Advanced polls opened this week for the BC Election. The election is for the provincial government and not for regional or local government, so I am not appealing for support for myself or my colleagues. I am also not promoting any individual candidate in the ridings that represent the SLRD. What I am doing is discussing the importance of voting in a democracy and in so doing, encouraging all qualified residents to get out to a polling place to vote.
For a democracy like ours to function well, we need as many people as possible to be involved in the election of our government. The right to vote carries with it a responsibility. We often hear people complaining about ‘politicians’ or ‘the government’ but we really shouldn’t do this if we do not vote. I also hear the view that an individual’s one vote won’t count, but that one vote is really the power of a democracy. Take all of those individual votes away and what are we left with? The answer is some form of dictatorship in which individuals outside of the ruling group are powerless.
There are many places in the world where individuals do not have the right to vote; where rulers are appointed or seize power by force; where there is no freedom to criticize government; where dissenters are imprisoned or even killed. In our history, there were times when not everyone could vote – at one time, men were considered superior to women, so only they could vote. But even then, not every man had this privilege, and the vote was originally restricted to property owners, which disenfranchised many men.
Women fought for the right to vote and only succeeded in gaining this after years of bitter struggle.
First Nations people were offered the right to vote at the time of Confederation but only if they gave up their treaty rights and Indian (First Nation) status. There were other offers in the ensuing 93 years but it was not until 1960 that the vote was granted unconditionally to all Indigenous peoples.
We have progressed so that today, voters in BC are simply required to be Canadian citizens, at least 18 years old, and a resident of BC for at least six months. The rights that we benefit from today are the result of our forebears working, struggling, fighting so that we could have a say in the important decisions that affect all of our lives. We do them, and ourselves, a disservice if we shrug our shoulders and say that there is no point in voting, or that we don’t have the time, or that we don’t know what the issues are.
We each have a responsibility to vote.
For more information, check out the Elections BC website at https://elections.bc.ca
Chair, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District