Arm Chair Mayor: Peter Humphreys- Politically Unengaged

I recently read about a BC lady that discovered after over 60 years in Canada, she wasn’t a Canadian citizen. When asked why this wasn’t discovered when she voted she replied that she has never voted because she “preferred to remain politically unengaged”. I was shocked and upset. What does “politically unengaged” exactly mean? I’m sure she told anyone who would listen what her opinions were but couldn’t be bothered to actually get out and vote. Although I value that we live in an open and free society and shouldn’t be forced to do anything we don’t want to do, voting comes closest to one of those things that should be mandatory.

We are all affected by political decisions and we all have an opinion on politics but low voter turnout is disappointing and leaves our system open to manipulation by groups that are organized enough to get their votes out. Our political system is run by special interest groups and we are too apathetic to do anything about it. I was a CUPE Local 38 member when I worked for the City of Calgary. Curious about unions, I attended one of the meetings. Out of hundreds of members, there were less than a dozen of us at the meeting. I realized from that point on how special interest groups can control most of our democratic institutions. I could have gathered up a few friends from work and formed a majority voting block and controlled the union.

I was obviously not the first one to figure this out because we see from provincial and federal politics that due to voter apathy, a relatively small group can control the agenda. Voter apathy is ripe here in Revelstoke/CSRD as well. Relatively few people show up to public meetings unless they are directly and immediately affected. This allows government to ram through legislation and bylaws and claim they conducted public consultation. If they wanted real public consultation they would shift to social media like Facebook to solicit feedback. I was interested in the recent Liberal leadership election so I purchased a membership and became a Liberal party member. I’m not sure why more people don’t get involved at the party level, is it the fear of being a “card carrying” member of a political party? The party level is where you have the most influence over the political process. Over the course of several weeks, I received hundreds of emails, and between 1 and 3 phone calls per night, all trying to influence my vote. I even had our MLA call me on the last day of voting. When was the last time you had a sitting politician call you?

The process was an excellent opportunity for me to provide feedback directly to the decision makers. It was interesting that I was able to rank my votes for the party leader but when the candidates were asked at the leadership debate, all of them were against any type of change to proportional representation. It engaged me more in the process, made me think more about the issues than a traditional voting system. My vote made a difference at each level.

Although this might sound like the time when your Mother told you to eat all your vegetables because there were kids starving in Africa, there are countries that have no meaningful voting process and if you don’t exercise the privilege, you might lose it.

In my opinion.

Your Arm Chair Mayor,

Peter Humphreys