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NOW Atlantic: Smart thinking for a changing world
In 2015, more than one in four Canadians didn’t bother to vote in the federal election.
A Winnipeg teenager knows we can do better.
She certainly has. Diagnosed last week with inoperable cancer and given only a few weeks to live, 18-year-old Maddison Yetman cast a ballot in her first federal election … from her hospital bed.
In a poignant video posted to social media she asked in a final hashtag, “#WhatsYourExcuse.”
It’s easy to make excuses, no doubt. Some will be turned off and disillusioned by what has been an acrimonious 33-day campaign that’s seen far too much name-calling, accusations and innuendo.
What difference could one vote possibly make, anyway? (Former Island MLA Alan McIsaac knows one vote can mean everything. After a judicial recount in 2015, he was tied with his opponent and won his seat in a coin toss.)
But amidst the propaganda, fog and rhetoric of the past 39 days, there has also been substantial policy discussions and debates on a host of pressing issues — debt and deficit, carbon tax and climate change, education, affordable housing, guns and immigration, to name a few.
There have also been some lighter moments. Green Party candidate Alex Clark could hear voices while canvassing an Egmont home, but no one answered when he knocked at the both the front and back doors. When a young man came down a ladder and told him his father was on the roof, Clark climbed up, shook the man’s hand and “talked roofs for a bit.”
Even without going to those heights, I have the greatest respect for Clark and all the men and women who put their names on the ballot. Thanks to them, we have no shortage of options among five federal parties, their messages being drummed home by their leaders and candidates in each riding.
It’s easy to vote, much harder to decide who to support. But surely we can find the party most closely aligned with our values and support them on election day.
We should cherish the right to vote in free and democratic elections — a right bought and paid for by Canadian soldiers who fought and died in world wars to protect the freedoms we enjoy today.
On Monday, we’ll elect a new government, one that will decide how our tax dollars will be spent over the next four years. Early signs for a higher voter turnout are encouraging with a 29 per cent increase in this year’s advanced polls over 2015.
One of those voters was Maddison Yetman who then posted her plea to Canadians to follow suit with hashtags to each of the federal leaders.
In what must have been a refreshing reality check from what has been, too frequently, a vitriolic campaign, the leaders watched the video and responded.
“I’m speechless,” NDP leader Jagmeet Singh tweeted. ”This is truly powerful, Maddison. Thank you for your courage in the face of adversity.”
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau also shared the tweet and wrote, “Thank you for inspiring Canadians, and reminding us how precious a vote is.”
For that, we should all be grateful to Maddison.
“This is my last chance to make a difference,” she said after casting her ballot. “… get out and vote!”
Wayne Young is a freelance writer living in Summerside.