Right now, there are a lot of angry people on my Facebook, and in my community at large, over the most recent election. Surprising everyone, myself included, the BC Liberals have been elected, yet again, even after a twelve-year bungling of just about everything imaginable under the sun in this province. It’s making me miserable. I’m counting down the years until I can finish my undergrad degree and hopefully high-tail to York University, and I fear for the teachers, students, First Nations, disabled, mentally ill, and poor in this province.
A combination of factors can be blamed for that, low voter turnout is probably at the top of the list, the left-wing vote being split by the Green Party running so many candidates, the BC Liberals running a rather repulsive smear campaign which brought up dirt on the BC NDP from ages ago, and the BC NDP responding with a tepid, “no negativity” campaign which failed to call the BC Liberals on their bullshit and let the public believe that the Liberals were the better choice on economic issues (all evidence to the contrary), and hints of either outright voter suppression or just poor training of Elections Canada staff.
Either way, I’ve been seeing a lot of people on my Facebook being angry and passive-aggressive towards non-voters, and those who do a protest vote by spoiling their ballots. Status updates like “Wow thanks a lot, non-voters, now we’ve got four more years of this”, or “Thanks for delivering a Liberal win again”.
I have a very different reaction though, from impotent anger at non-voters/protest voters. The reason is, I know people who don’t vote, and they are far from politically apathetic. They are involved in advocacy in a variety of capacities, whether its engaging in protest, letter-writing, direct action, donating time, money, or food/goods to causes they believe in, or getting involved in larger organizations or campaigns, ranging from IdleNoMore to the Unist’ot’en Camp to Divest UVic to Defend Our Coast to Amnesty International to Greenpeace.
I respect their reasons for not voting, because they are, every other day of the year, and sometimes on Election Day, out there fighting for what they believe in, and making a great deal of difference. I’ve seen some amazing results come about from these campaigns, and the passion and heart they pour into these projects is unparalleled. To tell you the truth, I feel that they make more of a difference every day than people whose idea of performing civic duty only extends to checking a box once every four years, and then otherwise passively trusting the politicians to do the right thing, or believing you have to wait until you can check a different box in a couple of years.
It would be nice if, right now, we had a party in power that were more receptive to the causes that me and my friends fight for. I am terrified for the vulnerable in BC. I fear for the future of our entire planet, with the tanker-happy Liberals in power once again. But if you are dissatisfied with the results and then just go back to your usual routine of disengagement after you didn’t get what you wanted, then it’s not the non-voting activists who are the real problem here. Have a look in the mirror, and ask yourself why you feel checking that box is the first, the last, and only way to speak up for what you believe in. It’s not. Join us in the streets, and come see what power comes from letting the politicians know that it ain’t over when the election’s over.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, I voted for Jessica Van Der Veen, an NDP candidate who was defeated by Green candidate Andrew Weaver in the Oak Bay riding. And you are most definitely not off the hook if you don’t vote and aren’t doing something to challenge this system and make things more fair and just.