Federal elections 2015: If you do not vote, who will speak for you?

Canada is all set for federal elections on October 19, 2015. This election campaign has been a closely watched and intensely debated covering all range of political, social and sensitive issues. A potentially unpredictable three-way race so far between the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP,  the election this year is also marked by significant anniversaries which include 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.

On August 2, 2015, Prime Minister Stephen Harper triggered a federal election campaign when he met Governor General David Johnston and asked him to dissolve the Parliament.

Election day is set as Monday, October 19, which means we have witnessed a marathon eleven-week campaign, making it the longest in modern times. The last time politicians spent extended campaign time on an election trail was in 1872.

A new poll suggests the Liberal party has widened the gap between them and the Conservatives in the final week of the campaign. The EKOS research survey shows the Liberals have increased their lead at 36 per cent, while the Conservatives are down 2.2 percentage points at 31 per cent over Thanksgiving weekend. The NDP has rebounded slightly back up to 21 per cent.

Elections Canada says an estimated 3.6 million people voted during four days of advance polls running from Friday to Thanksgiving Monday, representing a 71 per cent increase over three days of advance polling in 2011. The agency estimated that 1.2 million people voted on Thanksgiving Monday, 767,000 on Sunday, 780,000 on Saturday and 850,000 on Friday.

In Canada, we are all blessed with fundamental rights (free speech, religion) – rights that don’t exist in some countries that vast majority of immigrants come from. We have a judicial system that is autonomous from the government, something that is not the case in many countries. Above all, in Canada we have the right to freely vote in an election once you turn 18 years old.

You have the right to cast a ballot on a number of different occasions: be it federal, provincial, and municipal. Your vote counts. While all this sounds too good, historically there has been low voter turnout in recent elections in Canada.

There are few questions that need to be looked at as we gear up for the 2015 Federal Elections:

  • Do you understand the agenda/program offered by the main political parties?
  • Do you understand what are the responsibilities of a Federal elected representative?
  • Do you really know who you are voting for and why?
  • Do you know your rights as a voter?
  • Are you encouraging your friends, family and eligible youth in the family to vote?

تكلم حتى أراك

صوتك يعبر عن وجودك وهو أكثر من مجرد قدرة على الحديث.. فكلامك هو أنت

May new Canadians who come from countries in Middle East and Asia have not been exposed to an elections process. Some of these countries have absolute monarchies and no electoral process.

آپ کا ووٹ آپ کی آواز

Looking at South Asia, for instance in Pakistan there have been history of military coups since the establishment of Dominion of Pakistan (August 14, 1947). During the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, she swore as Queen of Pakistan, since Pakistan was still a dominion during her coronation in 1953, whereas India was not (the Dominion of India had dissolved in 1950). The Dominion of Pakistan ceased to exist and was succeeded by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan following the adoption of the Constitution of Pakistan on 23 March 1956. The country then faced its first military rule in 1958 and saw its democratic system fluctuate between civilian and military governments at various times throughout its political history. Until 2013, Pakistan did not experience even one democratic transfer of power from one democratically elected government that had completed its tenure to another.

It hence becomes important for people to realize the significance of voting process here in Canada. This is more significant for those immigrants who come from countries where election process is different or altogether non existent.

Equally important is to explore the reasons why people do not come out to vote. Here are a few thoughts that come to mind that could help address and perhaps solicit more engagement from people in the future to come out to vote and have their say in the affairs of their country:

1 – Community Engagement: It makes sense to have community programs especially geared towards new immigrants to educate them about their rights as citizens of Canada. Advertisements focussing on social sense of responsibility and encouraging participation and making voting day a special day for everyone to think and ask the questions, “how can I make my country better?”
2- Youth Engagement: is equally important. There should be focus on youth and educating children in lower grades to understand the importance of voting. Youth outreach programs should be introduced to engage young population and discuss real issues facing our country. Making politics meaningful to the youth will go a long way in fostering a culture of democratic participation.
3- Educating New Immigrants: in some cases new eligible voters have come from countries where electoral processes are either different or non-existent. It is an opportunity to engage, educate and instil a sense of empowerment to this demographic group, which will help integrate them more deeply into our Canadian fabric.
4- e-Voting: While we are not aware of any studies conducted in Canada to explore this possibility, however, in this growing age of information technology, having the option of electronic vote would also go a long way in removing any mobility barriers. No one would have an excuse then, whatever the weather conditions.
5- Compulsory voting: This is what Australia has in place since 1924, and yes there is a fine if you do not vote in Australia. There are 11 countries where compulsory voting is enforced and besides Australia the list includes Argentina, Brazil, Cyprus, Ecuador, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Nauru, Peru, Singapore and Uruguay.

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We need to realize here that political engagement is an important part of civic responsibility. It begins with increased awareness of issues surrounding us and our willingness to discuss resolution of these issues that impact our community’s life; and ultimately participate in a process to resolve those issues that matter. While it is equally important for our governments to ensure our democratic systems demonstrate visible participation, it is the voter, you, who makes his/her voice matter. You fulfill all your other civic responsibilities quite well by paying taxes, reporting for jury duty, following the laws of land.

Political Parties in Canada:

There are six political parties in Canada at this time. The four main political parties are the Conservative Party of Canada (governing party), the New Democratic Party (official opposition), the Liberal Party of Canada, and the Green Party of Canada. The other two political parties are the Bloc Québécois and Forces et Démocratie. To learn about these parties click on the links below to keep yourselves updated:
CPC            L-logo-red     NDP-1C    ndp                     Bloc           forcesdemocratie

This is a public service message that should be spread as much as possible among our social circles. Canada is home, let’s make our voice meaningful and heard at the right time. Let’s educate ourselves on issues that make sense, which political party is going to address those issues and above all let’s be responsible citizens of this great country. 

Visit Elections Canada website elections.ca and get further details on the election process and key dates. To check you are a registered voter, click on this link.

Written for ApnaHub.ca by Dr. Anjum – An experienced global healthcare IT solutions executive based in Mississauga, ON.

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