Sample Essay On Why Are There So Many Non-Voters In Canadian Elections?

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Politics, Elections, Voting, Canada, Democracy, United States, Study, Party

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2021/01/09

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Political Science

In Getting the Majority to Vote: Practical Solutions to Re-Engage Citizens in Local Elections, published by the Columbia Institute Centre for Civic Governance, Norman Gludovatz argues that “Key barriers include an increase in cynicism towards politics, a growing sense of alienation and disconnection to community and social networks, the difficulty and complexity of obtaining political knowledge in municipal elections”. It may very well be Gludovatz’s maladies in local elections may as well apply in a long list of reasons why most Canadians fail to vote in elections. The main objective of the paper is to review and analyze various problems of poor voter participation Canadian elections.
In contemplating the concept of International Monetary Fund (IMF) lending to nations, and the financial politics involved, David Graeber notes in his book ‘Debt: The First 5,000 Years’ that “Consumer debt is the lifeblood of our economy. All modern nation-states are built on deficit spending. Debt has come to be the central issue of international politics. But nobody seems to know exactly what it is, or how to think about it.” Graeber, immediately after stating these things, comments that nobody really understands the whole idea and what fuels the foundation of power across the world.
In the minds of a Canadian outsider, one might be prompted to question the nature of partisan politics in Canada. How do the politics function? Does a clashing of issues activate as much party fighting and squabbling as it does in the United States? In a journal article discussing these matters, researchers Laura Stephenson, Thomas Scotto, and Allan Kornberg in their article entitled ‘Slip Sliding Away or Le Plus Ç Change:” marks 1993 as the year Canadian partisan politics and “characterized a ‘critical election,’ in which widespread partisan dealignment” ruled the day resulting in “the electorate’s weak and unstable psychological identification with the three old-line parties, the Liberals, the Progressive Conservatives (PC), and New Democratic Party.” The number of Canadian political partisan groupings does not stop there. Additionally, there exist the Reform Party based out of a Westernized-vision and the sometimes accused-as-radical “Quebec-only nationalist” party commonly referred to as the Bloc. At this point, it is critical to remind readers that Canada’s Quebec province is fiercely pro French language, embracing a francophone culture quite separate from the rest of Canada – although it is a single nation. Yet, the passionate political drive to completely separate Quebec and mold it into a representation of political independence is no small measure. Overall, partisan politics, constant squabbling among political parties and selfish nationalist agendas perhaps made certain segments of the voting population to shy away from participation.
The party system in Canada thus developed from the early 1990s towards this pessimistic view in mind. As the Liberal party gained strength in early 2000, the Bloc evolved as a legitimate player in Canadian politics somewhat raising a collective eyebrow from the international community in terms of its achievement of separatist success. Stephenson et al suggests that loyalty to partisan politics originated in United States politics – not Canada. A comprehension of this foundation of reality alone helps to compute some crucial differences that separate the cultural styles of political engagement. Findings from studies evaluating Canadian voter behavior during the 1960s showed that their electorate reflected “that only 49 percent of those interviewed had never changed their partisan identification.” This factor highlighted a stark contrast to political party switching in the United States. As partisan labels developed, along with the inevitable volatility, the Progressive Conservatives won the 1988-Parliament-elections in Canadian politics. However, Progressive Conservatives eventually plummeted in an unraveling of sorts in 1993. In terms of ideology, Canada is no mirror image of what goes on in the United States regarding notions of political partisan affairs. Stephenson et al report that the distinguishing features of the Liberal and PC parties rooted a basis in bridging “the divisions of religion, region, and faction.” Thus, the road of thought leads us to how religious ideology and the culture of sports play a role in the Canadian political scene.
All people have their own interests at heart. From this perspective, Canadians are no different from anyone else. Canada has its poor, its hockey-fan culture, and its Catholicism versus Protestant historical issues too. It is impossible to separate socio-cultural realities from Canadian politics. At the outset of the early 1800s, an effort by Bishop Alexander Macdonell sought to outweigh the heavily Protestant presence in Upper Canada. According to Corcoran and Smith, “Macdonell ingratiated himself with the colonial elite” in order to accomplish governmental supports in funding amidst a quickly burgeoning influx of Catholic immigrants – predominantly of Irish ethnicity. This blending of politics and religion aptly gives the article by Corcoran and Smith its title, Bishop Macdonell and the friends of Ireland: Mixing Politics and Religion in Upper Canada, thereby arguing the “position towards the introduction of the Irish Catholic Association in any form is unique,”. One would be quite mistaken to think or characterize Canadian politics as a duplicate of its American neighbor, simply due to a shared proximity on the Northwestern continent. The background information helps set the groundwork to analyze why Canadian citizen-eligible to vote do not vote.
In The Politics of Poverty in Canada, Shauna MacKinnon reveals another side of Canada, despite its being generally regarded as the land of immense natural resource-wealth, and a “kinder, gentler nation” than its ruder southern neighbor, many “structural failings create the conditions that leave too far many Canadians behind.” Although highly contested and politicized, all people need to do to alleviate themselves from financial distress is to work harder. MacKinnon notes this sentiment “was recently articulated by Canada’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty who defended recent scaling back of Employment Insurance stating: ‘there is no bad job, the only bad job is not having a job’.” The attitude is familiar in the United States. Theory is one thing. The reality is quite another when people open bare cupboards and are not able to keep up with the new global economics dictating the course of modern life. See the problem?
Only so much logic can be drawn from the erudite wisdom of academics, scholars, and journals. Canadians are smart and therefore choose not to vote because they are aware enough to recognize where this global-financial political end game is headed. To sum up the reason in a single word, it is confidence. They have no confidence in the system. Thus far mentioned have been the various partisan interests, the elite power-politics, Canada’s poor, the Irish Catholic roots, and now the homosexuals add their piece of political interests to the puzzle. In The Multiplier Effect of Strategic Voting, Taylor-Vaisey says that the rallying point of special interest groups drives the idea of strategic voting to new heights, because of the Internet, spurring on “disgruntled voters who could make an impact never before seen in Canadian politics.” Perhaps Canadians feel there are too many splintered groups and sub-groups to realize that any adhesive-collective voice might be heard to mitigate any real problems, and implement workable solutions where possible. One history professor, Matthew McKean in Matthew McKean: Why we don’t vote stated “Canada already ranks among the worst of peer countries in voter turn-out,” and Canadians feel indifferent as its Feds grow more distant from reality. Canadian data reports that election statistics in 2011 found “10 million eligible voters stayed at home,” and less than half who did vote cast their lot for Harper’s Conservative partisan. Cut and dry, the bottom line is, as McKean bemoans “voter turnout rates are intimately tied to confidence in parliament.” Let’s face it. People all over the world have become discouraged over the increasingly callous and marginalized body politic.
In other words, people are not unintelligent, least of all, the Canadians. One blogger put it this way, as taken from ‘Canadian Politics and Democratic Reform’: “Why don’t Canadians vote? I’ll tell you why, because Canadians aren’t stupid and they see that after voting again and again their vote has no impact,” and “The real question is how Canadians are ever going to fix what is wrong in our country if the media won’t do its job and assist in creating a national discussion on the real issue?” It is not that many folks in Canada do not believe voting is important. Largely, they think their own individual vote will not truly count – in terms of making a difference.
In conclusion, Jack Jedwab, the Executive Director of the Association for Canadian Studies, conducted a survey in 2011 to find out about Canadian public opinion on voting. Interest levels among people varied by areas of politics such as international politics, provincial politics, and local municipalities. Heavy interest among Canadians leaned towards provincial and national politics, with international politics running a close second. Additionally, while the majority of Canadians do not choose to exercise their voting rights, the majority (almost 70%) keep a close watch on elections. In the opinion of this observer, the reason for that is to sort of play ‘watch-dog’ as to what the outcomes were, and how the reality matches up once all is said and done. Another part of the survey indicated that Canadians felt that others were better informed about political issues than themselves, despite the fact that at least a hefty third did discuss political issues with their neighbors and friends. However, at the end of the day, Canadians know their country’s politics better than anyone else. If they are not voting, they must be intelligent enough to understand that little David may have to lose many battles, before gaining the confidence to engage in the process.

Bibliography

Association for Canadian Studies. The Four I’s of Canadian Politics in 2011: Interest, Influence, Impact and Involvement. Accessed February 3, 2015, http://www.acs.aec.ca. {Jack Jedwab, Executive Director}.
Campey, Lucille H. The Scottish Pioneers of Upper Canada, 1784-1855: Glengarry and Beyond. Dundurn, 2005.
Canadian Politics and Democratic Reform. “Why Canadians Don’t Vote.” September 24, 2009. [Web blog commentary]. https://popthestack.wordpress.com/2009/09/24/why-canadians-dont-vote/
Clarke, Harold D., and Marianne C. Stewart. "The decline of parties in the minds of citizens." Annual Review of Political Science 1, no. 1 (1998): 357-378.
Columbia Institute Centre for Civic Governance. Getting the Majority to Vote: Practical Solutions to re-engage citizens in local elections. Accessed February 3, 2015, http://www.civicgovernance.ca/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Get-Engaged-for-web.pdf
Corcoran, Brandon S., and Laura J. Smith. 2013. “Bishop Macdonell and the friends of Ireland: Mixing Politics and Religion in Upper Canada.” Historical Studies 79 7-23. America: History and Life with Full Text, EBSCO host (accessed February 3, 2015).
Gludovatz, Norman. "Getting the Majority to Vote." (2014).
Graeber, David. Debt: The First 5,000 Years. New York: Melville House, 2012.
MacKinnon, Shauna. 2013. “The Politics of Poverty in Canada.” Social Alternatives 32, no. 1: 19-23. LGBT Life with Full Text, EBSCO host (accessed February 3, 2015).
McCormack, Thelma. "The political culture and the press of Canada." Canadian Journal of Political Science 16, no. 03 (1983): 451-472.
McKean, Matthew. “Matthew McKean: Why we don’t vote.” National Post, January 27, 2014. http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/01/27/matthew-mckean-why-we-dont-vote/
Pammett, Jon H., and Lawrence LeDuc. Explaining the turnout decline in Canadian federal elections: A new survey of non-voters. Ottawa: Elections Canada, 2003.
Robertson, James R., and Sebastian Spano. The Canadian Electoral System. Parliamentary Research Branch, 1997.
Stephenson, Laura B., Thomas J. Scotto, and Allan Kornberg. 2004. “Slip, Sliding Away or Le Plus Ça Change: Canadian and American Partisanship in Comparative Perspective.” American Review of Canadian Studies 34, no. 2: 283-312. America: History: and Life with Full Text, EBSCO host (accessed February 3, 2015).
Taylor-Vaisey, Nick. (2008). “The multiplier effect of Strategic Voting.” Capital Xtra (Ottawa) No. 194: 7-9. LGBT Life with Full Text, EBSCO host (accessed February 3, 2015).

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