Is voting really that much of a hardship?

  • Editorial   Thursday, June 9, 2022   Matt Harris

Why does it always come back to this? Fundamentally, voting should be the easiest part of living in a democracy, but it comes across more as a task that ranks below taking out the trash when an election rolls around.

Which is somewhat ironic if you believe that’s what some people believe they’re doing with their votes – taking out unwanted trash from Parliament.

This is not a complaint about the outcome of the vote, nor is this a missive about the complete lack of organization some of the ‘major’ parties showed during this election cycle.

Instead, this is a condemnation of those in the public who couldn’t be bothered to vote. That something this fundamental to making our society work is seen as so much of a strain on your everyday life is tantamount to a bad joke your weird uncle keeps telling over and over at every family holiday meal: it’s not funny, and you need to knock it off.

The basis for this comes in the form of a 43.5 per cent turnout for the June 2 election. In each of the last two Ontario General Elections, this province had at least a 50 per cent showing from the electorate.

Yet in this election, touted as one of the most important ones in recent memory, people simply shrugged their shoulders and let someone else do the heavy lifting for them.

A collective ‘meh’ that rippled all across Ontario, and one that sent the Conservative Party back to Queen’s Park with seven more seats than they won in 2018.

The riding of Perth-Wellington was better than average, as just under 50 per cent of voters did their civic duty and cast a ballot. Put that into real numbers and you get 41,732 people who did not vote.

The question here is why? What did you have to do that was more important? There were advanced polls, mail-in voting and plenty of space at polling stations on June 2, but more than half of the people in this riding opted to sit this one out.

It’s a little baffling to grasp because everywhere you looked, people were coming out and saying that affordability was a key issue, or more housing, or improved health care, or better environmental protections, or increased investment in education.

And on. And on. And … on.

Then, nothing. The sound of an apathetic round of applause, at best, from a voting base that doesn’t seem to care about much at all despite all of their protestations to the contrary in the weeks running up to the election.

An example with some context: on the issue of energy and the environment, the following are just some ideas culled from the platforms of the NDP, Liberals and Greens: support for hydro, wind and solar electricity generation, cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 per cent by 2030, reduce electricity subsidies by $20 billion over 10 years, expand the Greenbelt, plant one billion trees by 2030, eliminate connection fees for rooftop solar charging panels, oppose the building of new nuclear power plants or uranium mines, ban non-medical single-use plastics by 2024, and upgrade public school buildings to make them carbon neutral.

In under this same topic, the Conservatives proposed creating a new provincial park. That’s it. The Liberals proposed creating five. The NDP, while they didn’t outline any plans for new parks they did have an item that should have been more of an eye-catcher in these parts than it was: banning the conversion of any agricultural land into developments. The Conservatives made no mention of this, and retiring MPP Randy Pettapiece made a point of calling the Perth-Wellington riding ‘the bread basket of Ontario’ during a recent interview with the Times.

There are lots of farms and agricultural land in this riding, yet the party that claimed it handily made no mention of protections for those lands.

Again, this is not complaining about who won this election. This is merely pointing out that for all the hand-wringing people were doing, they simply didn’t follow any of it up by putting their vote up to be counted.

Andrea Horwath and Steven Del Duca paid for the voter’s apathy with their jobs as head of their respective parties. More was expected of them, but little was given on the part of voters.

Little concern for electing change. Little energy shown in expressing the desire for better leadership and a clearer message. Little enthusiasm to do the most basic civic duty we all have.

And now, there had better be little complaining about the next Doug Ford-led government.

Nobody has really earned that right. At least, not for the next four years.