (mis)managed and (mis)handled by the BC Liberals. And I remain furious with the NDP's continued opposition to the choice of the BC Citizens Assembly (and now, of the people). The 60% threshold was clearly set to ensure the new system wouldn't be voted in, so it must have been a thunderbolt to the established parties to learn that British Columbians had voted 58% - and in majorities in all but two of 79 electoral districts - in favour of the new system.

So, yes, I agree with my friend. I don't trust any of them either. And maybe, just maybe, in the next provincial election, I'll not vote for anyone.

But I WILL vote for BC-STV.

* Actually, there was one provincial election in which I didn't vote. Had just moved back to Canada after being away for four years and then it was to BC where I'd never lived - let alone visited - before. Too unaware of BC and regional politics to make an informed voting decision, I decided the most responsible thing to do was skip that election.

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