Why would Canada’s Government want to discourage voting? Canada’s Steven Harper Government has announced that it will change Canada’s Elections Act to prohibit Elections Canada from encouraging Canadian’s to vote. Why would they do this? One of the goal of every democracy be to encourage high voter participation rates, and in these days of declining voter participation, why would the Government be actively discouraging voting.
Unfortunately, the answer is pure politics. The Conservative electoral base votes without encouragement. They are old, rural and always vote. For Justin Trudeau, the young, charismatic leader of the Liberal Party, it is a different story. Trudeau is counting on a 2008 Obama-like movement where young voters get inspired and activated. This is the biggest threat to a Harper re-election in 2015 – the youth begin to vote and they vote for Trudeau.
So Harper’s response…. Do everything he can to make sure youth continue to stay home on election day. His first move… prohibit Elections Canada from encouraging voting; something Elections Canada has done for years in a completely bi-partisan, non-political way.
What Harper is doing is reprehensible. He is undermining basic democratic principles for short term political game. This has become, unfortunately, typical of his government. From centralizing power in the Prime Minister’s Office, restricting Ministers’ contact with the press, eliminating post Question Period media scrums , villanizing NGO, to unprecedented electorate segmentation, Stephen Harper is manipulating the Canadian governance system to ensure his party’s short term success. And in these cynical times, no one is calling him on it.
It has always been known that Canada’s government system has massive potential for abuse of power. Power in the Canadian system is concentrated in the executive more than in any other democracy on the planet. This has always been know, and Canadian politicians – Liberal and Conservatives – have behaved admirably in the past to respect basic democratic principles despite the potential and temptation of short term abuse. Harper is rejecting the convention and, in doing so, is undermining our democracy. It is time he is called out on it.