Don’t Confuse Voter Apathy with Voter Despair

Whether or not you’re pleased with the outcome of the recent Nova Scotia provincial election, you have to be concerned with the low voter turnout. Only 53.5% of eligible voters cast a ballot. This has politicians and pundits scratching their heads. Don Mills, chairman and CEO of the market research firm Corporate Research Associates summed it up in a CBC interview: “It’s very difficult to understand,” Mills said. “Honestly, I don’t get it.”

Mills also tweeted, “Is it time to institute mandatory voting based on declining voter turnout in Nova Scotia? I am beginning to think so.”

Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, Egypt and eighteen other populous countries now have mandatory voting. Considering the sociopolitical climates and economic status of the countries on this list, it’s more than fair to say that forcing citizens to vote does not produce balanced governance.

In fact, one might argue that obliging citizens to vote is counter to the very notion of democracy.

There will always be a segment of the population who just don’t care about governance. Apathy, however doesn’t account for the abysmal voter turnout in Nova Scotia’s 2017 election. There is a growing sense of despair among many Nova Scotians; a sense that the political flavour of the government makes no real difference at the end of the day. Since 1758, the people of Nova Scotia have chosen one political party after another – mainly Liberal and Conservative.

Historically the Liberals have stayed in power until they anger the voters and lose the house to the Conservatives for a term or two. Then the Liberals get elected again for another try. Then the Conservatives … the Liberals … Conservatives … Liberals … ad nauseam.

The common thread that remains woven, unbroken, throughout every term is disappointment. Time after time, generation after generation, Nova Scotia voters elect new governments, hoping for change, buying into new promises of prosperity, equality, accountability and transparency. Time after time, their patience wears thin. It’s no surprise that after ten or more generations of this cyclical behavior, hope has faded. Would-be voters have finally come to the realization that it makes very little difference which party gets elected. Voters are giving up. This is not disinterest or apathy. This is despair.

When almost half of the electorate can’t be bothered to vote, they are sending a message. And it’s not directed at one party or another. The message is clear: The current partisan style of government does not work. We’ve been using the same system since 1758. We have 259 years of data to show how ineffective this tug-of-war really is. The adversarial nature of our legislature is counterproductive, if not destructive.

The actions of politicians in the house of assembly and the language used by candidates while campaigning clearly indicates that their priorities and allegiances lie with their parties, not with the people they are supposed to represent. Most of their energy is devoted to eroding the credibility of  the party that poses the greatest threat to their hold on power.

Rather than forcing citizens to vote, perhaps the time has come to force our elected officials to abandon the competitive practices that are so entrenched in the partisan culture. If politicians were more collaborative and less combative, voters would feel a sense of purpose and pick up their pencils on election day.

 

Murrant’s Rant: Are You Kidding Me?

Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer - The Portland Press Herald (used without permission)
Nova Scotia Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, Geoff Maclellan (right). Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer – The Portland Press Herald

If you ever wondered why Nova Scotians are among the highest taxed people in the WORLD, look no further.

The Nova Scotia government spent $73-million to make back $16.5-million – a net loss of more than $56-million.

Over four years our government will have spent $73-million in hard-earned, taxpayer dollars to keep the passenger ferry running between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine. It doesn’t take a genius to see how ludicrous this is.  Just look at the numbers (Google it if you have any doubts):

  • 2014: $28-million (Nova Star)
  • 2015: $13-million (Nova Star)
  • 2016: $23-million (The CAT)
  • 2017: $9-million (The CAT)

You say, “So what if we spent all that cash in Yarmouth?  It’s all about economic development, right?”  Sure. In theory.  Supposedly, the Yarmouth-Maine ferry will bring boatloads of American money into Nova Scotia.

But even the most optimistic projected returns fall short.  The Nova Scotia International Ferry Partnership (the Nova Star folks) estimated that a season with 100,000 passengers would pump $16.3 million into the province’s economy. That’s a projected influx of $65-million for the Nova Scotia economy over four years.  Let me clarify:  somebody in the Nova Scotia provincial government authorized a $73-million expenditure on the expectation that it would generate $65-million for the Nova Scotia economy.  I don’t want to be harsh, but that’s just plain stupid – and it’s about time that somebody stood up and said so.

But wait! It gets stupider … The ACTUAL number of passengers is only 30% of the projected 100,000 per year. The 2014 season saw only 29,438 passengers, while 2015 had 31,150. And there is no reason to expect those numbers to change in the 2016 and 2017 seasons.  So, with only 30% of the projected passengers, only 30% of the projected $65-million will materialize.  I’ll save you the trouble … $19.5-million.  So, in actuality, our government authorized a $73-million expenditure to generate $19.5-million in economic benefit.

And if that’s not bad enough, it gets even stupider-er …  Not only are we seeing fewer American tourists than expected, but more Nova Scotians are now sailing to Maine to spend their money.  According to Nova Star’s numbers from the 2014 and 2015 seasons, 17,649 Nova Scotians sailed to Maine – taking with them almost $3-million OUT of the Nova Scotia economy.  Considering this, it looks like our government spent $73-million to make back $16.5-million – a net loss of more than $56-million.

I don’t know about you, but to me this ferry deal smells like a load of … carp.  Rotting carp.