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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

If You Don't Vote You Shouldn't Complain

“If you don’t vote then you shouldn’t complain about what government is doing.”

It’s an old saying that I’ve always seen for what it truly is, total B.S.

That sort of sentiment might serve the interests of politicians who want your vote or who would love nothing more than for the public to shut up and not complain when government runs amok, but to say somebody doesn’t have the right to complain because they didn’t vote is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.

If non voters don’t have the right to complain then who does?

From my perspective anyone who doesn’t vote has a much greater right to complain than those who visit the polls and mark an X for one of the mainstream parties.

Think about it. Voters elect government members to office and in doing so ultimately decide the form and shape a government takes on both sides of the House.

When government neglects the needs of the public, wastes tax dollars and makes decisions that cause great harm to the public good voters should share in some of the blame.

In fact it’s voters who have far less right to complain about the actions of elected officials than anyone else, after all it was voters who put them in office in the first place.

Far too often political spin doctors and the mainstream media talk about the growing problem of low voter turnout at elections and claim it’s the result of disinterest or apathy rather than identifying it for what it is. Either they blindly choose to believe this falsehood or they simply don’t understand what’s happening around them which is entirely possible from what I've seen. Either way they’re dead wrong.

Sure, some citizens have absolutely no interest in politics or elections, those people have always existed, but there are growing numbers of people who have come to the realization that no matter which party or individual is elected the end result will be the same and it won’t likely be good.

Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. It’s the non-voters, not the voters, who have adopted those words of wisdom and who have given up on Canada’s elitist and centric political system. Good on them.

Until the system can be changed to better ensure that the public interest is being served, not the parties or the politicians, the act of voting is nothing more than the act of abetting corruption, lies, deceit and fraud.

I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a rusty nail than support any of today's federal mainstream parties so don’t expect to see me at the polls any time soon. Rest assured however that the complaining will continue as it always does. I have every right to complain and plan to use that right as much as possible.

The next time someone says to you, “if you don’t vote you shouldn’t complain” tell them the same thing I will. Here’s a hint, its two words, starting with F and ending with OFF.


Anonymous said...

Patriot: If we, the electorate, will ever be noticed, it might only happen if all Newfoundlanders and Labdorians exempt themselves from voting in Canadian Elections.

I still have my doubts whether that will be the saviour for our province, but it sure won't hurt to exercise that right, will it?

Then for once in our lives we will be able to explain to Canadians that the reason for not voting in Newfoundland and Labrador is because it doesn't matter anyway, since the political system is corrupt and is geared to always patronizie the Eastern Canadian Center with a little aid oozing out towards Nova Scotia.

The Canadian West found its voice over the past 30 years and they have been prospering.

When is the most important place in the Canadian East, Newfoundland and Labrador, going to find its voice and be heard?

Aubrey said...

Great post Myles!

That's two in a row now about elections...is there one coming up soon ;-)

I plan to spoil my next federal ballot (just as I did with my last one). I look at is as a vote for "none of the above". It's slightly better than not voting because the ballot will be counted in the totals.

I'd encourage you to do the same if you're thinking about not voting at all.


Anonymous said...

I'm with Ron, without disagreeing with Patriot at the same time.

I've been spoiling my ballot for years and plan on continuing to do so. I believe the statement of actually physically going to the polls to vote and writing in your own message on the ballot is stronger than just not voting. I was placing "Free Newfoundland" stickers on my ballots until I ran out. Now I write a message on the ballot.

However, if we could "not vote" as a major block, I would support that wholeheartedly as I think that would be very effective, in the long term.


NL-ExPatriate said...

Ahh the voice of informed reason! Does my heart good to see informed people see our political system for what it is flawed.

To add to that our electoral syst4m is outdated and never intended for anything but a two party Plurality so what we have now is a never ending minority where all of the national parties are in perpetual electioneering mode to try and win over Ontario's 106 seats and Quebec's 75 seats out of a possible 308.

Our political system is supposed to be about the opposition parties keeping the governing party in check but when all of the parties need to woe the same centralized electorate due to our Cause and Effect partisan politics we have become nothing more than a Per Capita Colonialist Empire of the Upper and Lower Canada majority Tyranny.

Even a majority with a Benevolent (Charity) leader would be better than our current minority continuous electioneer by all of the PUPPET parties of the Tyranny of the Majority.

So assuming enough people don't vote or spoil their ballots lets say less than 50% is it still a democracy?

But I'll tell you from having run in the last federal election and being a keen observer of federal politics you will have to contend with several factors to get past the Hope springs eternal even in a systemically flawed democratic federation because people feel they have a choice even though all of the parties are just PROXY parties for the majority Tyranny.

You feel you can make a difference by virtue of marking your X.

The parties and the media will flog Strategic voting which due to our outdated electoral system for our political federation means only one of the two major parties can win so voting on principle and for a minority will be a lost vote.

The two principle Provinces which comprise 66% of the population don't want our per capita colonialist system to change because it works for them and as such no national party that proposes changes that will take away that imperial and Empire system will never in a million years get a majority..

Quebec gets to hold the balance of power for their minority french speaking population via the Bloc which can never call a referendum.

Oh and if you think spoiling your ballot will get noticed look at Quebec's polling results show the highest percentage of spoiled ballots and it gets sluffed of as ignorance and dumb french men. Could you imagine what would be said if NL had the highest number of spoiled ballots.

The House of Commons and it's constituent partisan members all have the same party line to do what's in the best interest of the majority so as they can gain power.

Where our democratic federation fails in that the upper house isn't equal and as such would have a vision for the nation and keep the Tyranny of the majority HOC in check with it's vision for the majority of the federation as opposed to a vision for the majority of the population.

Chrystal Ocean said...

There must be something circulating in the wind. Just this morning I sent the following email to the writer of an article which appeared in Common Ground magazine and cc'd it to CG.


Dear Mr. Bromley:

I was a volunteer with the BC-STV campaign and read your article in Common Ground ("First Past the Post Mortem") with interest.

The only jarring point for me was at the very beginning. In the second sentence, you wrote:

"Less than half of BC’s eligible voters showed up at the polls, meaning that less than a third of BC’s electorate rejected a proposal that might have made such displays of apathy and imbalance a thing of the past."

Please don't sum up all nonvoting as "apathy."

People who research the issue note that the majority of nonvoters are far from apathetic; this, importantly, includes young people. Nonvoters are as, if not more concerned about the direction of this country as voters are; and many nonvoters are engaged politically in other ways and are volunteers in their communities.

Mainstream media love to perpetuate the myth of the apathetic voter, and the voting public happily and often arrogantly goes along with it. But voter apathy is a myth which misrepresents and is disrespectful of what, for most nonvoters, has been a painful decision. In their (our) view, participation in a system that is not representative of the values of a sizeable majority of the electorate is an endorsement of that system.

Voters are free to disagree with us, but anyone who cares about Canada's increasingly low voter turnouts, must start listening to what nonvoters are saying about WHY they aren't voting, rather than simply labelling us all as apathetic and holding our opinions of no consequence precisely because we don't vote.

Lectures using such techniques to nonvoters appear in editorials of newspapers, including my two local papers, every election season. If low voter turnout is indeed a concern, then the logic of such tactics baffles me. It also serves to preserve the status quo.

Chrystal Ocean
Non-voters Alliance for Democratic & Electoral Reform
Now on Twitter! http://twitter.com/nonvotealliance


Received this positive response from Bromley soon after: "You make a very good point. As you suggest, apathy doesn't really describe the mixed feelings and intentions of the voter who faces very limited choices on election day. Not-voting is as much a statement as voting."

We can't afford to be silent if we want those who still vote to stop maligning us and realize that we're as concerned as many voters are about the failure of our democratic institutions.

Patriot said...

Very good points Crystal Ocean.

Here are some email comments I received today from a person who actually worked on the Conservative campaign in NL during the last federal election. My responses are also included. Due to size limits on comments I'll have to post it as a two parter.

COMMENT:Is it really so hard to get off one's arse and vote? To exercise a right so many died for including so many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians?

RESPONSE: No it isn't hard to vote but why should I waste my time when it can be used more constructively, say in helping to lower the voter turnout so a message is sent that the status quo has to end.

You also assume people died so we would have the right to vote. I don't agree. I believe they died for our freedom, that includes teh ability to make a concious decision not to vote. Its civil disobedience in action. Voting in an election and political freedom, for which people fought and died are not one and the same. Far from it.

COMMENT: Obviously one has the right of free speech regardless of whether one chooses to exercise their franchise, but the point I always took from the saying you call B.S is that it's hard to believe the sincerity of someone who complains who had the opportunity to vote or if they didn't like their options, could have spoiled their ballot,
recruited a candidate that reflects their views or even considered standing themselves.

RESPONSE: Spoiled ballots or not voting, either one is a valid option, I'll give you that. As for not believing the sincerity of someone who hasn't tried to recruit a candidate or hasn't offered themselves to run, that's bunk.

First of all, I never said anything about not doing either. Just because someone chooses not to vote it doesn't mean they aren't involved in other ways.

It's the system that's screwed. It's to the point that its almost useless to even elect a good person. It's like drafting Peyton Manning and expecting him to lead a bunch of 120 lb accountants to a superbowl win. He may be good but he can't do it on his own. Until the system is changed nothing else will change nothing will change if people keep supporting it by voting for mainstream parties and the status quo under the current rules of engagement.

COMMENT: If we truly are passionate people who care about this place, then complaining isn't enough. It doesn't cut it. I respect the intelligence of most people enough to assume they are capable of more than just complaining while taking no other political action.

RESPONSE: Just because someone opts not to vote doesn't mean they are doing nothing. I believe I'm more politically active than 95% of voters who think simply voting is all they are resposible to do and never do anything else. Your position here doesn't hold water.

COMMENT: It's lazy to claim you think "they're all the same" but then complain and assign different values of hatred to different persons who are standing for office as they make decisions. It's also not very credible or consistent criticism.

RESPONSE: Nothing lazy about it. All you have to do is take the blinders off to see it. Once again, the system rewards those who pander to it and MPs are only human. They have a strong sense of self preservation and anyone who goes against their party or rocks the boat is dead in the water, thus nearly all of them cave either early on or soon after. The system is not friendly to independent thinkers.

Patriot said...

Part Two:

COMMENT: If your new role in the blogosphere is to declare that the system of representative democracy is irreparably broken then why laud a premier when he says something with which you agree? Why attack a PM when he says something with which you disagree? Why complain at all unless you think it has some effect? Clearly you believe you have an effect or you wouldn't write what you write. (And btw I'm glad you write what you write).

RESPONSE:I laud any political person (provincial or federal, including Stephen Harper) if they do the right thing but unfortunately they don't do it often, thus the attacks. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Every once in a while governments actually get it right. It's like rolling the dice. Sooner or later they land on the number you want but I wouldn't want to stake my life on when it will happen.

As for what I hope to accomplish with my actions and writing, that's two fold. First it's a great venting mechanism, cheaper than a head shrink. Second I live in hope that enough people will become disillusioned with the current system that they'll do away with it and create one that actually serves the public, not serves the system itself and those who sell out to it.

COMMENT: I think a more constructive approach is to push for reforms of electoral and representative politics to ensure the system is better able to actually represent communities. Will it ever be perfect, NEVER. But Democracy and exercising the franchise is still something I think we as NLers (of all people) should recognize as important given our history.

RESPONSE: On this we agree which is why I'm, along with others, about to start working on exactly that kind of reform. Unfortunately the only ones who can make it happen are the politicians who will have their comfort level threatened by change so the road will be a long one. Convincing others to abandon the current system, by not participating in elections as they exist today, may put enough pressure on those in power to slowly invoke change.

Continuing to vote for the same thing we are trying end sure doesn't send much of a message does it?

COMMENT: I think the problem starts when we're young. Politics and policy and civics are all afterthoughts. More time is spent on just about any other subject. Even though the state can affect our lives in all sorts of ways we act as if politics is someone else's problem or some nchangeable monolith and if we're not careful that can become a self-fulfiling statement.

RESPONSE: I agree, up to a point. Any courses sanctioned by government agencies and used to teach young impressionable children about their government is a little suspect at best. Approved training is sure to avoid discussion of the problems with the system. It has too many shades of Soviet tactics for my liking.

I agree that not enough people are educated about how it works or take an interest which is why I continue to present my position in the hope of nourishing interest in open minds not yet brainwashed into believing the system works.

COMMENT: Not voting and not participating only guarantees that which you clearly hate the most. The change is more likely to happen and sooner if more folks like yourself are involved. If someone is opposed to the empowerment of NL, they'll be far more terrified of five Myles higgins types showing up at a nomination meeting with their friends than five hundred patting people on the back for not voting.

RESPONSE: Once again, you confuse not voting for not participating. I doubt anyone would be very nervous about 5 of me showing up anywhere (except maybe my parents) but none of us will ever be empowered by marking an X for the status quo or for working for what amounts to the good of the party, instead of the public.

Patriot said...

Make that three parts (sorry)

COMMENT: I agree with you one one point though, you have every right to complain and to use that right as much as possible. you also have every right to not vote and not participate in political happenings. I just think that's a very self-defeating strategy and I lament your absence from the process.

RESPONSE: What absence? I'm more present than most people across Canada. Just ask the dozens of people visiting my web site every day from the Parliamentary servers in Ottawa, from the CBC and from various government agencies coast to coast. The list is a long one and growing.

NL-ExPatriate said...

Good discussion thxs Myles.

Just think about this all of the former soviet block nations didn't opt for our First Past the Post electoral system nor did they choose our Westminster/parliamentary model of democary.

Iraq and Afghanistan didn't choose either our Electoral process nor our Per Capita Colonialist political system of Democratic Dictatorship either.

Mainly because our political system is essentially a numbers game of Democratic Dictatorships and Democratic Discrimination by all of the national PUPPET parties of the Tyranny of the Majority against the minority provinces in favor of the majority demographic provinces.

Personally I don't feel the minority provinces and their constituents will ever effect change on a federal level because the demographics of he federation has gone too far, that and the fact that it has already been tried on more than one occasion at MeechLake and the Charlottetown accords.

We are not alone in identifying the problem that our form of democratic federation is flawed and our Electoral system is outdated and doesn't allow for minority provinces or groups to have a voice.

I would much rather see the Balkanization of the Senate than the continued Balkanization of the representative by population House of Commons.

I saw what ignoring and disenfranchising minority groups areas provinces in a country can lead to in the Former Yugoslavia and believe you me I wouldn't wish it on any nation or federation but in the absence of reform from the status Quo minority provinces in this federation won't have a choice.

As for running for a Tyranny of the majority party line I know I personally would never have my nomination papers accepted and I can show you many a case where that is the case. Even if I were to get elected as a candidate for a national PUPPET party I wouldn't last past the first budget because I would refuse to toe the national party line of doing what's in the best interest of the majority of the population over the best interest of the majority of the federation.

Chrystal Ocean said...

Excellent to and fro, Patriot.

Here's another response to this: "If your new role in the blogosphere is to declare that the system of representative democracy is irreparably broken then why laud a premier...? Why attack a PM...? Why complain at all...? Clearly you believe you have an effect or you wouldn't write what you write."

Do voters not listen to people who are ineligible to vote, to the under-18s and immigrants? Is such attention to what they have to say somehow pointless? If not, then why single out nonvoters for exclusion?

The argument that 'if you don't vote, your voice on all affairs political doesn't count' is balderdash. There's certainly no logic to it, not for anyone who cares about addressing low voter turnout.

Anonymous said...

Patriot - This commentary is not directly related to your article, but indirectly it is so I hope you will decide to post it.

The following are the Unemployment Statistics for the months of April and May 2009 released by Statistics Canada on which I wish to ask a few questions to get your readers minds percolating.

Unemployment rate by province:

April 2009 May 2009

N.L. 14.7% 15.1%
P.E.I. 9.7% 10.4%
N.S. 9.2% 8.9%
N.B. 8.9% 8.8%
Que. 8.4% 8.7%
Ont. 8.7% 9.4%
Man. 4.6% 4.9%
Sask. 5.0% 4.9%
Alta. 6.0% 6.6%
B.C. 7.4% 7.6%
Source: Statistics Canada

My question N.L has always had the highest Unemployment rate for a province in Canada for the past 60 years. Why, given its great natural resource base which for the past 60 years have been exported out and utilized by the other provinces to create economies?

For instance just take a look at Manitoba’s Unemployment statistic at 4.6% for the month of April 2009and 4.9% for the month of May 2009 and compare it against the province of NL’s Unemployment statistic of 14.7% for April and 15.1% for May, a difference of a minus 10.1% for the province of NL against Manitoba’s rate for both of those months.

Another question why would the province of Newfoundland and Labrador be exporting its Nickel Ore to a smelter situated in Thompson, Manitoba to preserve Manitoba's economy, while NL's economy is totally in the tanks and at the time the Nickel Contract for Manitoba was drawn up, the Unemployment Rate in NL was even higher?

Where were our politicians, with regard to minding the shop for our province NL, when this deal was being negotiated?

Ussr said...

Well I would just like to add, what a great post Patriot. It’s nice to see that common sense and our fighting spirit hasn’t left every Newfoundlander or Labradorean.

Seeing the stats from Anon, June 10, 2009 7:29 AM, I would just like to add or say that when I do go to add my two cents at the polls I always vote for the party that I feel will do as little damage to my Province as possible. When the Atlantic Accord meant something to me, I would always vote for the party that would help out in that direction.

For thirteen years that party was the Conservative Party of Canada. Mr. Harper and his gang made a lot of false promises and I would like to say, that I was one of those people that fell for his falsehoods, and his misleading ways.

The reason for me bringing this up on this topic is so I may make a point. I know that your blog is read by many Conservative, Liberal and NDP insiders, and I would like to pass a message on to those insiders.

There are hundreds of thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans living outside the province. These displaced peoples do not get upset about what has happened to them very often, they are very forgiving people that are happy enough to know that their children will be able to start a new life in peace somewhere else. But, when you openly strike out against the home they had, to keep them on the bottom. This makes them very angry.

In cities in southern Ontario, such as Oshawa, Brampton, Kitchener, Cambridge, and Hamilton Ontario. These families are very upset about what has transpired with the treatment of their home province,in regards to the Atlantic Accord.

A great many will be taking their anger out on this Conservative government. There is no way that the unemployment rate should be that high in our province. Not with what we give Canada.

“Republic Of”

NL-ExPatriate said...

Atlantic Accord clause which prohibits NL from building any refineries until all of the excess capacity is filled up in the ROC.

INCO sale to VALE subject to 1000 corporate jobs staying in Toronto.

Turbot war dropped once Spain threatened to cancel all Bombardier contracts.

No national political party in the canadian federation can have a vision for the majority of the provinces in the federation because of the demographics of our federation where 66% of the population lives in Upper Lower canada and getting even more centralized due to the cause and effect of our flawed political system where Tyranny of the majority draws all of the national party line.

Stop the insanity!

It isn't the political parties we need to change it is our Tyranny of the majority political system!