Get out and vote

Election Day is here and it's time Kootenay-Columbia citizens to exercise their democratic right.

After the longest campaign in Canadian history, Election Day has finally arrived.

Over the last several weeks, federal party leaders have been criss-crossing the country, while local candidates do the same in Kootenay-Columbia riding and now—voters will have the chance to make their voices heard.

In Cranbrook, there are a few different polling stations; Elections Canada mailed out voter registration cards that will direct you where and when to vote. If you haven’t received a voter registration card, you can go online to www.elections.ca and run a search of your address, which will direct you to a polling station.

In addition to the Elections Canada website, you can call toll free at 1-866-754-5448 to speak to someone at a local Elections office.

Advance polling has been high throughout the Kootenay-Columbia riding and indeed, across the country. While a local Elections spokesperson couldn’t give an exact figure, he said in an article that ran last week in the Daily Townsman that numbers have been higher than in the past.

Indeed, the same narrative has played out a national stage, as eager voters are out early to cast their ballot, while others maybe hope to beat out long lines that form on Election Day.

Regardless, we’ll all find out who will form government Monday evening.

The election campaign has taken a life of it’s own both federally and locally.

Federally, all parties have been hit by scandals of candidates resigning for comments made on social media.

Welcome to politics in the 21st century.

But ultimately, people aren’t going to vote by what candidates say or do on social media.

The federal parties have strung together a predictable narrative over the last few months as they pitch themselves as the most suitable governing party.

Each party platform can be viewed online, but it’s always interesting to see how people vote—some cast a ballot based on the party leader, others on their local riding candidate.

Therein lies the rub for many.

When it comes to the nationwide conversation on the issues, it’s been frustrating as of late.

What began as an important discussion on the economic record of the Conservatives since the Great Recession at the beginning of the campaign has devolved into partisan wedge issues, such as the niqab debate.

This isn’t meant to be an examination of where the parties stand on each major issue, but one major point worth mentioning is where parties stand on electoral reform.

In 2011 federal election, there were 14,720,580 votes cast in total. Of that total, the Tories captured 5,832,401 ballots—39 per cent.

And yet, they formed a majority government.

Vote splitting has a large part to do with it; the Liberals used the split between the Reform Party and the Progressive Conservatives in the 1990s to win three consecutive majorities. After the two opposition parties merged, they used that same strategy against the Liberals and the NDP to split the left-wing vote for the last nine years.

The current electoral format uses a ‘first past the post’ system, where the candidate who wins the most votes in an electoral riding wins a seat in the House of Commons.

It sounds simple, because it is.

However, it’s disconcerting that any party can form a majority government when it doesn’t receive a majority percentage of the popular vote.

The Greens, NDP and the Liberals are proposing electoral reform if elected, while the Conservatives are pledging to maintain the first past the post system.

In provincial politics, there was a referendum in the B.C. election in 2009 to move to a Single Transferable Vote (STV) system, but it was defeated by 60 per cent of the vote.

This isn’t meant to be an indictment of first past the post or the current government, but with all the talk about strategic voting, it’d be nice to utilize a system where each vote has the potential to have an effect on the ultimate outcome beyond the riding boundaries.

All that being said, regardless of how you lean on the political spectrum, be sure to exercise your democratic right on Monday.

Get out and vote.