On Sunday, Matthew McKean argued that low voter turnout is due to a lack of confidence in
Parliamentary institutions, and the independence of our Members of Parliament. While I support
initiatives to break party discipline, I think Mr. McKean is guilty of an all too common offense, one that I
myself have been guilty of until very recently. He’s extrapolating the conversations had within the
Ottawa Bubble to the population at large.
Those of us who have spent time working and socializing in the political circles of Ottawa often make
reference to the “Ottawa bubble” but it is difficult to comprehend just how significant that factor is
when you live inside of it. Not until I left my job as a staffer on Parliament Hill and moved to the West of
the country did I begin to appreciate how insular the Ottawa Bubble really is.
People within it are well versed on the issues Parliament debates, and they care about them. Folks
within the Bubble know about the robocalls scandal, the Senate shenanigans, and which MPs have
defected from which parties. Many Canadians in the real world don’t know who their Member is, nor do
they care. While the debate on supply management rages on in the columns of the National Post, and
over freshly poured pints on Sparks Street; many Canadians don’t even know the program exists, let
alone how it could be affected by the terms of free trade deals.
Do not assume that I am attributing this ignorance to vice or laziness, I am attributing it to priorities.
Those of us who have invested our time in the political arena sometimes forget just how much time we
have invested. Most of us, on all sides of the issues, have spent more hours reading news stories, press
releases and opinion columns than we could possibly count. We each do it for our own reasons, some
are passionate about a particular cause, some are ideologues hoping to bring our version of utopia
closer to fruition, others are in it for the fame and power. We all have our own separate reasons to care,
but care we do. For most of us, this was our hobby before it became our job; but it’s a rather dry hobby
isn’t it? We choose to allocate our time to reading articles on the nuances of foreign policy, the
government’s latest immigration reforms, or the implementation of the destruction of the Long Gun
Registry. The vast majority of Canadians don’t enjoy reading about these things at all.
Without the same odd fascination that us politicos have, most normal, well adjusted people would
rather spend their limited free time doing things they prioritize; going skiing, watching a movie, or
working overtime to pay off their debts. These people are choosing to spend their time on things that
matter to them, and have a far greater effect on their overall wellbeing; instead of on our weird political
sport. As a result, they are not informed on the issues that the elections are being fought on. Without a
knowledge of the issues, the parties, and the politicians, many of them are choosing not to vote, not
because they can’t be bothered to get out to a polling station, but because they recognize that they
don’t have any idea whether the oilsands are causing “Dutch Disease” or not, and they consider it
irresponsible, and irrational to cast a ballot when they are not informed on the issues.
The people who don’t vote won’t be swayed to the polling booth by more independence for Members
of Parliament, chiefly because they wouldn’t even notice.