I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had that have turned away from politics. You know the moment: the wine at the table has all but dried and the host makes a retreat for the dishes before things get heated, a casual encounter with a stranger leans into small talk about the election until weather suddenly becomes more important, a debate with a friend is dashed with: “Do we really need to talk about this?”
Yes, we do.
Some of you are already fingering the page right now, ready to turn onto the horoscopes, weekly poll, film reviews, escorts. Thanks for reading this far, because you know what I’m going to tell you: this election is important.
It’s true, voters’ polls, electoral ballots and campaign trails don’t turn everyone on — though I know at least a few political activists who have what some might call an unhealthy zest for the adrenaline of an election — but until even the skeptics realize the importance of that little penciled check mark, we are all in trouble.
Alice Walker, the African-American author who wrote The Color Purple, said: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
Complaining is easy, and it’s the best start to a great many conversations: What about those taxes? The HST should have stayed/gone. Can you believe those Medical Service Plan premiums? Can you believe those clear-cut developments up the Malahat? Can you believe the overcrowding of hospital beds?
Can you believe asking, “Who will you vote for?” ends the conversation?
The system is frustrating — even when your party gets in, the political acne doesn’t always clear up within a couple of days, or even years — but the real condition we suffer from is voter apathy: an entire nation of people who have forgotten how powerful they are.
Elections BC exposed that voter participation has crashed from more than 70 per cent of eligible provincial voters chucking in their ballots in 1983 to just 51 per cent doing so in 2009. So, maybe we are more satisfied with our way of life than ever before. We have full confidence in our politicians, we are happy with the status of our economy, our environment, our health care and our social services. We don’t like making choices. We trust our government always knows best.
Funny then, that all those complaint-laden conversations exist between friends from the middle-aged apathetics to university-age executives to seniors with more gumption than time. For a province full of people who have some things to complain about, it’s a wonder that pundit predictions suggest this May 14 election will be as voter poor as any. But we could still prove them wrong.
No matter your candidate or party, do something for yourself that will turn on this provincial election: realize you have the power to choose. Use it. M
Find out all you need to know at: elections.bc.ca/ge2013.