09 Sep 2008 Gambling At the Ballot Box
By Mark Penninga – ARPA Canada (www.arpacanada.ca)
If we really think about it, the vote that we may cast on October 14 is extraordinary. We have been given a say in who will rule this country and by what principles it will be ruled. The power of your vote is no less than anyone else’s, not even the Prime Minister’s. Throughout history, much blood was spilled so that citizens could have a voice in government. And in many other countries, elections are corrupted with intimidation and dishonesty. We are sure blessed to be able to contribute in such a meaningful way to the government of Canada. It is both a great privilege and a great responsibility to be able to vote.
But judging from the dismal voter turnout and the attitude towards elections, it sure does not seem that Canadians see our vote as a privilege and responsibility. What do I mean? Canadians, including many Christians, treat their vote as if it is a gambling game. We try to calculate the direction that this country or riding is going in and then we cast our vote pragmatically, if at all. “It would be a wasted vote if I voted for him or her,” or “I’ll put my vote behind the candidate who will most likely beat the party that I despise” are just two examples of a much more common phenomenon.
We are so quick to come up with cynical comments about how our vote is not much of a privilege. After all, Canada has an electoral system commonly called “first-past-the-post” which does not represent a large share of the votes. As a result, winning becomes everything and second, third, and seventh place are not represented in the House of Commons. But we should be very careful when we begin to treat our vote as if it is up to us to decide the outcome of an election. We are called to be faithful with our one vote. It is God who determines who will win an election and rule.
There are other reasons why we should concentrate on our own vote and make sure that it is cast in accordance with our beliefs. Democracy becomes even weaker when votes don’t really reflect our views. If we have a problem with the system for voting we should be part of the movement to change it – which keeps going after elections are over. Elections aren’t the time to act. Furthermore, a recent party finance law means that every vote for a party translates into money for that party. That explains why the Green Party was able to emerge so quickly from being an unknown party of volunteers to a well-financed and professionally organized party.
I’m not suggesting that policy alone is what to look for when deciding who to vote for. There are candidates who run on solid platforms but lack what it takes to represent a riding in Ottawa. An MP has a difficult job. Candidates who run should have the ability to fulfill the requirements of the job. Being a Christian does not in itself make someone a good MP.
This is part of the reason why ARPA Canada does not endorse a particular party. It should be the responsibility of individuals to take a serious look at their local candidate, the party, and the policies and measure them up to their Christian faith. The results will be different from one riding to the next. What matters most is that Christians get behind candidates who would be good as their MP. These men and women need support. They need your vote but they also need financial help with their campaign and volunteers.
This election, instead of gambling with your vote, put it where it really belongs and then follow it up with some extra support.
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