After a testy and sometimes contentious provincial election – inexplicably held during a global pandemic and provincial outbreak – we’re about to go back to the polls again. This time we’re being asked to vote on municipal and federal levels, and I confess a large part of me doesn’t want to bother anymore.
First and foremost is that I’m tired. I’m absolutely exhausted by robocalls, TV pundits, political campaigns and smear jobs, people battling on social media, ripping down campaign signs that volunteers and private citizens pay for, the utter lack of common courtesy, and even the mere idea of checking off a name in a box. I absolutely realize it’s a privilege I enjoy and to be brutally honest even take for granted – a privilege that others around the globe do not.
Every election up until her death, my 95-year-old grandmother would have me drive her up to the polls, help her inside and stand a few feet away while she made her mark on a ballot. It was a responsibility and she took it seriously. I’d like to take it seriously again, but I really don’t. At this point I vote more because of her than for any other reason.
Secondly, and far more revealingly, is that I’ve become thoroughly disillusioned and jaded by the country’s entire political landscape. It was not always this way. I have a degree in political science and before my penchant for writing grew overwhelming I had aspirations towards a career in public service. But I’ve come to believe that regardless of which party wins, nothing will change.
The cost of living in Newfoundland and Labrador has all but reached its breaking point. The cost recovery mandate alone is an excessive burden on this province’s taxpayers that hikes the price on pretty much every good and service, and one which no party in Ottawa will put a stop to despite multiple (and even written) promises to the contrary.
Discussions with people I’ve run into have confirmed I’m not the only one frustrated by the state of our political system. A friend recently confided that they were dissatisfied with an elected official’s performance. Publicly they had thanked the official and showed support. Privately, the friend confessed they would not vote for that person again.
I asked why they didn’t just tell their representative that the outcome was not okay and just accepted the end result. The answer?
“I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds.”
I think there’s a lot wrong with that sentiment.
Are voters little more than the modern day equivalent of Oliver Twist with his bowl out asking, “Please, sir, may I have some more please?” I know at times it may feel that way, but the fact is those elected to office are expected to feed us, care for us, and help improve our quality of life by fixing what’s not working.
If we have to tiptoe and pander around so as to not upset them, or else they might withhold our meager scoop of thin gruel, then they don’t deserve to be on that ballot. Nor does that make us responsible voters active in our own governance. The public teat is not meant to be a buffet for those empowered.
Are elected officials there to serve us or not? If the answer is yes, we must hold them accountable and I don’t mean just once every four or five years by checking off their name on a ballot.
We must have honest conversations and feedback about their actions, not just give them public props and kudos. If we pretend publicly to be content with our lot, can we really expect any change?
Long before I became a journalist I began casting my vote based not on the party, but on the candidate themselves. The only way I can manage that is to sit and talk to them about issues.
When I pick names off on the municipal and the federal ballots, I’m not holding out a bowl begging for more. I demand to be served.