Hooray, it’s municipal election time in Alberta. Lawn signs, town hall discussions and citizens complaining the day after voting about the same old bunch of politicians being elected. How often are these the same people who didn’t vote anyway? The pundits are fond of saying that if you don’t cast your ballot, you deserve the government you get. The Red Deer election seems to be off to a quiet start. Even compared to the 2007 election. Candidates aren’t coming forward and it has been predicted that voter turn out will be at an all time low. In 2007, 22% of eligible voters cast their ballot on election day. What happened to our democracy?

My wife and I took part in the federal election process many years ago. We weren’t candidates or campaign workers but enumerators. We went door to door adding people to the voter lists. For us it was something to do and earn some extra cash. My involvement with the democratic process was slight. At the time I couldn’t remember the last time I voted and didn’t know the name of the federal MP for our area. During the enumerator orientation the boss told us something that changed my mind immediately and forever.

For that particular election Canada was switching over to cardboard ballot boxes. Our government had lent the traditional tin ballot boxes to Haiti for their recent elections and many of the boxes came back riddled with bullet holes and sprayed with blood. Bullet holes and blood? Holey moley! I had seen video of the Haitian riots on the news but thought little about it. After all it was happening somewhere else. The vision of ballot boxes with bullet holes and blood-stains stuck in my mind and it brought me to the realization that as citizens of this country we have an obligation to take part in the democratic process. In other countries, people give up their lives to vote in free elections and dictators kill them to prevent democracy from happening. If you don’t vote, either locally or provincially or in the federal election, you run the risk of losing democracy. So get out and vote!

PS. – Taking part in democracy doesn’t end when you stuff the ballot into the box. As citizens we need to remind the elected officials that they work for us. Turn up at council meetings when possible. Keep informed about the activities of  your local government and don’t be afraid to call them on anything you think is contrary to the  promises they made during the campaign or detrimental to your community.

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