July 24, 2017

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Democracy depends on voters

In this federal election, we endorse voting and political participation

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/10/2015 (646 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The longest election campaign in modern history is finally nearing an end, and not a minute too soon.

On Monday, Canadians will have the opportunity to shape their government by performing a task far too many of us take for granted: they’ll place a simple "X" beside the name of the candidate they feel will best represent them. Many have already voted.

An election official hands back to a voter her marked ballot to place in the ballot box so she can cast her vote for the federal election at a polling station in 2011.

CHRIS YOUNG / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

An election official hands back to a voter her marked ballot to place in the ballot box so she can cast her vote for the federal election at a polling station in 2011.

Elections Canada noted voter turnout at advance polls was extraordinarily high — 71 per cent more people voted in advance polls than ever before. It’s a good sign one of the main principles of democracy is being taken seriously.

The Free Press editorial board takes the principles of democracy seriously as well. It is why we are continuing a policy, in place since the last municipal election in Winnipeg, of not endorsing any political candidate or party.

We believe you can make up your own mind and trust you will rely on or discount the various critiques we’ve provided over the last two months to help you make your decision.

This flies in the face of what many newspapers are doing. Postmedia has ordered all its papers across Canada to endorse the Conservatives. This is the same management that required its four Alberta papers to endorse Jim Prentice earlier this year in the provincial election — completely ignoring the voices of the Alberta readers.

Rest assured, at the Free Press, no corner office in Toronto is dictating who or if we will endorse.

Endorsing a candidate does nothing anyway. Additionally, when a newspaper does endorse, it is immediately viewed as evidence of the paper’s bias. And while editorials and Analysis articles are supposed to have a perspective — a point of view — we still strive for fairness. Endorsing just doesn’t seem fair.

So the editorial board will continue its relatively new tradition of not endorsing any candidate or party.

And what we will strongly endorse once again is voting. In the 2011 election, there was a small uptick in the number of Canadians who voted: 61.1 per cent, compared to 58.8 per cent in 2008. This seems paltry compared to earlier elections in which voter turnout reached the mid-70s.

In Manitoba, the voter turnout was lower than the national average, at 55.7 per cent in 2011, with Winnipeg South Centre the most engaged with a turnout of 69 per cent. Churchill had the lowest turnout, at just 43.8 per cent of the eligible voters.

Perhaps more worrisome are concerns specific groups tend to not vote. Much has been written about the failure of young people and indigenous voters to exercise their democratic rights.

One hopes the various campaigns to get out the vote are successful and this year’s turnout is a new record. The Free Press will endorse that for sure.

We’ll also endorse involvement in political campaigns. Our hats go off to every volunteer on a campaign who answered phone calls, handed out leaflets and put up lawn signs. These are the invisible jobs of a political campaign no candidate could do without. They are the life and blood and guts of democracy and we salute you.

Finally, we endorse anyone who has had the courage to stand up and run as a candidate, often to great personal sacrifice and expense. The dedication to put in 18-hour days, to spend days and nights worrying about the next debate, the next campaign event, the next meet-and-greet at Tim Hortons can not go unnoticed. No matter which party you represent, we are thankful you let your name stand on the ballot. That takes a lot of courage and we salute you.

We won’t tell voters what to do as we stand on the precipice of an election, Canada’s 42nd, and we’ll leave the easy job — the job of writing an "X" with a miniature pencil in a circle on a piece of paper at a polling station — up to you.

But be thankful you get the chance to participate; that others made it possible to perform this one act, an act that can profoundly change the course of history. Or not. Who knows?

Please, just get out there Monday and vote.

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