The Most Important Election In A Generation: Will The Youth Vote?

Sometimes I write about politics, sometimes I blog about fluff.  Today I am writing not to ask you to vote, or tell you to vote, I am begging you to vote on Monday.  Especially those of you under 35 or so, and even more especially if you are under 25.

Today, Saturday, I was at Local Source buying some flour so I could bake some bread.

They had the Coast laid out on the counter, and it was the first time I had seen it this week.  I picked it up and scanned the cover.

At the bottom of the cover graphic it said “Inaction IS a choice” and “My boycott is my vote.

Not being one to mince words, I said to the other people in the shop “God damn it, what is wrong with the people at the Coast?”

Another customer said to me “None of the parties will actually do what they say, and my vote won’t make a difference.”  With that, a discussion started, as they often do.

As I was leaving, the clerk, always someone I chat to, said “I dunno, I’m not thrilled by the choices.  I care about child care, local food, about social justice issues, I don’t think my vote will make a difference.”

I said “Vote for the NDP, that is what they are all about!” to which she said “They voted to bomb Libya!” I paused and said “Vote for Tony Seed then!” To which she said “Well, maybe.” I left, begging “Just vote!”  She said “Hopefully the Coast article argues against the point on the cover!” with a grin and a wave.  (Ultimately, she was right, the Coast had a limp defense of the value of not a vote boycott, but seemed to say voting might also be a good thing.  Maybe.)

As I drove away from Agricola Street it hit me – is this the issue with Gen Y and Gen X voting?  That the young and youngish adults of our time are looking for a complete and 100% match of their personal views to the party they vote for, and if they cannot get that, they will walk away entirely?

Narcissism has long been identified as an issue that many in my generation and the younger generation that follows mine are plagued with.   Maybe in the rush to create a validated, entitled and confident generation one of the many unintended consequences has been a generation that cannot make a compromise to select the best fit party, or even least offensive candidate, and vote for them.

Are many young voters are looking for an exact reflection of all of their beliefs, large and small, from guiding principles to tactical every day actions?

Democracy requires patience, persistence and a willingness to compromise on some stuff to get the bigger stuff.  It requires active engagement, so if something is just so offensive you can’t stand it you stand up and say “this must be changed.”  A big part of this is voting.

Thing is, when you vote, the vote is counted. And every vote makes a difference, even if the party voted for does not win.  An example of this is the rise of the Green party in the last two elections, which created pressure to expand green agenda’s for all other parties.  If you leave your ballot blank, even that is counted.

When you go behind the cardboard shield at a polling station, there is no marketing, no internet, no texting, no 30 second advertisements.  It is you, your conscience, your choice.  You are contributing to helping determine what kind of nation or province or city we all live in.

One of the things I unequivocally agreed with the Coast article on is “Groups that vote, get catered to. Groups that don’t vote enough, don’t get catered to.” Our two youngest voting generations do not vote enough, and do not get catered to.

If you don’t vote, the system will not know your intentions.

A single drop of rain may not change much, but millions and millions together eventually carve the Grand Canyon.

But this is not just about the principles of voting, this time it is far more than that.

This election may be the most important facing our nation since the 1988 election, which determined whether Canada would enter into the Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

About 150 years ago, Joseph Howe, Nova Scotia’s best known politicians, father of responsible government, the spread of democracy throughout the British Empire, wrote:

Will you permit the sacred fire of liberty, brought by your fathers from the venerable temples of Britain, to be quenched and trodden out on the simple altars they have raised?

Leave aside the exclusionary male language of the times, and this call to action is addressed to you, and all of us, and it has never been more true.

The simple alters of our democracy and our liberty are Parliament, free speech, the freedom of the media to do its job, and your right to vote and be heard.

The concerns over the status, independence and power of Parliament are simply too important to just stand by and watch. The kind of country we are going to be on May 3 is at stake in a way it never has been in almost a generation.

No matter who wins, a definitive statement is going to be made about what kind of  country we are going to become, now and for a generation.

Not voting means you can continue to be ignored.  If you want to see change, I beg you, get out and vote on May 2.

For more information on your local candidates in HRM, visit my election 2011 page here.

To find out where to vote, visit Elections Canada’s website here.

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