Shake “complassency”: Get off your butt and vote!

I don’t mean to be rude but, well, get off your butt! There’s an election coming on November 27.

Do you know the names of all the candidates? Are you going to vote? Who will you vote for?

Will your vote be strategic, or will it be for your first-choice candidate? Will your vote be for the local candidate… for the party… or will you be voting for the party’s leader? What issues are most important to you?

First of all, after chatting with several friends late last week, I realized I was by no means alone. I was confused, having no idea who is running for either the Progressive Conservatives or Bloc Quebecois. By November 17, only the Liberal’s flyer had arrived in my mail box and today, the only other one I’ve received so far is from the Alliance Party. I’d seen BQ, Liberal and Alliance road signs, but nothing else.

It was only after Eric browsed The Globe and Mail newspaper’s website ( that I discovered that there are actually 9 registered candidates here in Pontiac-Gatineau-Labelle.

They are, in alphabetical order: Robert Bertrand, Liberal Party; Johanne Deschamps, Bloc Québécois; Judith Grant, Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance; Melissa Hunter, New Democratic Party; Eleonor Hyodo, Natural Law Party; Benoit Laroque, Progressive Conservative Party; Christian Legeais, Marxist-Leninist Party; Thomas Sabourin, Christian Heritage Party; and Gretchen Schwarz, Green Party.

When some of my friends and I were chatting last weekend, we were wondering about the margin with which Liberal candidate Robert Bertrand won during the last federal election in 1997. The Globe’s website shows that he won 48.8% of the popular vote, with 22,736 votes counted. Next was the Bloc Quebecois with 32.0% of the votes (15,897) followed with the Conservatives at 18.5% (9,187 votes) and the NDP with 2.2% (1,097).

Bertrand’s lead of 6,839 votes out of the 49,665 cast in total was not what you’d call an overwhelming lead. Some say he’ll have a run for the money this year with Alliance’s Judy Grant in the picture. Others wonder if the Liberal’s lead is comfortable enough so that they can indulge in making “protest votes” for the NDP, Green Party, or other candidates or parties that constitute their real choice for leadership of the country. Of course, others see Bertrand’s former lead as something to actively get out and beat.

People who are concerned about vote-splitting will possibly have an evening of nail-biting to contend with, because if votes are diluted among several federalist candidates, particularly two “conservative” ones, is it possible that the BQ will “come up the middle” to seize power in Pontiac-Gatineau-Labelle?

And, if you’re worried about how our Pontiac election results will pan out this year, just look south to the United States, where votes for the Green Party’s Ralph Nader apparently cost Democratic contender Al Gore a “clean win” in that nation’s presidential elections. We can discuss and debate as much as we want but here’s what I think.

Whatever your political stripe, get out and vote.

Another thing: the total number of people who actually bother to cast votes always alarms me because it is so low. In 1997, 66.7 % of the Pontiac’s 76,014 eligible voters made their choice.

Now wait a second… that’s considered high. But hold on: look at it the other way around. When you do the math, it means one third of the population didn’t bother to vote.

Why not? Why is voter turnout so consistently low?

I hear people say there’s no choice among parties and their platforms.

Oh? I’m missing something, I guess. Particularly here in Québec there’s been a federalist vs. separatist vote for several years, so can anyone honestly say that there’s no choice?

Moreover, can you honestly claim that the NDP, Green Party, Liberal, Conservative, or NDP are philosophically aligned? This year’s inclusion of Alliance offers yet another political choice and I’m sure that Stockwell Day would be horrified if you said there was no choice between him and Jean Chrétien.

I would submit that of course there is choice —  — and that there always has been. To say there’s “no-one to choose from” is a cop-out.

Now, all of this makes me wonder if Canada should follow Australia’s lead where voting is compulsory. That’s right: you have to vote. Then, and only then, would we have elections that are truly representative of the complete, eligible population of voters. Is that too undemocratic for us? It’s not considered that way for folks Down Under.

Whatever your political viewpoint, get out and exercise your democratic right. Yes, it is a right, and that’s another aspect to voting that Canadians forget about completely. Women suffragettes died fighting for women’s right to vote… and it wasn’t all that long ago that we women won this right.

Finally, consider what motivates the candidates. Whatever you think of them or their politics, they are spending their precious time pounding the pavement, standing up for their beliefs.

I respect that tremendously.

What about your beliefs?

Go on, exercise your democratic right to vote on November 27. If you can’t get out of the house because you don’t have a car, call a friend, else call a candidate’s office for assistance.

Just vote.


Katharine Fletcher is a voter who is based in Quyon. You can contact her at