I never thought this would happen to me, but I’ve become one of those “disaffected youth voters” you hear so much about.
I admit, approaching 40 years of age at a fast clip as I am, that calling myself a “youth voter” is a bit brazen. But I’m not ready to hop over the fence from the dungarees to the suits just yet, so humour me.
It all started last week when Steve Sutherland, from CBC Radio in Halifax, called to see if I’d be a good person to have on some sort of “election issues panel.” I told him that I wasn’t a good person, and that, in fact, I had no thoughts whatsoever about federal issues. I didn’t actually realize that this was true until I said it. But it is.
While I might feel close to my municipal and provincial politicians (how can I help but, given the small size of their districts and the fact that I know both of them, and they’re actually indirectly related to each other by marriage), Canadian federal politics exists for me on some disconnected ethereal plane that bears more in common with Survivor and The Apprentice than it does with “real things that affect my life.”
Indeed I’ve found myself relatively unaffected by the whole sponsorship scandal thing, mostly because I simply assumed that sort of thing happens all the time. There’s little difference, in my books, between crooked cash transactions and, say, the Solicitor General putting an Addictions Research Centre in his riding. Sure, one is perhaps criminal while the other is simply “working for the people of Cardigan.” But come on…
I don’t think any of this means that the people involved in federal politics are evil — indeed I happen to think my local MP, Liberal Shawn Murphy, is a stand up guy. I just think that politics practiced at such an abstract level is both liable to corrupt the sensibilities of just about anyone, and so far removed from real people’s lives as to be essentially irrelevant to the individual.
Yes, I know that federal politics can make Important Changes for Canadians. It’s just not clear to me how I’m actually a participant in this process in any real way.
And so I’m left to simply treat my franchise as I would the purchase of a car or a brand of toilet paper. And those running for office seem content to service me on this level: Stephen Harper is an evil worm, Paul Martin is corrupt, Jack Layton is a spendthrift, Gilles Duceppe wants to pull apart the country. None of which seems substantive, real, nor particularly interesting.
I think I might just sit this one out.