We’ve all heard some Canadians saying, “I’m a Conservative voter (or Liberal etc). My grandfather voted PC, my father voted PC. And what’s good enough for grandpa is good enough for me.”
If you give it some thought, it’s really not an unusual position to take when elections come around. On closer inspection, that is likely the main reason why many people vote for a party instead of the local candidate.
To those who tend to vote for the party, it might be tempting to attribute this voting style to “old” Canadians living mostly in rural areas; this belief may also be widely held by younger members of the Caribbean and the immigrant communities. But they would be surprised to know that party preference that remain consistent from one generation to another is also an attribute of “our” community.
One need only look at the near strangle hold (although it has loosened up somewhat) the federal Liberal Party has on the loyalty of Caribbean – Canadian families. That came about when Canada, which once took its immigrants from Europe, began allowing people from other countries like those of the Caribbean to come and settle in the country.
A lot of Caribbean people began coming to Canada in the 1970s – the time when Pierre Trudeau was the prime minister, and to this day they associate Trudeau with allowing them in. Needless to say, they became Liberal voters. Their commitment was deepened when Trudeau successfully fended off Quebec’s first attempt at separation; new immigrants could not come to terms with a part of the country they now call home, wanting to separate. They credit the elder Trudeau with keeping the country together. They have not forgotten.
Of course there is lifelong and intergenerational loyalty to the New Democratic Party as well. The party has its roots in the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, a social democratic party founded in Western Canada, and the Canadian Labour Congress. That combination has won the loyalty of many unionized workers and committed socialists. Many, including many immigrants, have remained loyal to the NDP, and have brought their first and second generations to the party fold.
A lot has changed in the last decades: with the increased information from an expanded media, especially social media, voters are much more open to voting on issues without regard to party loyalty. And that has made elections less predictable than in the past. It also makes voting more interesting; and that is all to the good.
While our paper has not endorsed any party or candidate – at least not yet – it matters that you vote for whatever reason; be it for the party, the candidate or for issues that appeal to you, your family or community. All those reasons are valid in our books.
What is important is that you exercise your franchise, which was won by the struggles of ordinary people who were shut out from the voting booth for many years. In truth, many workers lost their lives in that struggle.
Given how some politicians have given their chosen profession a bad name, it is not surprising that many have grown cynical and have stopped voting. That too is their right. For those in our community who feel that way, we say that there is nothing wrong with taking the ballot, which was dearly paid for the lives of many, and write “none of the above.”
While such ballots are counted as spoiled, that is a vote of conscience. Nothing is wrong with that.