Some election day thoughts
I can’t say I am disappointed to see that the longest election campaign in Canadian history has morphed into the Stephen Harper farewell tour. Even in the unlikely scenario that he wins, it would be a minority, and he would be gone. I have made no secret of my distain for the man. I think he has been bad for the country, bad for democracy and bad for the Conservative party.
That said, while there will be relief when his demise becomes official sometime this evening, there will be no gloating on my part. I hate the fact that the primary purpose of this election for the vast majority of Canadians was to get rid of someone rather than elect someone. I totally get it; I just don’t like it. It says something about Harper of course, but it also says something about the lack of any great vision for the country that Canadians could get excited about, from either of his main opponents.
The long campaign though, did reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly about our politics and political leaders. Kudos to Tom Mulcair for sticking to his principles over the niqab issue even though it cost him a lot of votes in Quebec. And for the ugly, there was Harper making the niqab an issue in the first place, and then doubling down by instituting that tip line for what he called “barbaric cultural practices”. In short, inflaming racial prejudices against Muslims for the sake of votes. It brought Canadian election campaigning to a new low. Hopefully, we won’t see the likes of that again in this country, ever. I like to think we are better than that.
By making the niqab an issue though, Harper forced us to think about what sort of Canada we want. In a way it makes today’s election somewhat of a referendum on Canadian values, and that’s not a bad thing.
Harper has become such a polarizing force in this country, that for the vast majority of voters, the first priority is seeing him defeated. I can’t think of another election where the defeat of an incumbent was this predominant; considerably more important than who his replacement would be.
For this reason strategic voting became more of a thing this time. I expect I am far from alone in being torn on this myself, in deciding whether I could risk voting for the candidate I would really like to see win, or give my vote to a different candidate because that one was perceived to have the better chance of defeating the Conservative. I hope never to be in this position again, so I sincerely hope that sufficient pressure is placed on the new government to fulfill their campaign commitment to scrap the broken first-past-the-post system for some type of proportional representation, given that every party except the Conservatives made this promise. Never again should we end up with a majority government that doesn’t represent the majority of voters.
One final though, and it is aimed at those who aren’t yet sure if they are going to bother voting. The point so many others have made about voting being a privilege and how lucky we are in this great country to be able to do it without fear is valid in every respect. But for the point I want to make, I will quote American writer David Foster Wallace, when he said “By all means stay home if you want, but don't bullshit yourself that you're not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard's vote.” Something to think about.
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