What causes voter apathy? Why, in the most recent federal and provincial elections, did roughly 40% of eligible voters stay home? Perhaps candidate A, running for party A led by leader A, is not perceived as being significantly different from, or better than, candidate B, running for party B led by leader B.
This lack of perceived difference between candidate-party-leader A and candidate-party-leader B, is not the only problem in an election. It is also impossible to vote directly on an issue. Yes, you can let an issue influence how you vote, but on election day you are forced to endorse one candidate, party and leader and repudiate all other candidates, parties and leaders. Issues take a back seat to personalities.
In theory, voters can have their specific concerns addressed during an election. But that's not reality. Elections simply do not provide voters with a direct say on any issue. Rather, elections are centered on personalities. The real question, the only real choice, is as to which party should run the province or the country.
A vote for an Opposition Party candidate is a vote to replace the Government Party, and a vote for the Government Party candidate is a rejection of the Opposition Parties' bid for power. But Canadians cannot use their ballots to implement - or to reject - any specific policy concerning health, education, labour, social services, the criminal justice system, fiscal issues, the environment, energy, infrastructure, agriculture, etc.
Total control remains with the politicians up to five years at a time. And when voting day finally arrives, issues are drowned out by one big question: which leader/party should be the Government/Premier, or the Government/Prime Minister? Even when issues are debated in the election - and you don't see much of that - voters do not have a direct and specific say on any of them individually. You cannot say whether spending is too high or too low, or whether taxes have been cut too far or not enough. All you can really say is whether the Government Party should be re-elected, or replaced with an Opposition Party.
When we as voters do not have a direct and binding say in regards to any issue of public policy, when we are offered only a shallow choice as to which group of people will get the five-year blank cheque, perhaps we should be amazed that only 40% of voters stay home.
In contrast, citizens in Switzerland, Italy, British Columbia, New Zealand and many U.S. states have more choice. They can by-pass their politicians and force a referendum on an issue of concern. They vote for their representatives, and can also vote on a legislative proposal at the same time. Since the 1800s, the Swiss have voted on their constitution, immigration policy, international treaties, tax rates, and other issues. Americans in 23 states have voted on physician-assisted suicide, reducing property taxes, Sunday shopping, campaign finance reform, raising tobacco taxes, outlawing steel traps in...