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Student View

‘Your vote, your voice’

By Jillian Terry

By the time the next issue of the Gazette comes off the presses, our home and native land could have a new leader at its helm. Or we could be entering into a second term under the current Conservative government. Either way, change is inevitable. Members of Parliament will change and shift; bringing new blood into the House of Commons that will shape the way this country is run and the decisions that are made, affecting Canadians from coast to coast. The election comes at an interesting time for Memorial students – we are being asked to go to the polls smack dab in the middle of our mid-term break, not the most opportune occasion for many of us. But in times of potential change for our country, timing shouldn’t matter.

There are a plethora of public and private reasons why we choose whether or not to exercise our democratic right, but one reason stands out among the rest – the simple fact that what you select in a voting booth or on a mail-in ballot is your say. It’s a permission slip for the ability to voice your opinion about the way the country is being governed, whether your opinion includes compliments, kudos, critiques, or complaints.

But for more than half of Canada’s post-secondary population, the criticisms against the government of the day are filed without even having taken the time to actively participate in their election. It’s nothing less than unfair to expect Members of Parliament and other government officials to adhere to the demands of Canadian students who haven’t taken advantage of the opportunity to vote – an opportunity simply not offered in undemocratic societies around the world. Matrimonially, one could sum up this argument as the “vote now or forever hold your peace” line of reasoning.

Whether or not you are politically active by other means – by joining a political party or non-profit organization, protesting, writing letters to your representative in the House of Commons – a simple vote is a cornerstone of democracy as we know it, despite what statistics demonstrating declining voter turnout tend to suggest.

As Canadians, we have often been moved to go to the polls. A particularly contentious issue, a charismatic party leader, or signs of troubling times in the national economy are all reasons why individuals have been driven to vote in past elections. These reasons, however, should be considered secondary to the fact that voting is part of what makes us Canadian. It is why we study Parliament in grade school, why we know the national anthem, and why we can recognize the flag anywhere in the world. Voting certainly isn’t the only way to express our citizenship, but it certainly is an effective one.

So regardless of the timing, Oct. 14 is a day where a moment should be spared in celebration of the freedom we share as Canadians. By voting, you can legitimize everything positive or negative you will have to say about the next government, by declaring that you voted for or against them when given the chance. Vote not as an influenced part of any alphabetically themed campaigns, or because of a handshake you received from a party leader in the UC – vote for yourself, as a student in Newfoundland and Labrador, wanting to have your voice heard. It’s the easiest way to have your say.