Author: Matt N.When I heard Premier Jim Prentice was calling an election this May, I was excited that conversations of substance on topics that actually matter would begin to take place at work, and was curious to listen to the political opinions of my coworkers. To my surprise, I was the only person who even knew that an election was to take place in under 2 months.
My first assumption was maybe I just happened to look at various news-feeds at the right time, and word had not spread as fast as I thought. In today's digital age, that was a distinct possibility. This turned out to be true in some cases; however, there was a more common mindset among many people my own age: they truly do not care. It was baffling to me how many people in my age range (20-25) believe that their vote doesn't make a difference. One individual had said that they don't vote because they don't believe in our government, and none of them should get their vote. The mindset that our votes are a type of payment towards politicians needs to stop. Yes, it is true that our votes do put politicians into positions of power, but our votes also decide who is at the helm of government.
The last provincial election is proof enough of this fact. The Wildrose Party was the first legitimate threat to the long (44 Year) reign of the Progressive Conservative Party (PC) in Alberta. The traction they were gaining with their grassroots approach to organizing appealed to many, in particular those who believe in Social-Conservatism and had enough of the entitle attitude of the PC Party. The closer election day became, the more the PC party campaign shifted from, "vote for us!" attitude to a, "at least we're not THOSE guys." I remember hearing from people who would regularly vote for the liberal or New Democratic Party (NDP) saying that they were voting PC out of fear of a Wildrose Government. What happened? The PC won a majority, and those people went back to saying how much they hated the progressive conservative party.
To credit the Wildrose, they had become an effective official opposition, quite often being very vocal about misdeeds by various MLA's, and helping to bring light to wasteful government spending, primarily targeting Alison Redford. The Government fleet of planes being one example. What happened next was in my opinion, one of the most undemocratic events to take place in Alberta Politics. Danielle Smith, the leader of the Wildrose Party, Crossed the floor to join the PC party and brought eight other MLA's with her. The absolute gut-wrenching feeling I had reading this almost made me wish to live in a different province.
Why do I even vote if they can just switch parties? Is it possible for an individual to be so spineless in their beliefs that jumping on to a ship they have been trying to sink seems like a good idea? All of those people who voted for the sole purpose of keeping Wildrose members out of power now feel betrayed by our system completely, and I don't blame them. I don't believe politicians realize the severity of their actions, and the effect it has upon the public.
The fact is that new, eligible voters are not voting as much because they don't feel like anybody is listening. Ironically, if every person who believes his or her vote doesn't count voted. It would make a difference. At first, it may not be a sizable one. A few wins here and there, maybe not even that. Maybe just a few close races. The key here is that sometimes, any change is welcome change. Our generation seems to fail in understanding that by not voting, you are still voting. Voter turnout is low among younger demographics (under 30) than it is in the older bracket (over 30). What this means is that the older generations are receiving greater say in our daily lives, as well as our futures. Some will say that whoever is in power doesn't affect them, and then complain that the price of alcohol and tobacco went up, or that corporations are contributing enough tax dollars. These things didn't just magically happen. If you don't agree with it then accept responsibility for your surroundings and work to change it for the better. The reality is that a government is the reflection of the voters' mindset. If you don't approve of the current government and you don't vote doesn't mean that their supports will do the same.
I remember turning 18 and being filled with a sense of freedom, because now I was allowed to participate in so many new things. Being allowed to buy liquor, tobacco, and going places you weren't allowed to before was exciting! Finally, you decide to move out, and not being under someone else's roof is the next rush of freedom that nearly knocks you off your feet. You don't notice for a while that you are still under someone's roof, it just because less obvious and a whole lot bigger. Instead of the house rules of parents, you are now playing by the house rules of the government, with one key difference: if you choose to you can have a say in the makeup of the rules. Growing up, if you could be part of the decision making process when it came to what chores you had to do, your bedtime, and allowance, would you ever not want to have a say?
Politics has become a challenge of who can get people to the ballot, and the Progressive Conservative Party (and the Federal Conservative Party) have always better mobilized supporters, not had more supporters in total. The conservative party has ensured a majority for nearly two generations of voters. The year they gained power in Alberta Americans were protesting the Vietnam War, Jim Morrison was found dead in France and DB Cooper had pulled off the only unsolved Skyjacking in US history. That was 1971. Therefore, I strongly encourage everyone, regardless of affiliation to go out and vote this May. The government needs a shake up, and it has been too long since the bad fruit fell from the tree.
Image of Danielle Smith and Jim Prentice Coutresy By Dave Cournoyer (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons