One week from today you have an opportunity, Fort McMurray. You have a chance to give your opinion, to say what you think, and to express yourself. What is this wonderful opportunity, you ask? It's the option to vote in the federal election, people.
I know. It's pretty easy to yawn and say "what's the point?" when the end result of the election in this riding seems a foregone conclusion. I must admit even I have expressed that thought a couple of times - not because I don't care about the election but because I've just become a bit jaded living here when the status quo (at least in provincial and federal politics) never seems to change. The thing is, though, that that isn't really the point. I could talk about how people in other countries fight and die for the right to hold democratic elections. I could talk about how we have had world wars to preserve democracy for all of us. I could go on and on about how we have a civic responsibility to vote - but I won't.
What it boils down to is this : vote, and express your opinion, or don't complain when things happen in government that you don't like. This is your chance to either contribute to the local incumbent's likely landslide win or to say "hold on, you know what? I don't agree with you". Your vote DOES matter, whether it's just another vote for what appears to be the inevitable victor or if it's a vote for the ones who were actually courageous enough to stand against him. That's takes some bravery, people, because who wants to be in a fight you pretty much know you'll lose? I think those people deserve to know some people support them, too. Even if all you do when you vote is to draw a big black X across the entire ballot you have expressed your opinion and made clear where you stand (even if where you stand is thinking not a single one of these parties should be in power).
Incidentally if you are so inclined you can express your opinion of our leadership all year long, too. Know how I do it? When you get those flyers from our local MP in the mail do you toss them in the trash or recycling? You know, the ones that say things like "Do you want your government to do more about crime?". I always feel like responding "well, gee, no, I think we should empty all the prisons and let them all wander the streets!". Of course I want more to be done to address crime - I just happen to differ on what I think needs to be done, and how to do it. Anyhow, I have this terrible tendency to grab a red marker and write "Mr. Jean, please stop wasting my money on these flyers" all over the flyer, and then send it back to him. Yes, Brian Jean, that's me, not some cranky 95-year old. And I mean it. Stop wasting my tax money on those flyers, because I strongly suspect most of them end up in the trash. You keep sending them, and I swear I will keep sending them back to you with my red-marker plea to cut it out already.
And yes, I am still jaded. Regardless of where your political sympathies lie it's tough to drum up a lot of enthusiasm for a race where you all pretty much know who the winner will be. Unless every closet non-conservative suddenly decides to vote next week we all know who the MP representing our riding will be. Our voter turnout for elections ranges somewhere between "abysmal" and "oughta be a crime". We tend to have electoral turnout statistics like 21%. That's past horrendous, and if we aren't careful "elections in Fort McMurray" will appear as a synonym for "apathy" in future dictionaries.
Jaded or not, though, I'll be headed to the polls on Monday. I hope you will be, too. Stand up and be counted, people. Voting is a right and a privilege. Use it! And get a red marker, too. I suspect you're gonna need it...