A government of the people by the people: that is what democracy is all about. This political system provides all citizens with the opportunity to be actively involved, in some way, in decisions that impact their lives.

Voting in an election is undoubtedly the most meaningful gesture when taking part in a democratic society. And yet, the percentage of people who exercise that right is in decline throughout the western world. In Québec for instance, voter turnout at the provincial level has gone from 74.60% in September 2012 to 66.45% in October 2018. And in June of this year, voter participation in the most recent Ontario election was only 43.03%. That amounts to 6.1 million Ontarians who did not cast their vote.

The reasons given by those who do not vote revolve around the fact that “they just aren’t interested in politics, they do not understand what politics is all about, and they are not familiar with or do not recognize the candidates, the parties and the differences between their respective positions,” shows a Institut du Nouveau Monde (INM) study.

Is staying informed our duty?

If voting is a right, is staying properly informed a responsibility, particularly before an election? To make an informed decision, getting to know the candidates, the parties and their election promises is crucial. And yet, in Québec, the information and political actions of groups such as labour unions or civil society organizations are governed by the Election Act during an election campaign.

“Although election campaigns ought to be milestones of our democracy, they are in fact periods that hinder the ability of groups to freely communicate their points of view. It makes no sense whatsoever,” states CSQ Vice President Mario Beauchemin.

Allowing groups to be politically involved, he believes, would foster discussions and debates on a number of social issues that impact the entire population and, in so doing, help inform voters.

Doing our research

Citizens should look for reliable information which will help them examine and consider various issues. That way, they will have all the facts when comes the time to cast their ballot. How? Here are a few ideas:

  • Looking at the list of candidates. It’s always a good idea to know who is up for election in our riding.
  • Visiting the web pages and websites of the candidates and political parties. Generally, that is where we can find more information on their ideas and their commitments.
  • Comparing your ideas with theirs. This will help pinpoint the most like-minded candidates.
  • Asking questions. Whether in person, by email or through social media, asking questions can help better understand a candidate’s point of view as well as challenge their ideas on issues you consider important.
  • Attending public debates. They can sometimes help us make up our minds. 
  • Following the news and current affairs. It’s a great idea to stay informed, whether through traditional media or on social media. That being said, it is important to make sure that the content sources are reliable.

Talking things out with our loved ones. Having a discussion about your values as well as the ideas conveyed by candidates and the various political parties can sometimes help see issues from a different angle and give the matter further consideration.