Not your typical Brandon-Souris election. This one is exciting!
To start, I found an issue raised in the Conservative nomination process quite interesting. What are the merits of being represented by a more youthful MP instead of an “old guy?” (Disclosure: my son worked on the Chris Kennedy campaign. Also, no offence is intended toward “old guys” over 60 — I am one myself!)
But what about the stereotype of an “old guy?” Like having short-term goals such as securing a pension, instead of thinking long-term? Or not caring about deficits dumped on the next generation? Not being curious about the latest science? Rejecting ideas because they seem too complex or are from “university types?” Being a fuddy-duddy closed to new ideas — such as legalizing marijuana or voting using the Internet?
When I think about this, I am not concerned about any individual candidate. But I am worried that this description applies to whole political parties, especially the Harper Conservatives. So, I make a special appeal to the younger generation to get involved in politics. Young people don’t vote as much as “old guys.” Guess whose voice gets heard? How will we vote in this byelection? More importantly, will we vote at all?
In the last Brandon-Souris election, Merv Tweed got about 22,000 votes. Tweed easily beat his opponents, who together received a total of 13,000 votes. But another 26,000 people did not vote! If they had voted, the result could have been very different.
Hold on. I can imagine readers saying that I can’t use that example. Because the media, the political parties and the candidates all “knew” beforehand that Tweed was going to win. And win big. Therefore, many voters concluded there was no point in voting. (I still dispute that argument. If everyone acts as though their vote would count, then their vote would count. Think about it.)
But OK then, let’s take a different example. How about the last provincial election in Brandon West? The media, the political parties and the candidates all “knew” beforehand that the result would be very close.
And Brandon West was very close. Reg Helwer and Jim Murray each got about 4,000 votes. Helwer won by a slim margin: 151 votes.
But get this. About 6,000 people in Brandon West did not vote at all! Those non-voters could have easily swung the election to either of the front-runners. Or, those non-voters could have elected someone else altogether.
So even when we voters “know” beforehand that the results will be very close and our vote really would count, we often don’t bother.
Brandon-Souris is usually written off by the media and the political parties because it is a super safe Tory seat. In the national news about this byelection, we are dismissed as a “Conservative fiefdom.” No wonder — almost all of us (80 per cent in the last election) either voted Conservative or stayed home.
Getting out to vote, as well as changing our vote every so often, can have a big impact. We could put our riding into play and get more notice. We shouldn’t feel we have to vote the same way every election.
This byelection, please get out and vote. And consider not just the Conservatives, but also the Greens, Liberals and NDP. (Over the years I have voted for all four.)
And let’s look at the bigger picture. Brandon-Souris is one of four ridings in the country having a byelection on Nov. 25.
Another of those byelection ridings is Toronto Centre. According to the CBC, Toronto Centre is a “pedigree” riding that traditionally has a “star” MP where “voters expect to be represented by cabinet ministers, or at least, heavy-duty critics.”
What about here in Brandon-Souris? Do we have any expectations?
For — in the end — the byelection is not about the media, nor about the political parties, nor about the candidates.
The byelection is about us: the citizens.
» David McConkey is an active citizen. Contact him and read previous columns at davidmcconkey.com
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 28, 2013