On Thursday, citizens will drive to a local school, grab a pencil and jot a check mark next to someone’s name.
If you take a moment to ponder your decision, it takes about two minutes – at most – to fill out the ballot.
Then you walk to your car and drive home.
Yet time and again, we are told, often by the media, that Canadians don’t want an election.
Why is that?
Is it even true?
People seem to like elections. They listen to debates, volunteer, write letters, talk, argue and generally think about society for a moment.
Many actually wake up.
An election represents a compression of time.
For a couple of weeks, society is in a hurly-burly of discussions about taxes, sewer and water systems, parks, transit, roads and snow clearing, lot development, lot size, pollution and waste management, animal control
… the list is extensive.
They should be on the radar all the time, but they aren’t.
A municipal election represents a do-over, a chance to catch up and evaluate the goings-on over the past three years.
These are tough issues. Politicians have to boil their responses down to their essence, delivering almost an intuitive knee-jerk answer to most questions.
The incumbents are seasoned and nuanced. The first-timers eager and often naive.
The voter has to decide which best represents their future.
Sometimes the issues seem a bit shopworn.
And that’s because they are.
We were reviewing our coverage of previous municipal elections.
The most discussed issue in 2003 was transit. People wanted a better bus service. It ran every 70 minutes, and people called it useless.
Today, in 2009, people still want better transit. The system, many believe, is useless.
But, by one measure, it is twice as good as it was back then. Today, the buses run every 35 minutes.
Of course, it begs the question, “What kind of knuckleheaded, bean-counting bureaucrat is fixated on a 35-minute sched, which makes it impossible to know when the next bus is coming?…” but we digress.
Believe it or not, there has been progress.
Is it done? No, that’s why we vote.
But if the local issues seem a bit run-of-the-mill, that’s because our society is relatively well-off and peaceful.
It’s a measure of how good we have it, really.
Afghanistan, which recently voted, faces far more difficult issues.
There, people voted by the millions despite the threat they’d be blown up.
And the incumbent is stuffing ballot boxes, making a mockery of the whole process even while our troops are dying to give citizens a shot at casting a ballot for their future.
Here, it runs like clockwork. No violence or intimidation. No lines.
Just a pencil and paper and a couple of minutes.
Despite this, far fewer of us are exercising our right.
That’s a crime.
If you care about transit. Or dogs. Or fees. Or parks. Or referendums. Or taxes. Or garbage collection. Or recycling. Or homelessness. Or economic development. Or business development. Or handicapped access. Or
snow removal. Or street sweeping. Or public access to drinking water. Or water metering. Or lot size. Or downtown parking fees … or whatever else you care to imagine, take two minutes and vote.
If you don’t, well, perhaps you should move to Afghanistan. There’s a president there who wants more people like you.