Be a full citizen: vote

You have a monumental thing to do today.

You have a monumental thing to do today.

And there are exceptionally few excuses for failing to weigh in.

Albertans go to the polls today to elect a provincial government, after the most contentious, acrimonious, polarizing and invigorating campaign in decades.

Based on past history, we are not easily inspired to exercise our democratic rights. Just 40.6 per cent of Albertans voted in the last provincial election, in 2008, and the participatory numbers have been sliding for decades.

But as a province, we have rarely found ourselves in a position as unbalanced and uncertain as we have in the last four years. We have been bedevilled by bad leadership, uninspired policy and a glaring failure to listen.

And matters have come to a head in the harsh light of the last month’s campaign.

Albertans are fond of believing — and sometimes trumpeting — that this is the greatest province in the country, and maybe even the best place to live in the world.

We puff our chests out about our economy, or independence, our low taxes and our boundless opportunities and resourcefulness. And in many ways, we have great reason to be proud.

But our advantages are waning and our very willingness to do something about it is being thrown into question.

On occasions such as this, the inaction of the majority — remember, almost 60 per cent of us didn’t vote in 2008 — makes a mockery of all the bragging about Alberta’s superiority.

Today, you are put to the test.

If you want to walk the walk, and talk the talk, about Alberta the great, then you need to contribute to its greatness by casting a vote.

Do you believe in democracy?

Do you believe that citizenship carries costs as well as rights?

Do you believe that being informed and acting on that information is part of the Canadian obligation?

Then you need to get to your polling station.

If you don’t believe any of those things, then you have failed to accept the most basic premise of life in a democratic society: each of has an equal and inalienable right, and responsibility, to cast a vote and express our choice.

And no single person is more important than another. If you fail to vote, you’re telling those of us who do vote that our judgment is better, that our citizenship has more value, than yours.

So you need to take the time today to look at the candidates and the parties they represent. You need to look for quality people whose personal perspectives matter. And you need to make choices about the practicality of party policy, both now and into the future.

And then you need to be part of the process (and be prepared to be part of the process over the next four years, because the democratic beast wanders off the path if its keepers don’t watch closely, always).

A colleague suggests that editorials like this are merely preaching to the converted — that the people who read newspaper editorials are also the people who are most likely to vote. If so, all we can ask is that you spread the word to friends, family and neighbours who would otherwise not heed the call.

The gospel of democracy should be ongoing and all-inclusive. It’s an attitude long overdue in Alberta.

John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.

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