LOUD AND CLEAR by Denzil Doyle

We are currently paying the political parties for every vote they get in an election campaign. It does not seem like much of a stretch to actually pay people to come out and vote.

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It’s time to be serious about getting the youth out to vote
From SCAN's Print Edition

In my last article, I was critical of the fact that issues related to Canada’s high technology industry were conspicuous by their absence in the election campaign, which had just gotten underway. That absence remained intact throughout the campaign. There was an occasion when I thought someone would reply to Elizabeth May’s lament about workers from Eastern Canada having to go to Fort McMurray to find a job. The obvious reason is because Canada’s economy is not sufficiently diversified and this in turn is related to our inability to embrace technology in more segments of it. I thought it would have sparked a debate, but it did not materialize.
The people who should be engaged in the debate are the young people because it is they who are being deprived of jobs in their hometowns and have to make the trek westward. However, they were also conspicuous by their absence in this campaign. While there are no exact figures on the demographics of the 41% of eligible voters who decided they had better things to do than exercise their right to vote, the consensus seems to be that most of them are under the age of twenty-five. Unfortunately, these are the same people who take to the streets in protest of a visit by George Bush or Canada’s position on some political issue in a far-off land.

While such protests are accepted as legitimate political instruments, we should understand that they are very expensive instruments. They result in the deployment of special riot squads and armies of police who are paid overtime. Many of them result in traffic disruptions, loss of business for merchants and significant property damage.
One way of addressing the no-show problem would be to issue a “proof-of-vote” card to everyone who has voted and make such cards mandatory for legitimate participants in such protests. The number of protests would drop dramatically and taxpayers at all three levels of government would save a lot of money. In fact, it might not be unreasonable to give the holders of such cards a tax credit at income tax time. Elections are very expensive and we should be doing everything we can to get value from them. A 59% voter turnout does not constitute value. We are currently paying the political parties for every vote they get in an election campaign. It does not seem like much of a stretch to actually pay people to come out and vote.

As a minimum, we should look at practices followed in other democracies to increase voter turnout. The best known one is that of Australia, where voting in their national elections is mandatory and delinquents are subject to a fine. It was introduced in 1924, when voter turnout reached a low of 47%. At 59%, Canada’s figure is well below that of the United States and the United Kingdom. We could not attribute it to the weather this time. It was near perfect in every riding across the country.

We should make up our mind that we will not go into another federal election without solving (or at least addressing) the problem. Perhaps we should challenge our young people to take the initiative.

Guru in one guise, angel in another, Denzil Doyle is a member of the Order of Canada, a professional engineer, founder and former CEO of Digital Equipment Corp. in Canada, company director, mentor, consultant, investor and author of the best-selling ‘Making Technology Happen’. He can be reached at ddoyle@doyletechcorp.com.

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