Many years ago, when I was perhaps about five, my mother said to me one day “We’re going boating.” This surprised me somewhat, mainly because we lived in Richmond and didn’t have a boat. My surprise was further compounded when, having loaded my younger brother and me into the car, my mother did not head to a lake, river, ocean, or any other body of water where aquatic activities could reasonably be expected.
Instead we headed to Cambie Secondary School, and I remember getting out of the car and thinking “This is odd.” Still, as we headed toward the school gymnasium, I thought we might be in for a PNE-style midway ride, with little boats floating around in an endless circle.
Imagine my dismay, then, when we entered the gym and I was confronted by nothing more exciting than a number of people standing in front of, or behind, tables, giving or receiving information about names and addresses.
Of course, what my mother had said to me was “We’re going voting”; but “voting” not being a word I knew, I substituted a word I did know. However, it was an instructive day; surveys show that children whose parents take an active part in voting will themselves grow up to be voters.
And so it has proved with me (I have voted in every election, here and in Great Britain, for which I have been eligible since I turned 18). Many people, though, choose not to take advantage of the right to vote; and to those people I say “Why?”
In the last provincial election (2013), 52 per cent of British Columbians voted; so yay! More than half of us exercised our franchise. On the glass half empty side, however, just fewer than half of British Columbians could not be bothered to get out and vote, and: well, what’s with that?
Back in the day when I was going with my mother to vote, there was general voting day, and one advance voting day, at which (if memory serves) you had to give a reason why you couldn’t be there to vote on election day. Today, however, the voting landscape has changed substantially. Here in Ashcroft, there are three advance voting days (all open 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.), a mail-in option, and of course general voting day on May 9.
According to data from the 2016 Canada census, the top reason people give for not voting is “not interested in politics”, followed by “being too busy”, “being out of town”, and “having an illness or disability”. I can understand the last two reasons (although the date of the election isn’t a secret; if you know you’ll be away for all the voting days, get the mail-in package).
Too busy? Honestly? Remember, the polls are open for 12 hours on each voting day (and by law, your employer has to give you time off to vote if by some chance your work hours coincide with the polling days and times). I voted on the first advance date, and was in and out in under four minutes.
Not interested in politics? If you pay taxes, or have children in school, or have health care concerns, or are worried about the economy or the environment, you should be interested, because politics affects them all. Elections are an opportunity for individual citizens to have a say in shaping our future; don’t let the opportunity slip away.
Get out and vote.