For those outside Canada, in case you haven’t heard, we’re in the middle of a general election. Canada has a parliamentary system, modelled after the British one, with a first-past-the-post system for electing representatives (members of parliament), where party with the most seats after the election is invited to form a government, and its leader to become Prime Minister. For the last few parliaments we’ve had minority governments, first Liberal, then Conservative.
Somewhere along the way, many people just stopped voting: from turnouts in the high 70s back in the 60’s, we’ve had 64.7% and then 58.8% turnout respectively in the last two elections – the last being the lowest turnout ever. There maybe many different reasons for this lack of enthusiasm, although listening to the main parties whining about each other during this election, it’s not hard to see why so many people just don’t bother. But one thing is clear: young people are far less likely to vote than any other age group.
So it was great to see last week Rick Mercer with a brilliant call for young voters to use their votes to “scare the hell out of the people who run this country”:
And his message seems to have resonated. Students on campuses across the country have been using social networking to organise vote mobs, making videos along the way as they challenge others to do the same. But here’s the interesting thing. The young people of this country have a very different set of preferences to the general population:
Just look at how the projected composition of parliament would look it it were up to the youngsters: the Liberals and the Green Party virtually neck-and-neck for most votes, and instead of the greens being shut out of parliament, they’d hold 43 seats! Of course, the projected seat count also throws into sharp focus what’s wrong with our current voting system: the Bloq, with lowest share of the vote of any of the parties would still hold 60 seats. And the Liberals with just 2% more of the votes than the greens would still get more than twice as many seats. Nevertheless, I like this picture much more than the parliaments we’ve had in the last few elections.
So, if you’re eligible to vote, and you’re anywhere around half my age, make my day – help change our parliament for the better!