Last week, at an organized special polling station at the University of Guelph, students and organizers reported that a staffer of the local Conservative Party candidate interfered with voting and attempted to take a sealed ballot box. In a statement released later, Party officials claimed that the staffer was not trying to interrupt students’ right to vote, but to ensure that proper voting procedures were being followed. However, a lawyer representing the Conservative Party sent a letter to Elections Canada demanding confirmation that the special ballots cast would be nullified.
It seems from the release from the Conservatives that they’re standing up for Canadians’ democratic rights, and defending a highly formal process by which we select our leaders. That is a noble and admirable goal. However, this is coming from a party that’s gone to great lengths to circumvent that democracy, by shutting down Parliament twice when faced with popular opposition, altering and forging documents that our representatives rely on to form our laws and direct our country, and being the first government in the history of the British Commonwealth to be found in contempt of Parliament. It’s a hard pill to swallow that now they’re defending democracy, especially when the votes they demanded would not be counted belong to a demographic that tends not to support the Conservative tax cut agenda.
More likely is that the Conservative Party knows that their platform is not winning much support among young, educated first time voters. Past dismal youth voting turnout means that the concerns of young Canadians take a back seat in federal politics. That means that issues like funding schools and universities and opening up the economy to first-time job-seekers inspire fewer debates than, say, billion dollar fighter jets and tax cuts for the super-wealthy. In this election, the efforts of people like Rick Mercer and organizers of university campus “vote mobs” to get those young people out to the polls is a threat to Conservative success in urban Canada, which means a threat not only to their majority, but to their winning the election at all.
The Conservative Party’s interference and complaint about the poll has led Elections Canada to ban the campus special ballots for the rest of the campaign. But young Canadians still have options if voting on election day is problematic. You can vote by special ballot at your local Returning Office in any riding (not just your home riding), or at the scheduled advance polls in your riding. If you haven’t registered to vote, do it now! Visit the Elections Canada website for more info.
Remember, Stephen Harper’s Conservative majority depends on you not voting!