Special to The Record
Democracy is a fragile thing. In countries around the world, democracy is an ideal that is fought for; a goal for a nation to achieve. In Canada we are extremely lucky to have our own unique version of democracy. It is a system where a majority vote will elect a government, but where the rights of minorities are still respected and protected by law.
I spent 11 years of my life in uniform in the Canadian Army, including five years at military college and six years as a combat engineer officer. During that time I was deployed on disaster response missions twice: once to the floods in Winnipeg in 1997, and a second time to the ice storms in Quebec in 1998. I also trained solders in combat leadership, helped prepare soldiers for deployment to Bosnia, and spent most of my time in the Army away from home.
I did all of this because I, along with my fellow soldiers, believed so strongly in this thing we have created called Canada that we were willing to give our lives for it. That is what members of the Canadian Forces agree to when they enlist. They agree to defend our democracy and national interests in the ways that our elected governments decide. After a decade in Afghanistan, this defence of democracy resulted in the death of 158 service people and the injury of many more. In many other operations, the two world wars and the Korean War, many thousands of Canadian men and women gave their lives for the sake of our democracy.
Yet even with the above knowledge, many Canadians don’t vote in our federal elections. In the most recent federal election, only 61.1 per cent of registered voters showed up. If you consider that the current government won with only 39.62 per cent of the popular vote, more people did not vote at all than voted for the party that formed government. In our local riding, the statistics are especially depressing for the younger generations. In 2011 only 38.8 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 cast ballots. The 25-34 age range isn’t much better at 45.1 per cent of eligible voters.
The total number of eligible voters under 35 in Courtenay alone who did not vote is 2,631. The margin of victory in our riding in the last election was only 1,827 votes. It is easy to see that getting the so-called “youth vote” out could make a big difference in the upcoming election.
For the many who complain that their vote doesn’t count, the deciding margin in our riding in the last election was only three per cent. There are other ridings where it is much closer. In 2011, in the riding of Montmagny-L’Islet-Kamourask-Rivére du Loup in Quebec, the margin of victory for the winning candidate was nine votes! In the riding of Winnipeg North, it was a 45-vote win.
Your vote does count, and participating in our democratic process is vitally important to its success.
The Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce is co-hosting, along with the Record, an All Candidates’ debate on Oct. 5 at the Sid Williams Theatre starting at 6 p.m. for the Courtenay-Alberni riding. Thanks to our sponsors My Tech Guys, Prestige Video and the Sid Williams Theatre. A second All Candidates’ Forum will be held on Oct. 8 in Campbell River at the Tidemark Theatre for the new North Island-Powell River riding. On behalf of the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce, I encourage everyone to come out and learn about their local candidates.
Andrew Gower is the chair of the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce