Canadians are turning out this election. Bob Hepburn writes in The Toronto Star:
I’ve overheard a woman talking to her 20-something daughter about the election and the daughter responding: “There’s an election?”; I’ve listened as my dentist told me he just wants “it over;” I’ve heard a colleague speak about how no one at an eight-person dinner party on the weekend talked at all about the election.
It’s just not me who is seeing this trend. Viewership for TV political programs and news stories is reportedly down from levels in the 2015 election. At the same time, election stories are garnering less attention from readers at some online news sites than was expected.
In addition, campaign organizers are noticing the same voter sentiment as their leaders criss-cross the country and their volunteers knock on doors in their neighbourhoods seeking support for local candidates.
There are several reasons for this ennui:
First, the election campaign is too long. It actually started back in January, not last week when Justin Trudeau formally asked Gov. Gen. Julie Payette to give her blessing for the launch of the official six-week campaign. For months now, all parties have been in full-election mode, complete with policy pronouncements, local rallies and detailed media strategies.
Second, while campaigns are seen as a time for voters “to get to know” the leaders, the reality is that we already know them. We know what Justin Trudeau is like and what he would bring to a second term — the good, bad and the ugly. We know who Andrew Scheer is because he’s been the Conservative leader since May, 2017. We’ve seen him on television for years. The same is true of Jagmeet Singh, who has led the NDP since October, 2017, and Elizabeth May who has headed the Greens since 2006.
Third, to the casual voter it must seem there’s hardly any difference between the Liberals and the Tories on many key issues, or between the NDP and the Greens. In truth, it’s difficult to discern how the parties differ on how helping the middle class, or how they would deal with health-care funding. And if a voter believes — rightly or wrongly — that there’s no real difference, then would we expect them to follow the campaign?
Fourth, no one big issue that will galvanize voters dominates this election — not SNC-Lavalin, not the regulations on religious symbols in Quebec, not pipelines. Climate change, tax cuts, the economy and jobs are key issue, but not drivers of widespread voter engagement. The last truly issue-driven elections may have been in the 1980s when free trade with the U.S. highlighted the campaigns.
Elections are important. They're the cornerstone of our democracy. These days, democracy is in trouble all over the world. That is one trend we can't afford to follow.
Image: The Atlantic