Thursday, June 03, 2004

Hey dudes, the parties are after our vote ~ The Montreal Gazette

Hey dudes, the parties are after our vote

Targetting youth. Quebecer considers his options in going to polls for the first time

Sikander Hashmi
Freelance, The Montreal Gazette

June 3, 2004

Dude, we're in demand, aren't we? The Gazette and have special features on the "youth vote," while Elections Canada and the CBC have a contest called Student Vote 2004.

We're so important that the Elections Canada Web site even has a special section for us titled Young Voters. The Liberals, Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois all have special sections for us on their Web sites as well. The Bloc is even planning to visit bars and clubs in an attempt to reach out to us.

Important adults across the country are wondering how to make voting hip and cool, with the ultimate goal of getting us out to our local polling stations on election day.

Statistics fuel their worries. "According to Elections Canada, only about 22 per cent of voters aged 18-24 came out to vote in the last federal election. The number is part of a downward trend in youth voting: In the 1993 federal election, 38 per cent voted; in 1997, the number was about 27 per cent," says the CBC Web site (

OK, so maybe we should care. After all, voting and elections are the very basic elements of a democracy, and since we are lucky enough to live in a wonderful democracy such as Canada (as opposed to a kingdom or dictatorship), we should be thankful. What better way to express our thanks than to drive down to the polling station on June 28 and mark an X beside a name?

So I look at my options. I've been brought up as a Liberal, but I'd like to vote for a cool party with a cool leader. Paul Martin is far from cool. He's always serious, has a weird picture on his election posters, and on top of that, there's that sponsorship scandal. As if that wasn't enough, I fired off an e-mail about high gas prices to my Liberal MP a few weeks ago, but he didn't even bother to reply.

I don't see much reason to vote for them anyway. They keep scaring me about Stephen Harper and I don't remember the Liberals offering anything good except for Martin's $9-billion health-care announcement. Why are they being so defensive anyway? I don't care about Stephen Harper. I want to know what the Liberals have to offer. It doesn't seem as if they have much, since they keep talking about Harper. Thus, the Liberals are off my list.

That Bloc candidate keeps peeking at me whenever I go around town, though I still didn't figure out how to pronounce her name. I love those colourful election posters though, especially the ones featuring Gilles Duceppe. The Bloc posters might be cool, but do I really want to send a Bloc MP to Ottawa? I'm not a separatist, and I'm not sure if I should vote for a separatist party. Hmm, well, at least if a Bloc MP wins, it will mean one less Liberal. Yeah, so maybe the Bloc.

Stephen Harper doesn't seem as scary as the Liberals want me to believe he is. He is sort of cool, but whenever I think of him, I think of tax cuts, privatized health care, Canadian troops in Iraq and being best buddies with Dubya. While the first two might not be all that bad, the last two freak me out. He seems like a good guy, though, and perhaps if he hadn't been associated with some of those scary Canadian Alliance dudes, I might have considered voting for the Conservatives.

The NDP and Jack Layton have always been of interest to me. While I'm not a big fan of all the orange and Jack's moustache, they seem to have something going. Their platform caught my interest, but for some reason, I keep getting the gut feeling that the NDP's ideas are only good on paper. NDP screw-ups in B.C. and Ontario also keep haunting me. They might not be good in governing, but if the Liberals get a minority government, perhaps they can form a government with the NDP.

But I don't even know who the NDP candidate is in my riding, plus I'm sure he/she doesn't have a chance in the world of winning. I can either vote for the NDP and let my vote go to waste, or vote for the Bloc, and help defeat the Liberal incumbent, thus helping the Liberals in getting a minority.

You know, this is sort of fun.

While exploring the Elections Canada Web site, I found about the Green Party. I checked out their Web site, and I found their ideas to be really cool. Maybe I should vote for them. But we don't have proportional representation, and if I'm going to vote for the Greens, I might as well not vote, because my vote won't make any difference.

Does my vote really do count? I'm beginning to wonder about that now. As long as I don't vote for one of the parties that really has a shot at winning, there's not much point in voting, is there?

I've never voted before, so maybe I'll just do it for the fun of it. It probably would have been more fun though if the Rhinoceros Party were still around.

Sikander Hashmi, 21, lives in Vaudreuil-Dorion and is editor of the Web site

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2004