Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"Bad Voters"

Garth Turner today, admonishing voters for poor turnout in the by-elections:
Canadians in four ridings ought to have their little backsides twaddled. Bad voters. Use it or lose it.

One one level, you understand the comment, but in general it misses the mark badly. Politicians need to look at voters as their audience, and their performance as the draw. If people aren't turning out, is it not more a reflection of political failure, rather than an electorate shirking their democratic responsibility?

By-elections are notorious for low turnout, this last batch setting a new precedent, which I don't think is an anomaly. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if voter turnout hovers around 50% in the next federal election. There is a growing disconnect between our political class and the people, which is the root cause of apathy. There is a complete lack of inspiration, and our political parties are casually dismissed as mostly irrelevant.

If anyone comforts themselves in thinking lower voter turnout is simply a function of modern society, a quick glance down south, where voters have come out in record numbers, should pierce that vacade. Garth Turner shouldn't be spanking voters, he should be spanking some of his fellow MP's, the party spinmeisters, and everyone else who has contributed to turning our system into more circus than substance. Good gracious, political junkies find it hard to watch these days, you can hardly blame others for tuning you out. I'm at the point, where I would rather eat a bag of nails, than watch embarassing fools like Tim Powers, Scott Reid and Brad Lavigne kick sand in an absurd playground. These are the people in charge of getting the "message" out to voters? Lord help us all.

Here's the thing the political class needs to realize, people have a rather inate ability to smell the bullshit. They don't believe Dion when he rationalizes abstention with "Canadians don't want an election". They don't buy Layton when he answers a valid question about poor by-election results with "remember Outremont". They aren't impressed with a government that preaches accountability and transparency, while simultaneously implementing the tightest information control regiment in Canadian history. In other words, politicians words have lost their weight, they will say anything, do anything, spin anything, whatever it takes and this promotes cynicism, which in turn leads to apathy, which manifests itself in the ballot box.

If nobody is turning out to the performance, it might have something to do with a simple fact- the bands suck. Bad voters, or bad choices?


Monkey Loves to Fight said...

Well said. I think voter turnout is an issue, but the problem with politics is rather than engaging the public and listening to them, each party seems more interested in smearing the other and appealing to the special interest groups who side with them. One just has to look at how nasty parliament is and the viciousness between politicians. Most people including myself have friends and even family with different political persuasions and we get along fine and even sometimes agree. At least we are respectful of other's views, whereas many politicians seem to insult anyone who doesn't see things their way rather than explaining them or at least respecting people with different opinions.

Steve V said...


I think that is a great point, on the lack of respect.

Karen said...

Good post Steve.

I think with all the sniping, there is a vacuum of ideas being put forward.

The Con's have been running on their election platform for over 2 years.

The Lib's are too timid to give away their ideas, because they seem to be snatched up by the government.

The NDP have taken positions that just no longer resonate.

Yes, it's up to the politicians to create interest and that is not happening.

You have a point about the US, but look at how long it took them to become engaged.

They meekly went along, as did the MSM, with the popular narrative. Those who had busy lives bought that as truth and simply accepted and those with critical minds were marginalised.

I see the same thing here in Canada.

We don't have 5 years. It's time to present something different.

Anonymous said...


Garth gives good copy.

I can just feel the testosterone rising in the Liberal caucus with the addition of... Martha.

...Bob too.


WesternGrit said...

People need BOLD issues and initiatives to get excited about. You don't excited about 3 shades of gray. You get excited about new ideas, bold ones. Why would you vote if you feel nothing makes a difference? Sure the media adds to the "hype" about voters not caring - which results in even more voters tuning out...

When voters say, "they're all the same (politicians)", they are not just talking about the bad stuff. They are also talking about the good stuff politicians say. We have a society where everyone is too afraid to be BOLD.

BOLD ideas will bring people to the polls - either for, or against. Period.

Greg said...

Good post Steve, I agree. I also truly believe that the fact that you can vote for any party you want, but only Liberals or Conservatives will be elected most of the the time is what is killing voter turnout. Why bother voting when your party has no chance of winning a seat?

RuralSandi said...

I think one of the most damaging things for voters are the "strategists/spinmeisters". All they do when on TV is bash and trash and they get big bucks for doing so. If you listen, they don't say anything.

The worst - Tim Powers and Brad Lavigne. Powers - it's just smirky sarcasm and Lavigne is so hyper he practically jumps up and down - he truly needs meds.

This is what Canadian are watching.

Anonymous said...

It seems CTV only hires the Big Mouths who have got in trouble in the liberal party for shooting off their mouths...LaPierre. Reid ..Copps..etc...They have them on there just hoping they will say something to get liberals in the 'popcorn' remark...and it will happen.

Steve V said...

That's the key right there, on BOLDNESS. Political discourse in Canada is now so careful, so focus group tested, that the main goal is too not offend, with beneign language. Nobody is prepared to go out on ledge on anything, nobody is prepared to offer the controversial. Part of the blame may be with a media that is increasingly prone to the superficial, and too focused on any perceive misstep. Politicians are afraid to be bold, because that necessitates risk, far safer to just offer vanilla.

Anonymous said...

That's the key right there, on BOLDNESS

I agree, but think about this, when was really the last time we had an election about bold ideas? I would say 1988 with NAFTA.

Boldness seems to have been lost with the next generation of leaders that took over in the 90's.


Steve V said...

ITC, it's been awhile for sure. Somewhere a long the line it moved from ideas to managers.

Niles said...

John Ralston Saul had a speech about the big political forums shifting from leaders to managers in this last generation. It was one of the Massey lectures I think?

I'm sure the text is out there somewhere

Steve V said...


Thanks for that link. I didn't know that was someone's thesis, I just thought of it on my own.