After every election, with no knock-out punch landed, an appeal to vote-rich Ontario made, and the “most negative campaign in history” conducted, commentators finally bemoan the declining numbers reflecting voter turnout. To be sure, the recent American election campaign saw long voter lines and a motivated electorate. Yet, while the our American friends turned out in record numbers, it’s a bit sad to say that their 60% turnout for Obama only bested our worst showing by 1%.
Does the negativity in politics turn people off of the democratic exercise? Is it “hope and change” that sustains people while they take the time to go to the polls? Or is it a sense of effect?
This past week in politics has captured the attention, if not the imagination of the Canadian electorate. Having voted just seven weeks ago, a surprise coalition supported by separatists and a snap prorogation of Parliament has capped off a once-in-a-political-generation rollercoaster ride for all parties.
Across the country, we’ve seen people moved to action by these events. Left-leaning activists finally saw a rare window of power and those defending the status quo in tough economic times stood by their economist Prime Minister and their free-market champion. Rallies organized by both sides have moved people from poking friends on Facebook to having an effect by organizing online for action offline. Tens of thousands of ordinary Canadians – usually unmoved by our often boring politics – signed up on rally websites to pledge their support to their side.
Yet, this newfound passion is centred around a wholly cynical week that was in politics. A grab for power on the left and a suspension of parliament on the right. Aren’t these the kind of activities that turn away voters? Or is it due to competing (and competitive) political visions and a sense that anyone can have an effect on politics that engages? This was a week of divergent ideologies and what many would call brazen political posturing.
What will be its effect?