Monday, January 23, 2006

A very Canadian call to arms

No whining allowed

Okay, it’s time for the OddBall to get serious. Today is the 23rd day of January, and if you live north of the 49th parallel in that weirdo experiment called Canada, it’s Election Day. And I expect YOU to get off your duff and go vote.

Universal suffrage is rather new to Canada, literally within my lifetime. In the nineteenth century, you had to be a property owner and, oh right, a man in order to have a say in how things are run. Since then, we’ve put a lot of effort into making sure that every person can cast a ballot. During the First World War, arrangements were made so front line soldiers in Europe could exercise their franchise in the 1917 federal election. You didn’t even have to be here to vote with the introduction of the postal ballot.

Women were legally excluded from voting after Confederation. Little known fact is that we could vote prior to 1867 if we had met the property rights requirements but very few of those who met this standard bothered to show up. (Now does that sound familiar?) Women managed to get the vote back in 1917 but could only use it if we met the requirements for exception made for military personnel. In short, in the 1917 federal election, the only women who voted were the military nursing ‘sisters’ in Europe. By 1918, all women could vote in Canada and our first female MP was Agnes MacPhail, voted into the House in 1921.

Of course, all of this was guaranteed only if you were of European descent, more or less. For a long time, members of Canada’s First Nations had to give up their treaty rights and registered Indian status to get a ballot. The legislation that permitted racial and religious discrimination remained on the books until 1960. Historic examples of people denied the vote in Canada because some arse had his knickers in a twist over something included Canadians of Japanese, Chinese or East Indian origins, Mennonites, Doukhobors and Catholics. The 1963 federal election was the first in which the right to vote was truly universal for all Canadians. I told you it was within the OddBall lifetime.

I don’t care where you stick your X on Election Day but you want to be sticking it somewhere. A spoiled ballot is a valid electoral choice. Writing “Mickey Mouse for President” is a valid political statement but none of it counts if you can’t be arsed to get down to the polling station.

What I don’t want to be hearing come Tuesday is the usual litany of lame and stupid excuses for “why I didn’t vote’? And I think I’ve heard most of them by now. Here’s some of my personal favourites over the years.

I didn’t have time.
This is usually whined at me by the person who does the least in the run of a day. You have the same 24 hours as the rest of us. Use 10 minutes of it to vote. And since 1915, under the Elections Canada Act, your employer is required to ensure all employees working on an election day have a clear 3 hour window in which to vote. So, if you work 12 hour shifts, like I do, you get to vote on your boss’ dime.

I don’t know who the candidates are.
It’s okay. Elections Canada print their names on the ballot for you. They even make it easy by putting the party affiliation with the name. Guess work is eliminated.

I don’t know what the issues are.
You live here, don’t you? Do you pay taxes? Do you work? Do you live off someone else’s taxes? Do you drive on the streets? Do you drink water? Breath air? Have you ever consulted a physician? Have you ever attended a school? Do you think we should have backed the American government's latest war effort? Do you think we should insist that the American government start honouring the trade agreements they signed and/or start playing by the same trade rules they expect the rest of the world to abide by? Those are the bloody issues. Smarten up.

I don’t like any of the local candidates.
Do I see your name on the ballot? No? Then shut up and do like the rest of us and make the best choice you can with what’s available. You think the rest of us live in a perfect world? No, my friend, it’s often about selecting the least stupid candidate. Get over it. The rest of us grownups have learned to cope with it and you can too. Ditto for the argument "all politicians are crooks", pick the best/least worse of the lot. It's not complicated.

Let me put it to you this way. Every federal prisoner in for rape, robbery, murder, child molestation and carjacking is entitled to vote. The guy who just pulled jail time for trying to sell crack cocaine to your kids is going to vote today. What else has he got to do? Look for a job? And you’re going to tell me you haven’t got time, energy or inclination to spend 10 minutes at the polling booth. Get real.

The only reasonable excuse for not voting today is a valid death certificate. Oh right, this is the Maritimes, people, where even the dead still exercise their right to vote for two or three elections after shuffling off this mortal coil. It's a wonder there isn't a polling station located inside the gates of the larger cemeteries around here for the convenience of the residents.

So, just get out there and do it. If dead people can vote, so can you. Okay? Thanks for reading; talk at you later if I’m not too pissed about tonight’s results.


At 8:37 a.m., January 23, 2006, Blogger jackie said...

YESYESYES!!!! I shall vote! I have always voted in every ferderal or provincial election since I turned 18. My most memorable was the summer of 97 when I was preggies with my twin boys.( born Aug 19 weighing almost 15 pounds combined) The car was DEAD and I waddled to the polling station 10 blocks away. We wern't on the list and when asked if I had any ID with my current address, the best I could come up with was an expired library card from the bottom of the diaper bag. Thankfully the lady behind the check in booth took pity on me and accecpted it. If she hadn't, I couldn't have made it home and then back again. I will probably show up to vote after I die. My daddy raised me to do my civic duty and excersise my right to vote! I learned alot today about how unfair rich white males can be. Looking from our view of relatively equal rights it is hard to believe that it was only a short time ago that so many people were denied the right to vote.

At 5:16 p.m., January 23, 2006, Blogger Liz said...

vivat, vivat, vivat.
well said, well put, and too true.
we are given the right to vote, and in my experience, it is our duty to do so. Tyler was right, coulda shot a cannon through the polling station when I got there. Renee said it was pretty steady there we were in a lull. Lots of turn out. good thing!
Lunch was great, see you!

At 5:33 p.m., January 24, 2006, Blogger Grace said...

Hear, hear!! Well said.


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