A MorinvilleNews.com editorial by Stephen Dafoe
On Monday afternoon while Americans were still waving their flags over the demise of Osama bin Laden and Canadians made their way into polling booths across the country, I sat at my laptop and wrote the bulk of our federal election results story. The polls were still open for another three-and-a-half hours when I wrote the piece.
This exercise was not the result of psychic abilities, insider information or any political savvy on my part. Quite simply, it was because this election, at least in Westlock-St. Paul, was decided before the first lawn sign was pounded in the ground, the runner up decided over the latter part of last week.
This was Brian Storseth’s election or at least the Conservative Party of Canada’s election, and aside from catching Mr. Storseth in a short skirt giving Jack Layton a full body massage, there was precious little that would change that outcome or the percentage of votes he was likely to take.
I’ve heard it said in this riding and others in Alberta that one could run a bag of potatoes under a Tory-blue banner and it would still get the most votes. We know of one letter writer to our publication who regards Storseth as having done as much for the riding as a bag of potatoes, a claim the candidate passionately refuted during our telephone interview during the campaign.
For good or for ill, Mr. Storseth received a mandate from the voters of this riding to return to Ottawa to represent us all, and we offer our congratulations to him. Did some vote for the man blindly, having never peeled back the veil of the Conservative platform and compared it with an honest assessment of the others? Did some vote for Storseth based solely on his party or his leader and not the man himself? Absolutely. Brand loyalty is developed early and political parties are as much a brand for some of us as Ford and Dodge, Coke and Pepsi.
But blind choice is not the exclusive domain of Conservative voters.
Many voters in this riding voted blindly for NDP candidate Lyndsey Ellen Henderson, a candidate-in-name-only who would not speak to media, who would not participate in the campaign process and who was not available for calls on election night. Swept up on a tide of orange, many people in this riding cast their vote to send someone to Ottawa to represent all of us who couldn’t be bothered to talk to any of us during the election. It seems Henderson’s purpose in this election was to serve as an orange piggy bank into which tax payers could deposit the money each of the federal parties get for each vote. The NDP will get more than 5,000 of those shiny twoonies this go round.
The Liberals and the Greens were unable to make much of a dent in a riding that loves canola but rejects granola or at least those they suspect as granola eaters. Fair enough. While it is unlikely many voters took a thorough assessment of the policies and platforms of the Liberals and Greens, parties that garnered fewer votes this time than last, at least Fox and Grant, like Storseth, made an effort to earn our votes by door knocking, taking interviews and participating in forums. Not so Ms. Henderson who was rewarded with nearly 12 per cent of this riding’s vote for exactly zero per cent of the participation.
While some voters may be moaning over the size of Storseth’s and the Conservative Party’s majority, the real shame in this election, at least locally, is that more than 5,000 electors (more than one in ten voters) in Westlock-St. Paul were prepared to send a candidate to Ottawa who couldn’t be bothered to show up for the race.
All politics is local and yet so many of us seem to vote for the leader rather than the Member of Parliament.
Voting is not like betting on the ponies. You do not need to put your money on the horse that’s most likely to win. You put your money on the candidate who you feel will best represent you and your community in Ottawa. But in order for the voter to do that, the candidate needs to participate.
Sadly, for 12 per cent of voters in this riding, showing up for the job interview is not a prerequisite to giving an endorsement for the job.
Perhaps it’s time the system was revised. If there is support to make it mandatory for voters to vote, perhaps it’s time to make it mandatory for candidates to campaign.