Wednesday, April 20, 2011

does voting really matter? what to do when the doorknockers come for you

did you ever wonder if you should bother voting? i mean, if pollsters can ask a few hundred canadians what they think and accurately predict the outcome of the election, what difference does it make if 40%, 50% or 100% of citizens actually vote? sure, the raw numbers look good - but does it actually alter the outcome?

personally, i suspect that it doesn't - unless there's a hot, obama-like candidate charging up from the outside. when you have the usual leaders offering variations on a theme, i suspect it doesn't really matter if i walk down to the polling booth and cast my lone vote. in my particular riding - halifax west - the incumbent won by 5,000 votes last time. if the pollsters are right - and they usually are - our next parliament will look more or less like the last parliament.

anyhoo, metro asked me to write a column on the election and i based it on two recent doorbell rings. one was a politician seeking my vote. i was still in my robe and surprised by his appearance, and had no intelligent questions for him, even when he asked me what issues were important to me. so i talked to a dal poli-scie prof and we came up with some questions to get you started when your own politicians come knocking.

the second was a visit from the jehovah witnesses. i told her i had expected to find a politician at my door. without missing a beat, she pointed to jesus on the watch tower and said: 'that's the only government that can solve our problems.'

snap! nicely played.

here's my column from today's metro:


Be Heard: A Halifax voter's political primer

Jon Tattrie
20 April 2011 05:00
When my doorbell rang last week and I reluctantly opened it a crack -- expecting to see another politician with another pamphlet -- but instead was overjoyed to find a door-to-door religious evangelist, I knew I was sick with a bad case of election fever.
The noise of the federal election can seem like an incoherent roar out on the East Coast as national party leaders clash over personalities and policies. What’s an ordinary citizen to do when a political suitor asks for your hand in voting? Seeking expert advice, I called Jennifer Smith, a professor of government and political science at Dalhousie University.
Smith helped me formulate a few questions voters can put to door-stepping politicians. Post this article by your front door and next time a candidate knocks, you’ll be prepared.
That way, you will at least know where Halifax stands - and where your candidate stands.
  • The Lower Churchill hydroelectric project: The Conservatives have pledged to underwrite loans to fund this mammoth plan to bring power from Newfoundland to (among other places) Nova Scotia. It’s a huge issue, economically and environmentally. Would you support backing this project?  
  • Shipyard funding: Halifax is fighting for a multi-billion-dollar shipbuilding contract for the navy and coast guard. Whoever forms the next government will decided which city wins it. Would you bring it to Halifax?
  • Learning Passport: The Liberals have proposed a “learning passport” to help students attend college or university. Given Halifax’s huge student population, this is a policy that could affect pocketbooks in HRM. What would your party do to help students financially?
  • Health care/home care: Many health care issues are handled provincially, but the federal government plays an important role. Nova Scotia has an aging population and demographic trends suggest that we are getting greyer. How do you plan to help seniors?
  • Convention centre: If that hole on Argyle Street is to become a convention centre, it requires three levels of government funding. Would you federally fund this project or other projects, such as a stadium, in Halifax?
  • The Debate debate: The Green party got almost one million votes in 2008, but was not invited to the 2011 leaders’ debate because they don’t have an MP. How do you ensure all Canadians are heard at a federal level?
  • Corporate taxes: the NDP promises to repeal scheduled decreases in corporate tax cuts. Would you support this move?

Now, if only I could find a divinity professor to supply me with questions for my next religious visitor. 

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