I don’t want to vote. Like, I really don’t want to vote. This is something that’s been eating at me for years now. There are many reasons for my, let’s put this politely, disinterest in voting, but the most pervasive is the reality that for the past twenty-one years of my adult life, my vote hasn’t mattered.
Twenty-one years ago I moved to suburban Calgary, the amygdala of Canadian conservatism. In that time, my MPs have been Preston Manning, Stephen Harper, and Jason Kenney. Only since Kenney resigned to seek the Alberta premiership has my federal representative lacked such lofty credentials but even she has no chance of losing.
She may be just as capable as the aforementioned three, perhaps more so, having fewer leadership distractions to attend to, but it matters not. A vaguely humanoid representation crafted from assorted dry pasta shapes by a kindergartner could stand as the Conservative Party of Canada candidate in my riding and it would win in a landslide.
It always has been a landslide and it always will be a landslide for conservatives here. Tribal affinities run deep in these parts. And this time it will be even more of a landslide than usual, possibly historic. Quite frankly, the only suspense awaiting this riding come election night is how well the People’s Party of Canada candidate will do and whether the Liberal candidate will finish in last place.
The upstart PPC will offer a tempting home for angry anti-PC and Alberta separatist voters along with your garden variety racists. I won’t be surprised, though certainly distraught, if this candidate has a stronger than expected showing. The PPC is exactly the type of party people never admit to supporting in public but once hidden behind that magical partition, enthusiastically check the box.
A mischievous part of me kind of hopes my PPC candidate does do better than expected, if only for his own personal satisfaction considering the thousands of signs he has plastered all over our neighbourhood. The fact he is of visible Asian ancestry only adds to my (admittedly stereotyping) intrigue in light of the party’s anti-immigration stance and the particularly vile commentary from its leader.
The Liberals, on the other hand, aren’t even trying this time around. They only nominated a candidate a week or so ago and I haven’t seen a single election sign for this person anywhere. Not even on public lands where they don’t need to rely on an actual supporter to risk ostracism from neighbours by placing such traitorous signage on their front lawn.
It’s a shame, really, but I can’t bring myself to blame them for all but abandoning even the pretense of campaigning here. It truly is pointless and the Liberals are far and away the target of everyone’s rage. Hell, the Conservatives don’t really campaign here either, though they do have signs. On front lawns, even.
Besides, this is a greener way of campaigning. Think of all the trees saved and single use plastic reduction by not bothering to advertise your existence in an entire, unwinnable riding. It really is an unheralded, feel-good story of this election. I’m sure someone will boast about it to Greta.
That someone won’t be me, despite voting Liberal in the last election and having a soft spot for environmental agitation. My vote didn’t matter then either, but I felt compelled to check my ballot if only to rub a grain of salt in Stephen Harper’s wounds should he lose to a Trudeau. Yes, that’s immature, but since when has maturity played a role in any election?
I certainly wasn’t enthralled with the 2015 Liberal platform. The brazen embrace of deficit spending irritated me a great deal but I had grown tired of Prime Minister Harper’s crusty arrogance (I know, how ironic) and his Barbaric Cultural Practices hotline was both loathsome and the last straw. I needed to at least proclaim my disgust, pointless though it may be, to soothe my own conscience.
You had one job!
There was also another intriguing, and legitimate, reason to vote Liberal. It was their promise to revamp the electoral system by the next election, that being this one currently underway. This single issue resonated strongly with me for obvious reasons.
This promise single-handedly earned my support. The potential for my vote to finally have meaning was huge. I didn’t care if it was ranked ballots or proportional representation or any other inventive way of voting, I desperately wanted something different than first past the post. I wanted a reason to vote. I wanted a reason to care. I wanted to be engaged.
What I got was yet another broken promise. Who knew “because its 2015” would be the high water mark of a Liberal government that seemed so genuine in its desire to do things differently. Yeah, “Sunny Ways” was a bit corny, but it was a damn sight more appealing than the sardonic governance of previous administrations.
Instead, it was business as usual despite the smiling faces and token wokeness. Broken promises, limited accomplishment, corruption, hubris, and a prime minister who proved himself every bit the superficial fool his detractors said he was. That hurt deep, especially living in Alberta where judgements were made on surname alone and alternative messiahs are as appealing as iodine-soaked paper cuts.
In addition to reinvigorating my enthusiasm for democracy, I also hoped that electoral reform would lead to a more robust and attractive slate of party platforms. This is my other reason for not wanting to vote. I have nobody to vote for.
My personal views on the majority of issues do not align well with any one federal party platform. They haven’t for as long as I can remember. They each have some things of which I approve and they each have some things of which I disapprove.
I’ve felt this for a long time but recently the online vote compass app has helped me confirm and visually represent my incompatibility with the political parties vying for my vote. It is by no means perfect, but I believe vote compass is an invaluable tool for voters interested in making an informed decision based on more than news soundbites and Facebook memes.
This year, I took it one step further. Not wanting to appear overly casual in relinquishing my democratic privilege, I did something unprecedented. I took a couple hours and read the official party platforms posted on the websites of the five primary political parties running candidates in my riding.
Okay, read is being generous. Had I truly “read” these platforms I’d still be doing so. You’d never know it from what is reported in the news or advertised by the parties themselves, never mind spoken about in debates or shared via social media, but these documents are surprisingly long. And detailed.
Oh, they don’t actually say all that much. Despite all that length and detail, touching on every imaginable aspect of our lives, there is very little of substance in them. Kind of like my blog posts!
Seriously, my eyes glossed over pretty quick trying to get through these documents. Yes, each had some interesting ideas on this issue or that, but those rare instances were neutered by the paragraphs of empty pontificating. Promising to study something or engaging with stakeholders to determine a non-partisan solution to problem x is not a policy or even an idea. At best, it’s stylized procrastination.
I eventually gave up and closed my browser. I was a bit surprised at the number of additional promises these political entities were making beyond what grabs the headlines, but that just magnified my anger knowing there were so many more promises upon which each party would inevitably renege. History has taught me, and taught me well, that even the most appealing policy pledges are the ones least likely to be implemented, while those I support least tend to be the lone promises kept.
I don’t want to vote!
So here I sit, politically homeless, struggling with a jumbled amalgam of priorities for which no party has all the answers. I’m a centrist in a world without a centre.
Lucky for me, my neighbours will overwhelmingly decide what’s best for me. They will choose my MP without the slightest doubt. The rest of the country will also choose for me. They will choose a mish mash of legislative representatives that will most surely result in a minority government.
Power deals will be negotiated. Promises will be broken. Debt will increase. Nobody will be happy. Regions will whine and threaten. Partisan hyperbole will ratchet higher. The elected will remain untrustworthy. The electorate will remain entitled. And when the minority government eventually falls in two years’ time, my vote will once again be meaningless.
With a gun to my head, I would vote NDP. I’d do it simply because I know Jagmeet Singh will lose votes for being Sikh. I know this because people have admitted as much. But the NDP platform isn’t one I can embrace despite the overt racism its leader so eloquently endures.
In a predetermined riding, I suppose I could throw caution to the wind and do it anyway, knowing the NDP candidate hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. But I’m weary of such votes. I can no longer justify such cynicism. I’ve had enough of it.
And while I’d love nothing more than to not bother voting at all, I have impressionable children around. I want them to at least reach voting age before becoming too jaded to cast a vote. Hey, things may be different by then.
So I will make my way to the local middle school where my polling station resides. I will take my ballot. I will hide behind that makeshift cardboard privacy screen. And I will mark my ballot. But it will not be for any of the candidates. I will spoil it.
Until our electoral system changes or I move to a swing riding, my vote will remain a spoiled one. It won’t mean much, but I’ll have a much clearer conscience. I’m done with the charade of choosing the least of many evils.