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Real choice means you can say “No”

in Letters by

We are about to go into provincial and a federal elections. We have just gone past municipal exercises. Considering the results we are living with in all three arenas, we really need to have a good look at who we are choosing, and what our choices really are.

If someone said you were free to pick one of five people who were planning to spend half your income in ways you did not support, you wouldn’t feel too free. Or involved. Or trustworthy of the person making the request. If you were also told that you were free to not make a choice, you may find comfort in at least being able to abstain.

You may very well abstain.

Of course, your preference would be to not have any of this at all. You would like the candidates to come up with a better plan for the money they take from your paycheck. If you don’t have much money, or suitable work, your vote is an important franchise you do not want to waste.

The government is our commons. We all should have a say in how it works. All of us, not just the few involved in partisan games.

Real choice, for people free to have choice, includes the option to say ‘No’. If people are asked to say ‘Yes’ to something, they also expect the option to say ‘No’.

If the plans presented are not suitable, or if the people presenting the plans are not worth our trust, we have the right to refuse their representation.

If people had the option to select “None of the Above” on a ballot they would get more of what they really want and less of what they do not. They would no longer have to hold their noses while they vote. Or just stay home out of it. No one likes making bad choices.

Forty per cent of the electorate did not vote in the last federal election. This is usually, incorrectly, described as the behavior of people who did not “bother” to vote. What is really happening is those making judgments are not “bothering” to find out why others choose not to make a choice.

The keeners are probably afraid of the numbers. They may be afraid their simple policies are no match for our complex world. They are afraid of not being in power. The few may lose the enormous leverage they have over our governance.

The numbers are not good. The current federal government is in strong majority position with support from a little more than one in five citizens. Two in five choose not to vote. The people who choose the representatives of the party are in far smaller numbers, less than half of one per cent of the overall electorate.

Throw in the imbalances of the regions, a senior house of justice busy investigating itself, and the general air of scandal, the poor numbers translate to very poor governance for people believing they are free.

If two people in a high school class of 25 said they were going to pick all the field trips and choose all the games played during gym, their tenure would be short lived. First they would be told “No”, and a better arrangement would be worked out amongst the crowd.

It’s time we all worked out a better system. The first step is we need the option to say “No”. Forty per cent of us already are, by not voting – the largest voting block. It’s the least we can do, if we had a choice.

“None of the Above” as a choice in our ballots will help get us what we want. The people running can at least win our votes, and should not object. They cannot say no to this simple option. They should encourage it.

Dave Roe (St. John’s)

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