The wind howled. Toques went on. So did masks.
The 2020 provincial election will be remembered less so for the stakes, and more for the circumstances under which it was held.
Some nine-odd months into a global pandemic that has reshaped life for everyone, British Columbians headed to the polls. Or some did. Hundreds of thousands had already voted by mail, or in advance polls.
And yeah, there has been something anti-climactic about this whole exercise. But as one anticipates the closing of the polls at 8 p.m., let’s pause and recognize there was something weird about Oct. 24, 2020. It almost – almost! – felt normal. It felt like past exercises in democracy. It felt kind of good?!?
This voter had lost his voting card, as this voter always does. So he used the internet found his closest voting station three blocks away from his home, showed his driver licence, was directed to a polling station and stood in line. He stood there for close to five minutes. It felt like an eternity. And in that eternity, a voter could pause and reflect. The phone had been left in the car, because the voter was confident voting would be quick, easy and simple. But there was something profound about that missing phone, and the fact that it would even be a question of whether there would be some time to kill while waiting to vote.
Not all people are so lucky. Certainly most people in history have not been so lucky.
In many countries, including the one to our direct south, voting can take hours. People stand in lines to be able to cast their vote. Those voters aren’t leaving their phones in their cars.
And when they do get to cast their ballot, many still have to worry about voting technology and whether it will be hacked and whether their voices will actually be heard. It would take some serious work to hack Canada’s cherished pencil-marked paper ballots.
Throughout history, men and women – especially women – have been denied the vote. People have been barred from voting – even relatively recently in this country – based on their ancestry, where they were born, or how rich they were. Across time and place, people have been denied the ability to even suggest they should be allowed to vote.
This voter, earlier this morning, read some comment on Facebook that declared “We have no freedom.”
Canada isn’t perfect; it can be improved. Our democracy isn’t perfect; it can get better. Our freedoms aren’t unlimited; we could be more free.
But the fact that we can denigrate and criticize our society and our leaders without fear of repercussions – on a day in which one has the chance to choose new leaders – is enough proof that we have a level of freedom that needs protecting, not tearing down
To maintain and improve our way of life, we must recognizing and embrace the rights and freedoms we have and work to enhance them. We must value and embrace our right to speech and our right to vote and our right to protections from discrimination based on who are parents are, how we look and what we think.
And we must cast our ballots and hold politicians to account when the words they used to gain the public’s confidence changes once they are tasked with governing those people.
Tyler Olsen is a reporter at the Abbotsford News
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