The Cynics’ Vote

Everyone everywhere is using all kinds of superlatives to describe the upcoming U.S. election; ‘groundbreaking’, ‘exciting’, ‘historic’… The only word that sums it up for me is ‘nail-biting’, maybe even ‘terrifying’. At time passes, the issues facing the planet are becoming more and more drastic; making the choice of leader in the U.S., a greatly influential country, an ever-more grave decision.

And then there’s us.

Our own election on Tuesday has revealed a good deal about our character as Canadians; we have a history of cynical political humour, whereas the States is more, dare I say it, optimistic towards their potential leaders. Everywhere you turn, it’s ‘change’ this and ‘change’ that. Here, it’s “Who will cause the least amount of trouble?” Some are even moving to vote ‘strategically’ in large numbers rather than voting conventionally. I love political satire, so I don’t know whether to be proud Canadians have an actual distinct characteristic from our neighbours, or to be a little sad that we’re so negative.

Well, guess what? For once, we have to put aside our testy attitude and make sure we elect the leader that’s best for us. There is less hopeful sis-boom-bah surrounding Canada’s 40th General Election, but it is just as critical given the issues we now face. The U.S. financial meltdown is placing our economy on thin ice, climate change is turning from debate to dilemma, and we’ve got plenty of other issues related to Canada itself; improvements in out health care system, the Afghanistan mission, reducing poverty and the like. Now is no time to ‘forget’ or ‘be too lazy’.

First, the debate. How many U of T students tuned in? According to the CBC, only 3 million Canadians decided to watch. Out of 33 million citizens, excluding children, babies, those without TVs, those that were at work, etc., that is an abysmal number. Thankfully, the debate has been posted in its entirety on the multivalent Youtube. I advise any and all politically-concerned students to hop on over and watch it. If you are not politically-concerned, go read a bit on Zimbabwe, then think your stance over.

Perhaps American media coverage and a lipstick-wearing pit bull distract you. Well, for those of you with preconceptions that the Canadian debate will be drab, dull, boring, taxing, drawn out and pointless… steel thy bowels for ‘Canada’s Next Top Prime Minister’. Despite frequent cynical conceptions of our politicians, it looks like some of the leaders are just as frustrated with the current way Canada is being run as some of the country’s citizens, and they are not holding back any punches this time. Take NDP Leader Jack Layton’s comment to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, referring to the economy and outfit choice:

“Where's the platform? Under the sweater?"

It doesn’t matter where you stand. That is worth watching. Better still, Green Party Candidate Elizabeth May was included in the debate this time around, and I think she proved to be worthy addition. She was articulate, and able to drop many a valid point in the short 45 seconds allotted for statements. Compare 45 seconds to the minute or two given in the U.S. debate. That's some high-speed rhetorical action. Not to mention the fact that the inclusion of a new, almost unheard perspective, gives us a reason to be less cynical about our politics.

In addition to watching the Canadian Leaders’ Debate, we also need to educate ourselves on the issues in our own ridings. My own particular riding is not gigantesque, so finding information on the internet is providing to be difficult. If you can, catch the televised debate for your respective riding, or, keep vigilant watch on various Toronto newspapers and their sites. The Toronto Star, for example, has a comprehensive 2008 Election section right here, and the Metro is featuring short blurbs on different ridings every day. Also check out the local candidates’ individual pages (which can be found through the previous link as well). To my surprise, I have found Facebook to be a good source of information, or rather, links to valid information. Navigate through some of the biased, grammatically-offensive opinions and discussion boards and you’ll find a few groups with links to coherent news websites, or sites related to the party of your choice. There’s even a group for the ‘Neorhino’ Party. (WHAT?)

Well kids, all I really wish to emphasize here is the need for us to get involved in this particular election. We’re finally old enough to vote, and this isn’t really the time to sit back and pull out that falsely objective, subjectively sarcastic apathy, because ‘one vote doesn’t count’ or whatever the excuse may be. We can’t lay down now and blame the guy in charge for our cynicism. Figure out what and who you want, then make your decision count.

- Liesl

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