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Fire Away: The Need for Informed Voting

Thursday, April 28, 2011

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  • Canadians need to educate and inform themselves on the platforms of political parties.

    Canadians need to educate and inform themselves on the platforms of political parties.

Written by Stephanie Rennie

 As the season changes, vibrant toned flowers begin to bloom. Meanwhile, more politically charged colours of red, orange, green, and blue are bombarding every city and town across Canada as the federal election commences. Although all elections are of upmost importance, this time the stakes are particularly high.

The origin of the election itself is highly contested among political parties. The week of March 20th proved to be a game changer for the Harper government as the budget was defeated by the opposition parties and the government was found in contempt of Parliament. The proximity between such events has caused much uncertainty, yet allowed all party leaders to spin potential causes of the election in their favour.

The Conservatives have publicized that the election is a result of a defeated budget and an attempt for opposition parties to acquire more seats. Opposition parties are refuting such statements by arguing that the election is the consequence of the government being found in contempt of Parliament. The mere contrasting origins of the election provide all parties with ammunition.

As a response to the importance of this election, University campuses across the nation have started utilizing social networking and youtube in order to share their school’s movement and motivate students to vote. Beginning in Guelph in the first weeks of the election, the concept of a Vote Mob quickly spread across campuses throughout Canada.

The Vote Mobs have certainly been effective in advocating the issue of low voter turnout, particularly among students, in the last federal election of 2008. However, students and all voters alike must recognize that the act of voting itself is a mere fraction of the process. It is imperative that Canadians are educated and informed on the actual political platforms of all parties and make a conscious decision based on their policies.

Unfortunately, many Canadians are influenced by the biased and often misleading attack ads and base their vote on such claims that lack truth and substance. It is also common for people to vote for a party based on their own voting history or the political leanings of their families, dismissing the actual policies on the table. This jeopardizes the true nature of democracy because people are not engaging in current political platforms and events, therefore the populations’ needs are not being accurately represented.

 In a response to such ongoing issues, initiatives such as Vote Compass have been created to provide Canadians with a questionnaire that aligns their stances on current political issues with other party platforms. Vote Compass was created by a group of political science students in an attempt to provide Canadians with questions on recent and highly contested issues including Canadian military involvement in Afghanistan and the implementation of a carbon tax.

This questionnaire has been subject to much criticism as some speculate its leanings towards a specific political party or general inaccuracy. On the contrary, it is an educational tool that motivates people to not only recognize current political issues, but also to identify where each party positions itself. Though this tool should not be blindly used as an indication of which party to vote for, it is useful and informative as it may provide an enhanced understanding of a party’s platform.  

CBC: Vote Compass

On May 2nd Canadians are given an opportunity to flex their rights and vote for the next Prime Minister of Canada. The act of voting is taken for granted among many Canadians who fail to participate in the electoral process. Many citizens in countries across the world can only dream of voting in a safe, confidential and uninterrupted manner. We must recognize the democratic power that we each possess and use it. Voting gives you a voice, a freedom and a chance to implement change.

 Vote.  But educate yourself on current issues and the platforms of each political party before you cast your ballot. 

Stephanie Rennie is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Fire Away publishes every other Thursday in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question

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