Late to the party here (but I did sign the letter). I don’t have much to add to the excellent public commentary about this misguided act, but there is one point that hasn’t received enough scrutiny, and I think it’s important.
In his public attempt to defend a frankly poor piece of legislation, Pierre Poilievre, Minister for Democratic Reform, asserts the following:
“There are two things that drive people to vote: motivation and information. Motivation results from parties or candidates inspiring people to vote. Information (the “where, when and how”) is the responsibility of Elections Canada. … The Fair Elections Act will require Elections Canada to communicate this basic information, while parties do their job of voter motivation.”
This strikes me as interestingly wrong, betraying a misguided moral vision of what democracy is, and what it could be. Continue reading
We shouldn’t drive a partisan wedge between motivation and information in the way Poilievre so breezily suggests. To do so is to accept a cynical and, frankly, antidemocratic view of Canadian politics.
Think about voting. It is, most of the time and for most people, apparently inconsequential: as political scientists have (in)famously noted, it cannot be justified merely by expected gains associated with the very real costs of becoming informed and showing up at the ballot box. And yet it is a vitally important act, one that citizens routinely undertake regardless of the apparent waste of time and resources.
Whatever voting is, then, it isn’t merely a rational act, or a result of partisan haranguing. It is something far more valuable.
“If the decision to vote is really important, it is because it is a small act that tells us something about individuals’ values. It is like so many other democratic and civic acts: small in isolation, grand in aggregation. Seemingly trivial, but in fact deeply revealing of what an individual values and wants. Good societies are made up of these small acts.”
That profoundly important act is not something we should trust to partisan voices. It is the sine qua non of a healthy democracy, and as such, it deserves better than the partisan fate that Harper and Poilievre have in mind.