Parliament Needs to Earn the Respect of Canadian Voters – View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – April 26, 2010

Ottawa ON – The government has given notice that it will introduce legislation that allows for an extra two advanced polling days during an election. Obviously they hope that more of us will vote.

Giving Canadians two extra days to vote is all well and good, but that assumes Canadians actually want to vote.

Unfortunately, there has been a downward trend for years and unlike Australia, voting is not compulsory here.

There is nothing in the daily antics Canadians see on TV from the Hill that would inspire them to vote. Grown adults misbehaving in Question Period won’t offer any incentive. Committees that behave like kangaroo courts don’t inspire anyone either.

Knowing that whoever they elect will be essential muted by the respective Leader’s Office or PMO once they arrive in Ottawa, won’t result in long line-ups at the polling stations either. Why turn out to vote, if you are sending a “nobody” or “trained seal” to Ottawa?

Parliament has to earn the respect of voters if the Canadians are expected to turn out to vote.

It starts with the ability of your local MP to represent you. Yes, there are many times when a whipped vote is necessary, such as when it’s a nonconfidence motion and the government risks falling. However, there can many other opportunities from committee vote, to votes on legislation, to Private Members Legislation, where MPs can represent their constituents and should be allowed to do so.

That way, their constituents can hold them accountable, which is why they sent them to Ottawa in the first place.

Keith Beardsley is a strategist for True North Public Affairs and appears as a political commentator on television. He also contributes articles to the National Post “Full Comment” blog and writes a political column in the Cornwall Free News.

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  1. Politicians have lost respect for the tax payers dollars. There solution to every problem is, How much money do we have to throw at this to make it go away. Politicians only job now is to be re-elected. Look after the caucus, the hell with the people.

  2. “Unfortunately, there has been a downward trend for years and unlike Australia, voting is not compulsory here.”

    Theres a change that needs to be made as far as I am concerned. It should be mandatory to vote in situations of apathy. Some will cry freedom. But come on, this is getting more and more sad each year that goes by. I remember when I was younger, almost everyone went to vote, they took pride in it. Today I discuss voter apathy with people and they don’t even know what I mean. They even then say, if they vote, they just vote for who the parents vote for, etc… It is becoming far more common that people are starting to not care anymore. Adding 2 days I don’t think will do much and I agree with Mr. Beardsley on that point. I agree more with willie191, politicians have to earn the respect back from the Canadian population. Right now, I have heard from many people “what’s it matter to vote, the government does what it wants anyways?”, which is becoming truer and truer each day that goes by. Such as Guy Lauzon, votingYES to allow the legislation to implement the HST on us all. I’m sure that’s what his constituents, the ones that voted him into power, wanted him to do!

    On the provincial level, people voted in Dalton McGuinty as well, based on his promises of no taxes, etc. And look at what has happened since? And these politicians wonder why there is voter apathy? Maybe some of these politicians are banking on voter apathy, so that they can retain their power. Which is why, I believe it should be mandatory for people to vote. At least until such time that the apathy situation is dealt with.

    Some may view the way Australia does it as backwards, but I find that really progressive. They also seem to be putting their foot down on a lot of other BS that other countries still try to find ways to deal with.

    As for MP’s being held accountable by their constituents, I am all for that. It should be possible to fire and MP as well and get someone else in there mid-session if they do exceptionally bad. I will also extend on that, that I think 2 terms for any MP is sufficient enough before they should move on. But then imagine all the golden handshakes we’d have going out if we went to that system.

  3. Good comment, Keith Beardsley. May I add: 1) the Speaker must use his powers to require decorum in the House; 2) we must require better of our MPs as our representatives: if they turn into hand-clapping party-line seat-warmers at the expense of their constituents and the public good, we should turf them; 3) we should, therefore, qualify our candidates better and elect open-minded grown-ups with sound judgment and an understanding of both their constituencies and the world at large; 4) we must require more of our media—more thoughtful editorials and op-ed pieces, and less sound-bite sensationalism.

    The third point applies particularly to the current government, which appears to be composed at its highest levels of members with limited understanding of the ways of the world….with very damaging consequences to Canada’s standing in the world. Mr. Harper, if I understand correctly, had never travelled outside of Canada before he became prime minister. Instead he had promoted building firewalls around Alberta. (It was pretty much the same with George W. Bush, when he took as in stole the presidency of the United states.) Well, good grief, what a message to send to the world: “Look, nations of the world, we have elected a government and a leader that knows pretty well nothing about you!” Imagine the world’s response: “What’s with Canadians—are they a nation of hicks, or what?”

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