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LETTER: Ontario election a wake-up call for Canadians

'The largest problem for our representative democracies is that not enough people are voting for who will form our governments.'

I generally avoid writing on politics and the political system, however, the June 2 election in Ontario is a wake-up call for Canadians. In the wake of the election, I have seen people on social media calling for the removal of the first-past-the-post electoral system and moving toward the proportional representation system. This is a blunt solution to a more nuanced and complex problem — not enough people are going to the polls.

Elections Ontario reported that 47 per cent of all eligible voters cast their ballot in the 2022 election. If 47 per cent is considered a failing grade in our education system, why do we accept this kind of result from our electoral system? This election is not an outlier; in the last four general federal elections (2021, 2019, 2015, 2011), the highest percentage of voter turnout was 68.3 per cent (2015). In a democracy where our elected bodies hold so much power and influence over the electorate's lives, why do we accept these atrocious levels of voter turnout?

I have found there is one central reason for this: we have a political apathy problem at all levels of the elections process. I am amazed at how some political party candidates are elected as political representatives. That made me look at how political parties choose their electoral candidates. I looked at the recent UCP leadership review and the stats from the leadership vote. I found that out of the nearly 60,000 UCP members, only 34,000 voted in the leadership review. This demonstrates that there is political apathy at the most basic levels of our political system. We must take a more active approach to who we are nominating to represent us within our political parties. It is the only way we will have representatives who best represent the values and beliefs of our various political groups. When we have candidates who are better representing their political groups, it strengthens the general election process.

The largest problem for our representative democracies is that not enough people are voting for who will form our governments. This is one of the most important civic duties citizens have and many of us choose not to participate. We must find a way to increase voter turnout in all areas of the political process (preferably in the 90 per cent range), because if we do not, we will elect governments that fail to represent the majority of citizens. This is not the fault of the system, it is the fault of the eligible voters who have the opportunity but fail to participate in elections.

The question of increasing voter turnout is not an easy one to solve, and this will take much discussion among politicians, bureaucrats, and citizens alike. But before you rail on our election system and push for widespread change, remember the system didn’t fail us, we failed the system.

Colby Yacey, St. Albert