Oct 06, 2015

Voter turnout will make the difference

October 19—your date with a ballot box

I’m going to start this column with some math. Maybe not my strongest suit—anymore—but these numbers pretty much speak for themselves.

14. 6,201. 9.4 million. 1.

OK, maybe they need a little help speaking for themselves.

14: That’s how many seats Stephen Harper and the Conservatives needed to gain in the 2011 election to win a majority government.

6,201: That’s the total number of votes those 14 seats were won by.

9.4 million: That’s the number of eligible Canadian voters who didn’t vote in 2011.

1: That’s how many elections we are from an NDP government.

Just imagine how different our country would be today if a relative handful of those Canadians who didn’t exercise their right to vote had actually showed up on Election Day and cast their ballot. There are more than 85,000 CUPE members in B.C., so just think of the difference our votes alone could make if we all get out to vote on October 19.

Imagine not just how different, but how much better our country would be if more people had turned out to vote. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives benefit from low voter turnout. The Conservative base always votes. Getting more people to exercise their right to vote is the first step to defeating the Conservatives and electing a truly progressive, NDP government for the first time in Canadian history.

Stephen Harper claims to be a great economic manager, but he’s run massive deficits every single year he’s been in office, while at the same time gutting funding for health care, education, environmental protection and more. That’s quite a trick. Personally, I don’t mind governments running deficits in tough times, as long as the deficit spending stimulates the economy and helps working people make ends meet. But somehow Harper has done the reverse.

Of all the areas that Harper has cut, very few things make me as angry as his treatment of our veterans. It’s one thing to send our men and women in the armed forces off to war—whether we agree on the justification or not—but it’s quite a different thing to simply abandon them when they come home from serving our country with serious injuries or trauma. One of the most telling incidents in the early days of this election campaign was when Harper held a media event at a Legion with reporters and supporters—but our vets were locked outside.

And his shabby treatment of veterans extends to seniors, too. Under Harper, the people who built this country now have to work longer to get less. The Conservatives have made it harder to retire in dignity, they prefer veterans to live in squalor and they’re making it tougher for young Canadians to build a life at home.

For all these reasons, and so many, many more, we must do everything we can to defeat Stephen Harper. I hope you’ll join me on October 19 and help elect an NDP federal government. I know Prime Minister Tom Mulcair will stop the damage the Conservatives have done to our country, both at home and abroad, and bring the kind of change working people and their families so desperately need.

Finally: please vote. Last election, just a handful of folks would have made the difference.

Mark Hancock is President of CUPE BC, representing 85,000 workers in communities across BC.

COPE 491