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THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Megan Vaillancourt, Professional Procrastinator

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In light of the recent issues concerning the British Columbian Teachers’ Federation job action/strikes and the Christy Clark Liberal government lockout, talking about how disputes such as these come to be is important. Many people on talk radio, blogs, forums, and even the news are heavily critical of the work being done by the Liberal government in British Columbia. Where were these people when the recent 2013 provincial election occurred? Where were their votes against bringing in a Liberal government headed by Christy Clark, for another term? All these questions call upon a growing issue in Canada; a critique of our North American democracy system: voter apathy.

To put voter apathy into perspective, in the 2009 general election in British Columbia, only a third of the voters (34%) in the 20-24 age bracket cast a vote, compared to the 74% of voters aged 70-74 who cast a vote (Elections BC, 2009). Now these stats do not apply to the recent election, but what information does apply is that only 1.6 million out of 3.1 million eligible voters in British Columbia cast their votes in the recent 2013 provincial election (Huffington Post, 2013). BC is known for being one of the most apathetic provinces when it comes to voting. All this information begs the question: why aren’t people voting?

From researching on the Internet, and reading reports sent out by Elections BC, the factors that affect voting can be narrowed down to age, income, and education. Generally, people who are older vote far more often than people who are young, simply because they have been around for longer, and understand the importance of exercising their democratic rights. Younger citizens may not have the education or experience in life yet to understand the impact even one vote can have. Citizens who have been educated at a higher institution, such as university, are far more likely to vote. Due to the fact university students have been exposed to more issues and might possibly have a better understanding of the election process or of the government party platform all together, in addition to understanding the importance of casting a vote.  Individuals who make more money, or have decent above-minimum wage jobs tend to understand that their vote could directly impact their industry and potential income. If someone does not work, or receives little income, voting for very ‘capitalistic’ governments may have little appeal. Taking these factors into consideration, it paints a picture as to a general idea why some people do not vote.

That being said, a large portion of our community has taken a very critical stance on our government, and the decisions they make. Often the citizens, the ones who criticize the government on all forms of social media, end up being the individuals who did not cast a vote.  It is the votes that are not cast which could be the difference between having one type of government opposed to another. When people critique and complain about the current government, it may be time to reflect on how to vote when the next general election occurs, regardless of the mitigating factors the voting population faces. Perhaps there should be a larger push for campaigns to encourage citizens to vote or even to suggest mandatory voting to discourage voter apathy.

It is that society or even our current government needs to address the factors that discourage voting in British Columbia? Or is that as whole Canadian citizens need to be strongly encouraged to vote, or even required to vote as a condition of citizenship?  All of these topics, as well as the deterrents, need to be considered if we hope to live in a true democratic society in Canada, and the rest of North America.

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