a good day to vote

There was an urgency about voting this time, because Canada appears to be losing its democratic tradition.

The Conservatives gained a majority in 2011 partly through widespread cheating, and followed that up with their oddly named Free Elections Act. Initially under the Fair Elections Act, the civil service would lose control of the polling stations. Voting was to be administered by the party that won the riding in the previous election.

Just imagine the regions under Conservative jurisdiction: hard men stationed at the entrance doors, to glad-hand supporters and give the bum’s rush to undesirables. Determined folk do get through, and deposit their ballots in the box marked Harper Government. Under the new order though, it matters not who votes, but who counts the vote. The shredder in the back room soon destroys the evidence.

Saturday I found long lineups in the little elementary school holding the advance polls for the neighbourhood. Apparently the turnout was much higher than in the past, so only the minimal number of elections personnel was hired.

None of those waiting seemed to care much.  The situation appeared achingly normal; it felt good to see the Elections Canada signs.

An important section of the Fair Elections Act that was enacted though, the disallowing of vouching for identification requirements, strikes at those who’ve fallen through the cracks. One person might have just moved, another had his wallet stolen, someone’s house burned down–there’s a multitude of possibilities, and apparently as many as one percent of Canadians used the vouching system in past years.

According to Mel Hurtig’s The Arrogant Autocrat, “the 2011 majority government was decided by only 6201 votes spread across 14 swing ridings–ridings where the ‘winner’ was decided by a handful of votes.” The turning away of only a few voters in these hot spots might prove decisive: if so, an ugly triumph, attained by screwing citizens out of their rights.

Recently Canadian celebrities like Donald Sutherland and Pamela Anderson have complained that they can’t vote either. Last July 20, the government won a victory in Ontario’s Court of Appeal, stripping voting rights from Canadians who’ve lived outside the country over five years. Canada would not exist but for the brave hearts who left Europe for years at a time, to sail around and discover new lands, and it seems unfair for the homebodies to strip the more adventurous types of their vote.

The traditional Conservative refrain, “government should not play favourites, let the market decide,” has been abandoned by the current bunch, as they’ve put the government’s whole weight behind Alberta’s tar sands. As a result, the economy is much less diversified. So on the one hand they kill off job opportunities in the homeland, and on the other hand they strip the voting rights from those who leave.

Add up all the gimmicking and gerrymandering in this desperate attempt to pull off another victory, and you can see the Conservative strategy in a nutshell: transform Canada into a backward land like Zimbabwe, which holds regular elections, but where the incumbent leader, Robert Mugabe/Stephen Harper, always wins.

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