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2011 Villain: Apathetic Voters

Nominated for: not caring when caring is most important.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past twelve months. From December 12–23, the candidates for Mightiest and Meanest—and new this year, a reader’s write-in option! From December 26–29 you’ll be able to vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year, and we’ll reveal the results December 30.

By now, Torontonians should be pretty good at this whole election thing. Whether we’re voting federally, provincially, or municipally, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to hit the polls these past 12+ months. So maybe we’re burnt out. Or maybe voters just don’t care. But whatever the reason, eligible voters are exercising their right to choose to vote, and many are opting out.

While voter turnout was up for the last municipal election just over a year ago (the advanced poll turnout was especially good, up 80 per cent from 2003), it’s still the case that only about half of eligible voters actually exercised this particular democratic right.

This city practically makes a sport out of Rob Ford bashing, but the 47 per cent of eligible voters who did nothing to end his reign before it started really have no right to complain.

True, that particular election was in October 2010, but it was not an isolated event: in 2011 the trend of increasing voter apathy manifested nationally and provincially as well.

In the most recent provincial election, voter turnout in Ontario hit an all-time low, with less than half (only 49.2 per cent) of eligible voters going to the polls. Numbers are better when it comes to the national election, with voter turnouts now reaching over 60 per cent, but that still means that 4 out of 10 eligible voters just didn’t bother.

Apathetic voters. The issue here isn’t really about who is leading our city, province, or country, but about the fact that if the populace isn’t voting, the populace isn’t being represented. Important decisions are being made by the people that “we” elect to represent us. We’re seeing this in action right now. Locally, we may soon lose a number of social services, bus routes, and City jobs, among other cuts. These cuts have been proposed and voted on by city council. Who are voted in. By us. Well, half of us. And it really seems that more than half of us are complaining about these cuts.

To those who opted out, those of you who are on our 2011 Villain list, do you still think voting doesn’t matter? Perhaps you should visit your local library branch and read up on how this whole thing works. What’s that you say? The library’s hours have been cut and are they’re closed for the day? Well, there you go.

While solutions have been proposed (electronic voting, elector reform, and especially a local campaign for ranked ballots) to improve voter turnout, for now, this is the system we’ve got. Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it. If you think there’s a better way, join the conversation to push for change. You have the right to use your voice, and to talk about the issues and discussed solutions. We do live in a democratic society after all—even if half of us seem to have forgotten.


  • Postpomo

    In each of the last 5 elections in which I voted, my vote was completely and utterly meaningless, as the incumbent in each case was a massive favourite and won by wide margins (whether or not I voted for the incumbent).

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think the alternative – anyone who gets a vote, wins – would work.

      The time when voters need to be engaged and give a damn is not on election day, it’s every day. What does election day mean to someone who doesn’t care who wins, doesn’t know that the issues are and where people stand, and has no idea what’s at stake?

    • Info

      That makes you fairweather in your beliefs. Just because the Jays or Leafs don’t win a title every year doesn’t mean you would stop supporting them, would it? Have some conviction and ride with who you believe will win ’til the wheels fall off. Eventually, they get their time.

  • Justin Mohareb

    The populous what aren’t being represented?

  • Anonymous

    The quality of the politicians are what turn people off. Stephen Harper as PM, Paul Martin, Mike Harris, Rob Ford and half city council. To name a few…

    • torontoresid

      Then recruit better candidates.

      • Anonymous

        How? You need money or media or political connections to be seen as a viable candidate.

  • Anonymous

    Low voter turnout is not that surprising considering all of the candidates sucked.

  • Andrew Traviss

    Maybe people would be more involved if they felt like their opinions mattered instead of just their votes. My MP is a backbench Conservative. Even if the whole riding disagrees with a direction the federal government is taking, he’s going to be voting on party lines.

    Democracy doesn’t begin and end at the ballot box and most of the people I know who don’t vote make that decision because that’s the way they see things playing out.

    I want to see the word “mandate” eliminated from political discourse. The fallacy that everyone that votes for you supports your entire platform needs to be discarded.

    • Anonymous

      The fallacy that a single person can represent everyone of age in a given riding just because they got the most votes needs to be discarded. Representative democracy will never truly capture the opinion or political will of the people – a large minority, or even a majority in Canada’s system, will always be ignored.