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The Cause of Voter Apathy in Canada

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What causes voter apathy? Why, in the most recent federal and provincial elections, did roughly 40% of eligible voters stay home? Perhaps candidate A, running for party A led by leader A, is not perceived as being significantly different from, or better than, candidate B, running for party B led by leader B.

This lack of perceived difference between candidate-party-leader A and candidate-party-leader B, is not the only problem in an election. It is also impossible to vote directly on an issue. Yes, you can let an issue influence how you vote, but on election day you are forced to endorse one candidate, party and leader and repudiate all other candidates, parties and leaders. Issues take a back seat to personalities.

In theory, voters can have their specific concerns addressed during an election. But that's not reality. Elections simply do not provide voters with a direct say on any issue. Rather, elections are centered on personalities. The real question, the only real choice, is as to which party should run the province or the country.

A vote for an Opposition Party candidate is a vote to replace the Government Party, and a vote for the Government Party candidate is a rejection of the Opposition Parties' bid for power. But Canadians cannot use their ballots to implement - or to reject - any specific policy concerning health, education, labour, social services, the criminal justice system, fiscal issues, the environment, energy, infrastructure, agriculture, etc.

Total control remains with the politicians up to five years at a time. And when voting day finally arrives, issues are drowned out by one big question: which leader/party should be the Government/Premier, or the Government/Prime Minister? Even when issues are ...

... middle of paper ... for MLAs and MPs, they are also smart enough to vote in a referendum on an issue of their choice.

By increasing the individual voter's effectiveness, citizens' initiative decreases voter cynicism. Citizens' initiative enables the active participation of all voters in their democracy. It reduces the influence of those who lobby politicians behind closed doors. Citizens' initiative gives taxpayers the power to ensure that difficult and controversial issues cannot be avoided or ignored.

Citizens' initiative makes politicians more accountable and more responsive to taxpayer concerns at all times. The fact that citizens could put a proposal on the ballot puts pressure on politicians to act on the concerns of Canadians. In short, citizen-initiated referendums will increase accountability and openness, empower taxpayers, and improve our representative democracy.

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