Need for youth vote shouldn’t eclipse need for fairness

A recent mess around a special ballot at the University of Guelph, which involved a Conservative staffer who, according to reports, made a move to grab a ballot box with or without actually touching the box, has raised a lot of attention.

Unfortunately, too much of the attention is being shone upon the situation for the wrong reasons.

It’s clearly tempting to single out the Tory staffer in question as anything from overzealous to crazy, and to paint this as antidemocratic policy straight from Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, as a speech writer for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff did today (invoking, of all things, Pink Floyd).

The Liberals are having a politicking field day on this one, as is their right. The public, however, should see this for what it is.

Today, Elections Canada said that while this ballot was “well-intentioned,” it has asked the officer behind the initiative “not to engage in any further activities of a similar nature,” as were all returning officers.

Allegedly – and presumably, given the bizarre reaction by the motivated Conservative – the vote was not the impartial affair it should have been. Materials promoting parties were in plain sight. Given the left-wing climate of the arts- and agriculture-heavy U of G, and of course the objections of the box-wresting Tory, there probably wasn’t much there promoting the Conservative party. There may well have been outright bashing.

There’s also the fact that this vote wasn’t necessary. All voters in Guelph have the ability to vote through the usual channels – going to a university doesn’t make a voter special. The idea that the Guelph riding might prove more of a battleground than one’s home riding is irrelevant. Voters should vote in the riding they identify as being their home, not where they’d like to.

The buzz around the University of Guelph’s so-called ‘vote mob’ has been cute. But the party-friendly ‘mob’ moniker is almost a double entendre here. Democracy is built around the idea voters shouldn’t be coerced. The integrity of the voting process needs to be respected, and not only when the party you don’t like does something they shouldn’t.

It’s key we get the youth vote out. It’s also key the youth vote not be treated as an automatic left wing vote, and they – as every Canadian – be given the environment to make their own choices.

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1 Comment »

  1. Wendy Says:

    Mr. Holmes, I will take some of your points, but I have a serious issue with others.

    Should more research have been done and procedures more strictly followed in terms of the special ballot? Yes, it appears so. However, Elections Canada upheld the ballots, which it could not have done were they truly improper.

    Should the vote be impartial? Absolutely it should. Is Anti-Tory sentiment high on the University of Guelph campus? As an alumnus and former employee of the University, I can say, absolutely it is.

    “There may well have been outright bashing”

    There may have? Were you there? Did you see it? Did you see with your own eyes anything that rendered the vote impartial? If so, I welcome your objection. If not, the conjecture is quite useless. Yes, media and campus climate plays a role, but let us observe that the Tories themselves are not doing much to endear themselves to young voters either. If anything swayed a potential Tory voter to cast a vote for someone else, my guess is, it would be the antics of the Conservative supporter.

    Lastly, your assertion that students don’t need to vote on campus as they can vote at home holds no water. For many undergrads, including myself when I was one, Guelph IS home, and their connection to the place their parents live is incidental. The Guelph candidates are the ones these students have seen in debates and on the local news.

    Further, as an off campus student, I had issues with accessibility of polling places, not in terms of structure, but in terms of location. I, along with many other students, did not have a car. In some instances, I could only attend the polling stations in the evening hours. Using public transit and then having to walk a fair distance in the dark and/or in inclement weather to get to a polling station is unsafe and not reasonable. I dealt with those things and voted anyway because it’s important to me, but I found it absolutely ridiculous that I should have to go to the lengths I did to vote. Many wouldn’t have.


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