$50 tax credit if you vote: Alberta Liberals
Canwest News Service
The Alberta Liberals plan to give voters a $50 tax credit in an effort to increase turnout, which shrank to 41% in the province’s 2008 election. The proposal, released yesterday, is among a number of steps the opposition Liberals say would make Alberta “the nation’s most transparent and accountable government.” In addition to the tax credit for voting, the Liberals would also ban corporate and union donations, strengthen the lobbyist registry and establish an independent committee to review MLA pay and benefits. The Liberals have started rolling out policies that they say will form the bones of their next election campaign. Earlier this year, they released a policy on the oil and gas industry.
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This interesting topic was discussed by Lorne Gunter of the National Post:
Lorne Gunter: Bribing voters won’t solve electoral apathy
Posted: May 14, 2010, 7:30 AM by NP Editor
Lorne Gunter, alberta, elections
Not voting is as much a democratic statement as voting, or nearly so. So it would be wrong to punish people for not casting a ballot in federal, provincial or municipal campaigns.
Most people who don’t vote have no higher purpose behind their inaction. A few non-voters are attempting to show their disgust with politics in general, but most are simply apathetic.
But what drives their apathy? Is it their fault they don’t care enough to go to a polling station or is there something about our politicians and politics that has caused them to tune out?
As voter turnout in our elections has slipped from 70% to 60% to 50% (in Alberta in the 2008 provincial election it was almost down to 40%), more and more of the hand-wringing, eat-your-peas poke-noses who dominate our public debates have called for a mandatory voting law, along the lines of the one in Australia, where non-voters are fined and turnout is often over 90%.
But why do we automatically assume the problem is with those who choose not to vote, rather than with those who have failed to inspire them to vote?
Alberta’s Liberal opposition this week proposed giving $50 tax credits to everyone who votes in provincial elections. Rewards are to be preferred to punishments. Still, ultimately, bribing voters doesn’t get at the root of the problem any more than fining non-voters would.
The problem is, more and more people have convinced themselves voting doesn’t matter. No matter who is elected, nothing much changes.
Just look at all the issues that are supposedly off the table in Canadian politics: universal health care, abortion, the environment, taxes, labour law, immigration, First Nations, multiculturalism and so on. Certainly we talk about these issues — sometimes a lot — but mostly the debate is over which party cares the most. The majority of our public policy debates are auctions to see which party is prepared to spend the most. Only rarely are two opposing positions hammered out on any issue.
No party is brave enough to advocate for greater patient choice in health care delivery, not because there is universal agreement on the superiority of government-monopoly care, but because no party wants to risk being labelled uncaring.
The opposition parties may accuse the Harper government of not caring enough about the environment, but at least publicly the Tories mouth the same line as the rest about the supposed reality of dangerous, manmade climate change. The only disagreement is over what to do and how fast.
No party is solidly in favour of rolling back immigration. The Tories tinker on the margins with proposals, for instance, about how to speed up refugee determinations, but no party is advocating curtailing our intake of new Canadians by two-thirds or one-third or by any amount at all.
No party thinks multiculturalism is unwise because all parties seek to court ethnic voters.
When in opposition, every party pledges to increase accountability and end the prevalence of influence peddling and the power of lobbyists. Then when they reach office, those pledges evaporate. Ditto promises of electoral reform, fixed election dates and greater independence for MPs in the Commons.
Changes may be made to individual taxes — the GST may be reduced from 7% to 5% for instance — but overall the individual tax burden continues to rise. And no matter which party is in office, government continues to grow, to consume more GDP, to expand the national debt and to intrude on more and more aspects of daily life.
Our politics is full of wedge issues without wedges.
Those of us who get paid to watch the daily goings on of Canadian politics can spot individual distinctions among the parties and their platforms. Up close, these differences appear significant. But it is no surprise that 30% or 40% of voters can’t see the same microscopic variations and have thrown up their hands at the angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin debates we have that pass for substantial disagreements.
If and when we once again have real meaty diversity of opinion in Canadian politics — rather than mere party loyalty shouting matches — voter interest will return.
Until then, if would be wrong to bribe or threaten citizens to cast ballots.
Read more: http://network.nationalpost.com/NP/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2010/05/14/lorne-gunter-bribing-voters-won-t-solve-electoral-apathy.aspx#ixzz0nu8jpBZY