Canadians want change. Hell, even in the last election almost 60% voted for a party that didn't end up running the country for the next four years. Now, those numbers are even greater with almost 70% of the country ready to vote for a party other than the Conservatives.
But, with our broken first-past-the-post system we've got the Conservatives on one side, and everyone else on the other, with those 70% of the votes split among three main parties: Liberal, NDP, and Green. Well, guess what? An entirely plausible scenario will see the Conservatives win a minority government with their piddly 31or 32% support.
So, people are trying to organize voters into a strategic collective, the biggest being LeadNow / Vote Together, a popular one called Strategic Voting, and my personal favourite, Anyone But Harper. These sites will tell you who to throw your support behind to upset the Conservative candidate and help guarantee a change in government.
I think this is a stand-up idea. The parties aren't cooperating and forming a coalition so let's force their hands. In order to make the system work, you have to work the system.
Many people are on board with this but for those who aren't I am hearing a lot of, "Vote for what you believe in", "Vote with your conscience", or probably the worst one I've heard so far, "Vote with your heart". Ugh. Give me a break.
Whether your beliefs, your conscience, or your heart, if you're voting for any of these reasons you may feel better about it, but in the majority of cases you're not changing anything. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Thanks to the Conservatives your party of choice doesn't even get the $1.25 or $2.50 or whatever it used to be.
This is the principle reason voter turnout has been so low over the past few years. Only that's changing now because people are realizing that if they vote together they can implement change. Sure, it's not ideal, but if you keep doing what you're doing...
Then there's an oft-quoted phrase, "People get the government they deserve." Only we don't deserve this. A clear majority has spoken and yet none of that matters. Why? Because our system is broken. Well, guess what? All three major parties trying to unseat the Conservatives have come forth saying that if they get into power they'll introduce electoral reform. Can you imagine that? Finally, a system where if you cast a vote it will mean something.
Now, my friend Jim wrote a good post on not voting at all and how that should be a viable option for certain individuals or groups. He made great points but I'm going to counter with this, and it's a little more hopeful outlook: incremental change is better than no change at all (or a violent revolution).
Doing nothing helps maintain the status quo. Even if it means voting against your interests I am proposing that you vote for incremental change and take the first step toward freedom. It reminds me of something that my dad said to me one day when I was complaining about some first world problem. He said, "Play by the rules until you're in a position to change them. But when you are, you'd better well change them."
Mary Angelou said something similar: “What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain.”
Too many of us just accept the lot we're handed and too many of us just sit on Facebook and complain about it. Face it, the game is rigged. Millions are disenfranchised and the only thing we know for sure is that if we stay on this course it is not going to get better. Again, short of taking arms and rising up, which I hope not will not be necessary, what options are there?
Boil the frog.
You could just toss the frog in the pot and be done with it (the revolution option). It's messy but sends a statement to all the other frogs. I think it breeds more hatred between frogs and frog boilers that will not abate for generations. Plus, the frog will likely realize what's going on and jump out. Then you've just got one really pissed off frog and a pot of boiling water that he's pissed in (you can't even use it for tea!)
Or, you could put the frog in cold water and turn the dial up, bit-by-bit. It takes longer, but in the end you've still met your objective and you've done it gradually and without any nasty scars and burns. The frog just dies, quietly, peacefully, thinking it's just having a nice warm soak after a hard day's work catching flies and whatnot.
The best way to turn this country around and start the process of change is to make an incremental one right now. We're never going to have a better chance than October 19, so on voting day cast a ballot and turn that dial up a notch. If we have to, in the next election, turn it up again. And so on. It won't take as long as you think. In fact, with as much support as there is for electoral reform, your chances are good that in the election after this one you will get to cast the vote you want and have it count as well. For this election at least, you're going to have to vote with that end goal in mind.
Sacrifice a bit of what you believe in now for a chance to get what you deserve some time soon.
So, sorry Green supporters. Voting Green will make you feel better, but it won't change a damn thing. You're electing one member of parliament. That's it. You have 5% of the vote nationally though, so why not put it to some use? With a ranked ballot or proportional representation, you stand a chance of having way more than one MP next time around. Small price to pay now considering what you have to gain because if you keep doing what you're doing...
For the Liberal or NDP supporters, the math is easy. If the other party is ahead in your riding then vote for them (assuming you're not leading. If that's the case then everyone vote for them anyway just to make it a sure thing). Otherwise, if you keep doing what you're doing...
To all the Conservative voters out there I only have one thing to say. You're telling almost 70% of the country that they don't matter. You're telling us that the status quo is the way to go. At best, you're telling us that you think that because you'll be okay that we'll be okay too. At worst, you're telling us that you don't give a shit if we'll be okay at all. To you, I'm asking you with as much conviction as I can muster, please stop doing what you're doing. Put your social conscience ahead of your tax breaks. Show us that you're true Canadians.
(Note: the views expressed here are my own and are in no way affiliated with any other individual or organisation)