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Make Your Vote Count (Posted On: Friday, September 26, 2008)

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Democracy is generally regarded, as Abraham Lincoln once said, "government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

Government is designed to serve us, not the other way around, and we have the right to decide who will serve. Ultimately, that is why it's important to vote.

Over the last 40 years, public participation in elections has dropped dramatically, from around 79 per cent in the late 1960s to around 62 per cent in the 2006 federal election (which was a slight improvement from 2004). Even as recently as 1988, public participation was 75.3 per cent.

According to a 2002 study by the Public Policy Forum, youth voter turnout is generally between 10 and 25 per cent lower than voter turnout in the general population.
According to Election Canada's post-election survey of electors in 2001, of the 18-24 age group, which makes up 12 per cent of the voting population, 32 per cent did not vote in the 2000 election. In comparison, only 10 per cent of those 55 and older did not vote.
Why don't people — especially young people — vote?  According to that same Elections Canada survey, young electors "displayed higher levels of cynicism and disagreeableness about politics." There were a variety of factors cited at the time for the level of disinterest, including life priorities, culture, and a feeling that political parties rarely place an emphasis on 'youth' issues.

Even with the emergence of other forms of communication — such as weblogs — participation remains low. Attempts have been made to reform the process — such last year's unsuccessful referendum to change the electoral system from its 'first-past-the-post' concept —  to encourage voter turnout, but even those ideas seem to fail to grab the attention of the electorate.

But really, what is a youth issue? The environment? In this election, the Liberals and the Greens —  and the NDP, to some extent — have made preservation of the environment and tackling climate change key components of their campaigns. The economy? All parties recognize the need for well-paying jobs that meet the challenges of the so-called new, knowledge-based economy. Investment in research and development? The chief benefactors are generally universities and colleges, providing young people with the opportunity to be in on the cutting edge of technology.

So why else aren't people —  especially young people — voting? It's oft been said that with thousands of people voting, one vote won't make a difference.  As noted on the Pennsylvania Department of State's online voting information and resource centre, your vote is an opportunity to send a message to your local and national leaders; it holds those people responsible for the decisions they are making, supposedly on your behalf.

Your vote also "affirms our rights as free citizens to elect our government and take part in democracy."  However, every vote does count. One only has to look at the 2000 federal election in the United States to understand that concept. Or the 2004 federal election campaign in Simcoe-Grey, when Conservative candidate Helena Guergis defeated Liberal incumbent Paul Bonwick by 100 votes. Or the last federal campaign in Parry Sound-Muskoka, when Conservative Tony Clement defeated incumbent Andy Mitchell by a mere 28 votes.

An all-candidates evening will be held on Wednesday at the Bear Estate. The doors open at 6 p.m.; the event will be broadcast live on Rogers TV, starting at 7 p.m.

Helena Guergis, Conservative: Guergis was first elected to Parliament for Simcoe-Grey in 2004, defeating incumbant Liberal MP Paul Bonwick by 100 votes. Previous to that, Guergis ran a small business in Angus, and was a policy advisor within the provincial Progressive Conservative government. In 2006, Guergis was re-elected, and named as Secretary of State for International Trade and Secretary of State for Sport. She was also given the title of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in late 2006.

Andrea Matrosovs, Liberal: Matrosovs is a French teacher at Collingwood Collegiate, in her first federal campaign. She was selected by the local Liberal riding association a year-and-a-half ago. She is also an avid volunteer in the community, and is a member of the boards of the United Way of South Georgian Bay and the Collingwood Public Library. She is also pursuing a Master's degree in governance, public management, and community development.

Katy Austin, New Democrat: This is Austin's second federal campaign representing the NDP in Simcoe-Grey. She is a retired high school teacher living in Elmvale. .

Peter Ellis, Green: This is the third federal campaign for Ellis representing the Green Party in Simcoe-Grey. Ellis is a former educator, and has spent 30 years as an importer,exporter and provider of furnishings for hotels and seniors' homes. He has worked closely with the design, carpet, furniture and fabric industries in his capacity of President of Peachtree Manufacturing Ltd. for 20 years.

Dr. Peter Vander Zaag, Christian Heritage: Dr. Vander Zaag, a farmer and international agricultural scientist living in Alliston, is in his third campaign representing CHP. has served on numerous organizations including the board of the Alliston Community Christian School (chairman for 6 years), the executive board of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (5 years), the executive board of Ag CARE (4 years), the Loaves and Fishes Growing Project of South Simcoe for the Canada Food Grains Bank (coordinator for 10 years). Peter serves as chair of the Agricultural Management Institute of Ontario. He is also a board member of the International Potato Center, based in Lima, Peru.

Caley McKibbin, Libertarian 

Election day is Oct. 14. It takes about 10 minutes to cast a ballot. Ten minutes to exercise your right is a pretty small price to pay to live in a democracy.

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