Federal elections 2015: If you do not vote, who will speak for you?

IwillVote_AAv1Canada is getting ready for federal elections this year and this election will be an exciting one with a potentially unpredictable three-way race between the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP.

On August 2, 2015, Prime Minister Stephen Harper triggered a federal election campaign when he met Governor General David Johnston and asked him to dissolve the Parliament.

Election day is set as Monday, October 19, which made it a marathon eleven-week campaign, the longest in modern times. This could also go on to become the most expensive campaign in Canadian history. The last time politicians spent extended campaign time on an election trail was in 1872.

In Canada, we are all blessed with fundamental rights (free speech, religion) – rights that don’t exist in some countries that vast majority of immigrants come from. We have a judicial system that is autonomous from the government, something that is not the case in many countries. Above all, in Canada we have the right to freely vote in an election once you turn 18 years old.

You have the right to cast a ballot on a number of different occasions: be it federal, provincial, and municipal. Your vote counts. While all this sounds too good, historically there has been low voter turnout in recent elections in Canada.

There are few questions that need to be looked at as we gear up for the 2015 Federal Elections:

Do you understand the agenda/program offered by the main political parties?

Do you understand what are the responsibilities of a Federal elected representative?

Do you really know who you are voting for and why?

Do you know your rights as a voter?

Are you influencing your friends, family and eligible youth in the family to vote?

تكلم حتى أراك

صوتك يعبر عن وجودك وهو أكثر من مجرد قدرة على الحديث.. فكلامك هو أنت

May new Canadians who come from countries in Middle East and Asia have not been exposed to an elections process. Some of these countries have absolute monarchies and no electoral process.

آپ کا ووٹ آپ کی آواز

Looking at South Asia, for instance in Pakistan there have been history of military coups since the establishment of Dominion of Pakistan مملکتِ پاکستان (in August 14, 1947). During the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, she swore as Queen of Pakistan, since Pakistan was still a dominion during her coronation in 1953, whereas India was not (the Dominion of India had dissolved in 1950). Until 2013, Pakistan did not experience even one democratic transfer of power from one democratically elected government that had completed its tenure to another.

It hence becomes important for people to realize the significance of voting process here in Canada. This is more significant for those immigrants who come from countries where election process is different or altogether non existent.

Equally important are the young voters, the future of Canada, who should be encouraged to vote as well. Here are a few thoughts that come to mind that could help address and perhaps solicit more engagement from people to come out to vote and have their say in the affairs of their country:

1 – A survey/study: to find out the reasons for people not coming out to vote – Such a study could focus on finding out what incentivizes people to participate in election process. Advertisements focussing on social sense of responsibility and encouraging participation and making voting day a special day for everyone to think and ask the questions, “how can I make my country better?”

2- Youth Engagement: is equally important. There should be focus on youth and educating children in lower grades to understand the importance of voting. Youth outreach programs should be introduced to engage young population and discuss real issues facing our country. Elections Canada offers educational resources designed for first time voters to get acquainted with the voting process at this link.

3- Educating New Immigrants: in some cases new eligible voters have come from countries where electoral processes are either different or non-existent. It is an opportunity to engage, educate and instil a sense of empowerment to this demographic group, which will help integrate them more deeply into our Canadian fabric.

4- e-Voting: While we are not aware of any studies conducted in Canada to explore this possibility, however, in this growing age of information technology, having the option of electronic vote would also go a long way in removing any mobility barriers. No one would have an excuse then, whatever the weather conditions.

5- Compulsory voting: This is what Australia has in place since 1924, and yes there is a fine if you do not vote in Australia. There are 11 countries where compulsory voting is enforced and besides Australia the list includes Argentina, Brazil, Cyprus, Ecuador, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Nauru, Peru, Singapore and Uruguay.

We need to realize here that political engagement is an important part of civic responsibility. It begins with increased awareness of issues surrounding us and our willingness to discuss resolution of these issues that impact our community’s life; and ultimately participate in a process to resolve those issues that matter. While it is equally important for our governments to ensure our democratic systems demonstrate visible participation, it is the voter, you, who makes his/her voice matter. You fulfill all your other civic responsibilities quite well by paying taxes, reporting for jury duty, following the laws of land.

Political Parties in Canada:

There are six political parties in Canada at this time. The four main political parties are the Conservative Party of Canada (governing party), the New Democratic Party (official opposition), the Liberal Party of Canada, and the Green Party of Canada. The other two political parties are the Bloc Québécois and Forces et Démocratie. To learn about these parties click on the links below to keep yourselves updated:

This is a public service message that should be spread as much as possible among our social circles. Canada is home, let’s make our voice meaningful and heard at the right time. Let’s educate ourselves on issues that make sense, which political party is going to address those issues and above all let’s be responsible citizens of this great country. 

Visit Elections Canada website elections.ca and get further details on the election process and key dates. To check you are a registered voter, click on this link.