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Correspondence: Another election, but will young Canadians vote?
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Correspondence: Another election, but will young Canadians vote?

A new election has been called in Canada. Young Canadians must now exercise their democratic right to vote if they want to see the change they desire, writes Gys Weverink, a 23-year-old from Ottawa.

Last week, word emerged from Parliament Hill that Canadian citizens will be heading to the polls for the 41st time in the country’s history— and the fourth time in the past seven years— on May 2.

I myself, like many Canadians, felt doubt about whether the results of this latest round of elections would produce any type of change. As the campaigning machines splutter back to life, gearing up to spread the same repetitious message from town to town on a mad cross-country dash over the next six-weeks, I could not help but feel rather disheartened.

According to a recent poll, published in The Economist, 85% of Canadians are disinterested in national politics. On top of this, Canadian hero, politician, and former commander of the UNAMIR peacekeeping effort Lieutenant-General Ret. Romeo Dallaire, recently told a crowd of Carleton University students that 35% of the voting population consists of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 30. He added that of this demographic, which represents more than a third of the Canadian vote, only an abysmal 15% exercised its democratic right to vote during the last election.

During the past two elections, in 2006 and 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party received only 36.3% and 37.8% of the vote, which resulted in 124 and 143 seats of the 308 seats of the Canadian Parliament respectively. Meanwhile, the oppositional Liberal Party received 30.2% and 26.2%, which only yielded them 103 and 77 seats.

The discrepancies of the Canadian style of democracy become even more apparent with the New Democratic Party’s numbers, which received 17.5% and 18.2%, but only 29 and 37 seats, while the Bloc Quebecois received only 10.5% of the vote in 2006, but 51 seats, and 10% of the vote and 49 seats in 2008.

The thing deterring Canadians from their national politics may be the system of governance. Canada governs itself under the Westminster system, which elects members of the House of Parliament by the number of ridings, or constituencies, each party wins. This means that, while a party such as the Bloc Quebecois only won around 10% of the national vote, of which all were located within the province of Quebec, they won 49 seats due to the number of ridings this entailed.

The Westminster, or “First past the post” system, is hardly a proper representational democracy, since the Bloc Quebecois’ share of seats represented 16% of those available in the House of Commons; the Conservative Party, with 143 seats represented 46% of the House, despite only receiving 37.8% of the national vote.

Canada’s system may well be part of the problem; however, with roughly 40% of the eligible voting population neglecting to vote during the last election, the problem lies as much with Canadian apathy as it does with the illogical Westminster system.

Canadians, especially young Canadians, must exercise their democratic right to vote if they want to see the changes they desire. Until that happens, many governments may be dissolved over coming years, but change will continue to elude Canadians.

It appears rather ludicrous that the citizens of a country that possesses a history of advocating democracy outside of its own borders are hardly involved with the nation’s own democracy. This fact seems even more ungrateful when the recent developments in North Africa and the near East are considered.

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Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. All articles are published in a spirit of improving dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

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