There is a federal election coming up in Canada on the 19th of October; very close to the day you will be born! We were both worried that we might not be able to vote because the chances of your mother going into labor around that time were very high. So, despite the fact that we both had rough weeks, and would have rather stayed home, your mother and I went out today to an early polling station so that we could make sure that we voted.
As you grow up, you’ll hear a lot of people grumbling about voting. Some will say that one voice doesn’t make a difference, and so they won’t bother voting. You’ll hear others say that democracy is the rule of the stupid over the few smart people. You’ll hear people saying that elections are unfair to minority viewpoints. In other words you will hear a whole lot of bullshit.
Democratic Republics aren’t perfect. In fact, they can be downright stupid at times. However, they are the best systems we have to keep human beings safe and free. And that freedom in turn creates incredible prosperity and progress. Without the freedoms that the American and French Revolutions started, we would never has come as far as fast as we have today. When people are free to create – whether it is ideas, art, programs, businesses, or inventions – everyone has a chance to benefit.
Can terrible things happen in democracies? Of course! The execution of Socrates proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt. But that is why we make rules on what a government can and cannot do. It is why we have due process and rule of law; limited governments make a country closest to what the people in it want, without letting them use that government to bully minorities, or those who disagree with popular opinion.
Can one voice make a difference? Absolutely! In the last couple of elections we saw huge changes to the way people vote – and because of it, Canada has changed. Parties that were once small and ignored are now powerful forces to be reckoned with. What were little wins in one election (more votes for a party than expected) turned into more people showing up to vote for small parties with each new election. The political map of Canada looks completely different now than it did fifteen years ago, because people turned up!
Living in a Democratic country is a privilege that very few people in all of history have had. We are some of the rare few who have been given the right to decide who will lead us, and what they may and may not do. That privilege only exists so long as we keep using it. If we choose not to vote, we have no right to complain when the government passes laws we don’t like, and we should not be surprised when tyrants sneak in and take power.
Political franchise is something you have to use, or you might well lose it.