Canadian federal elections take place on Monday October 19th and I encourage every eligible voter to exercise their right to cast a ballot. It seems odd that in 2015 there still exist countries where free and fair elections are not the norm, or where the process is flawed if not downright fraudulent. I have voted in each and every federal election since 1979 when to my great dismay, Joe Clark defeated the once charismatic but tired Pierre Trudeau. I was in Ottawa attending Carleton University when the short-lived Clark government fell necessitating another election shortly thereafter in February 1980. As I look back to that election I recall casting my first protest vote – I voted for the Rhinoceros Party. I did other silly things that year – like jumping out of a plane, but I digress. I hadn’t registered another protest vote until this past week – where I voted at an advance poll.
For reasons not for this space, I am personally dismayed by all the available political choices in this election. I am more than dismayed; I am appalled, disappointed, repulsed and generally fatigued by the cast of characters put before us to represent us in Parliament – leaders and candidates alike. I take the privilege of voting quite seriously as you should glean by my steadfast commitment to cast my vote ever since 1979 – my first year of eligibility. So what I am to do? Well, like most things in life, I realize that I actually have a choice.
A choice! What a novel concept. I have free choice legitimately exercised within the boundaries of the law and acting responsibly to not be like sheep doing what everyone else is doing or what is expected of me. And, as I noted, voting is serious business to me. I took the time and diligence to register well in advance, I walked the seven minutes to that advance poll (I choose not to drive), I produced the proper identification, I was handed my ballot and then proceeded to the voting booth. Then I resolutely acted as I chose to and marked up my ballot – spoiling it by leaving a very direct and pointed message on it. According to Elections Canada a spoilt ballot is collected and counted as such. In extreme cases a disproportionately high number of spoilt ballots can invalidate an election.
I am not suggesting for a minute that you follow my lead. This decision I took was a very personal one to me. But how many times in the course of our day do we act like sheep without even thinking? Acting by rote, not knowing why we do – we just aimlessly do. Where is the meaning and purpose in life by taking that course of action? We are only kidding ourselves if we don’t act with purposeful intent; full in the recognition and accepting the responsibility of the beautiful gift of life we have received. I try to listen to my “inner voice” especially when I am feeling lost – and it happens often. I know that I possess the ability to not simply react but to contemplate what I am doing first. There is pain and uncertainty at times that is for sure, but choosing to think about my actions brings light to my journey. When faced with the ups and downs of life, I pause and accept those feelings whatever they are; I concede the impermanence of life and that gives me both the courage and strength to be true to myself – even in the voting booth.