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Addressing symptoms

Mia Rabson is correct when she says that the solution to public disengagement from politics is not an easy one (Compulsory voting here should be on the table for discussion -- before it's too late, Aug. 13).

Her argument that compulsory voting should be instituted to address this issue, however, merely addresses symptoms rather than the root of the problem.

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While the act of voting allows the citizen to send a message about who they wish to see in power, the act of not voting also sends a message. It tells us that people feel they can no longer trust politicians to follow through on the multitude of promises made at election time.

It tells us that people feel that the first-past-the-post system prevents them from being adequately represented or delivering a legitimate result (nobody I have ever voted for has been elected).

It tells us that people become apathetic when they do not see how politics affects them beyond election time.

When a huge section of the population exercises its right not to vote, this must be taken as a message that our political system is not working for enough people. Rather than whipping the electorate into polling stations, our society needs to reflect on the systemic causes of voter abstention and develop solutions that make people want to participate in our democracy.




What a ghastly, nausea-producing idea. It reminds one of the 99.97 per cent voting turnouts proclaimed by the old U.S.S.R. And it is analogous to forcing everyone to watch the CBC.

On the whole, I prefer the opportunity to choose, which includes the option to choose not to vote. I don't care to cast a ballot for a government that is fiscally irresponsible, that abdicates its responsibility to oversee the judiciary, and that kicks its piggy feet together in delight in anticipation of feeding at the gold-plated pension trough.

I propose the "drastic measure" of having elections that effect better, more responsible governing. For that, I will vote.




What an excellent treatment of an important subject. Now is the time to consider amending the Elections Act to include such a provision if we are to have it in place in time for the next federal election.

I doubt the Conservatives would be interested, however.

First of all, they won their razor-thin majority with 39 per cent of those who chose to vote, so I suspect they'd be reluctant to change what worked for them.

But also the youth and the marginalized who may be voting for the first time if required are not (as) likely to be Conservative supporters. In fact, the opposite is true.

Regardless, Rabson's article was a thoughtful and useful piece as we reflect on the efficacy and integrity of our electoral system. I hope it is picked up widely and generates good debate across the country.


MP Winnipeg Centre


All 18-to-30-year-old eligible voters could be forewarned that they would be gathered into Assiniboine Park and forced to listen to the complete recordings of Justin Bieber for a whole afternoon. Either that or vote.




Absence of specifics

I appreciate Dennis Lewycky's comments (Decades of homework, Letters, Aug. 9) on my letter of Aug. 4. I totally agree with the concept of planning for a vibrant future for the city.

However, Lewycky seems to have missed my central point -- namely which specific North End social issues will be specifically resolved by the removal of the jobs and physical assets of the CP yards?

No specifics have been listed or discussed. None. How will crime be alleviated? Do 100-tonne railcars really cause muggings? How many more jobs will be created in the "light industrial" conceptual areas suggested (and at what future date) ?

Will these be at better wages and numbers than currently at Canadian Pacific? Will they employ current North End residents?

It was indicated in the July 23 article North Enders have their say that a medium-size grocery store would be "a boon." Why not have the city fund a new structure, then contract to Sobeys or Safeway to operate the business until it can be operated privately at a profit? Local residents could be hired and have a stake in the operation.

No such short-term solutions seem to be forthcoming from the Social Planning Council, nor from the "brainstorming" session held on Aug. 6 -- just grandiose plans for the "future."




Cutting through confusion

Re: Samuel Segev dies after a brief illness (Aug. 10). The late Samuel Segev was a fantastic Middle East correspondent.

Whenever I read his articles, I felt as if he had passed me a pair of X-ray glasses that cut through the daily confusion and chaos of the region and revealed the larger patterns and goals of the different factions. I will miss his column.




Let CWB go already

Laura Rance's Aug. 11 column, Pardons another slap in the face, was written by a person who just will not let it go. The Canadian Wheat Board had the same ideology as the former USSR and it now sits on the same ash heap of history.

Did the CWB care more about the farmers' harvest than the farmers? Did the bureaucrats at the CWB work 16-hour days? Did the CWB ever pray for rain?

The farmers finally have freedom, and if Harper wants to pardon a few who risked their livelihoods for freedom, they deserve pardons.




A cautionary parallel

Re: First Nations skeptical of Ottawa's plan (Aug. 11). During the right-wing dictatorship of Pinochet in Chile, the government implemented a law that allowed the Mapuche Indians to split their collectively held land into small plots and receive legal titles as owners.

Those new proprietors asked for small loans from the banks in order to purchase seeds and equipment. Years later, however, they could not pay back the loans on time, and the speculators and rich landowners of the region came ready to offer the aboriginals a little cash for the land.

The result was that the Mapuches lost plot after plot and became even more poor and neglected than before. Canadian leaders of the First Nations should get more details from the Mapuche people before accepting any such plans.




Magic is missing

Re: Feeling curious about Curiosity? (SundayXtra, Aug. 12). This latest Mars landing doesn't hold the same mystique as the first man on the moon did back in the 1960s. Something about searching for "microbial life" by a robotic rover just isn't the same.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 15, 2012 A11


Updated on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 9:53 AM CDT: adds links

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