Mr. Pearson gave clear reason to my deep feelings regarding voter apathy and the extreme partisan politics which has debased the Canadian federal political system. Two points in particular stood out to me:
First, he suggested the current Conservative government encourages voter apathy in order to disenfranchise more centrist voters through disillusionment. This enables the party to win the vote using the more extreme base of the party. In my mind, this gives the current government the ability to rationalize extreme ideas as having popular support.
Second, he voiced the long standing complaint of back bench MPs who feel they have very limited ability to represent the wishes of their constituents.
Voter apathy is hardly surprising in this landscape. So how can voter apathy be reduced?
Firstly, voting is a right. What is less often expressed is that voting is also a fundamental duty and responsibility of all citizens. However, if you take a look at the section of the Canada Elections Act which encourages citizens to vote, there is no measure to ensure a citizen should be responsible for the exercise of a duty which is fundamental to democracy. The Act states:
- 133. (1) No employer may make a deduction from the pay of an employee, or impose a penalty, for the time that the employer shall allow for voting under subsection 132(1).
- (2) An employer who pays an employee less than the amount that the employee would have earned on polling day, had the employee continued to work during the time referred to in subsection 132(2) that the employer allowed for voting, is deemed to have made a deduction from the pay of the employee, regardless of the basis on which the employee is paid.