Sunday, July 19, 2009

 

JEWELS OF THE SUMMER

Too frequently it seems, reviews, reports and public opinion polls are released in the midst of the "dog days" of summer, and despite their relevance go unnoticed or under reported in the media.

Two weeks ago for instance I noted on this post a one-year old report which suggests that police first responders are being placed at unnecessary risks by the Federal Government's mixed messages over the issue of Canada's long-gun registry. (See: PRAISE GOD AND PASS THE AMMUNITION, July 6/09).

It's a favorite tactic of governments to bury into the summer months the tabling of well meaning reports with which they either don't agree, or which for some reason or other are philosophically at odds with the governing party's stated policy or principles. In the waining days of the past month, Elections Canada suggested in its annual report that it plans to push come the fall for legislative changes which will allow voters in Canada to cast their ballots on the Internet.

In the October 2008 Federal Election, less than 59% of eligible Canadians voted. Thus I can't imagine that any government, the current Harper Government included, would want to limit comment, discussion nor debate on a matter of such crucial importance. There must be a reasonable explanation why the report saw the light of day on June 27, one day after the House of Commons' session ended. The Tories have had an axe to grind against Elections Canada ever since the RCMP raid on their Ottawa HQ over the "in and out" financing scheme of the 2006 elections...but surely I digress.

Be that as it may; Elections Canada sees allowing Canadians to vote from their computers as perhaps the only remedy for the ever dwindling number of electors who actually bother to cast a vote when Federal Elections are called. After a Liberal and two Conservative minorities in a row, polls now suggest that we are getting fed-up with minority governments. Though political polls done outside of election periods are notoriously fickle; and evidence suggests there isn't much of an appetite nationwide for trudging to the polls yet again this fall or during the upcoming winter months. Who knows?

Meantime if Elections Canada's push at..."bringing the ballot to the elector" is successful, it plans to ask Legislators to modify the law so that electronic voting, via the Internet can be tested in a by-election in 2013. The report which was tabled in the House of Commons the day Members of Parliament had left for their home constituencies says a survey conducted for elections officials found that almost two-thirds of people who did not vote on October 14, 2008 blamed "everyday situations" - Holidays; too busy; family obligations; work schedules; for not bothering to honour their democratic obligations...for the record the other third cited negative attitudes towards politics, apathy and cynicism as reasons for not voting. One might be tempted to suggest whatever the excuses, they seem somewhat reflective of the attitude of the politicians who "got up and left" before that report was tabled before them on Parliament Hill.

Lastly to confirm its belief that electronic registration and the use of online ballots could improve election day turn-out, the Federal agency claims that 55% of those too busy, apathetic and cynical Canadians from the 2008 election would have voted if they could have done so from the comfort of their home computer. Polls though can be notoriously fickle and about as clear as mud.

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