After having spent days complaining about the lack of engagement in genuine conversation from our politicians, I feel duty bound to celebrate when one of them talks to me. Rod Jackson, our PC candidate and the current MPP for Barrie, responding to my tweets with an invitation to discuss things further via email; and then sent me a page-long message with specific responses to each issue I raised with him. Frankly, I’m impressed. For him (or even for one of his staff) to take the time to engage directly with a single voter in the week before the campaign is a good indication of politician who actually takes his role as a representative seriously.
I certainly don’t see eye-to-eye with his party on every issue, but as I’ve said before, I deeply believe that we should be sending people with competence and integrity to Queen’s Park. The ability to run an efficient campaign is actually a pretty good test of the former. I’ve yet to formulate a satisfactory test for the latter, unfortunately – I suspect it requires taking a lot of time to actually get to know our candidates as people.
There’s been a lot of talk this year about ‘declining your vote.’ This is pretty much the only option that voters have for expressing their dissatisfaction with the available candidates in a way that actually gets counted. Whether anything is done with that count is open to debate. It’s certainly better than not voting at all, and probably worse than voting for a third-party candidate. But either way, I’d much rather say ‘this is the person I want to represent me’ than ‘what can I do to stop that person from representing me.’ In an ideal world, as a voter I’d feel like an HR manager at a successful, popular candidate, interviewing a number of talented, qualified candidates, and having to pick the one who would be the absolute best fit. Part of the problem is that a vote only records a tiny amount of information – a single check in a single box. If there are 4 candidates in the riding, that information could be encoded in 2 bits.
Candidate A: 00
Candidate B: 01
Candidate C: 10
Candidate D: 11
Which can only go so far in capturing the hopes, fears, aspirations and concerns of the average voter. This is why we need to be engaged politically beyond simply voting. We actually need to do the work of democracy – reading upcoming bills, understanding the mechanisms of government, writing to our representatives, learning about the issues facing our city, our province, and our world.
We could also start encoding more information in the ballot. A Single Transferrable Vote system would go some way towards doing that.