Election seasons underway in B.C.

NANAIMO – Recent elections highlight importance of voting.

Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog, might have misjudged the onset of spring when he failed to see his shadow earlier this year, but if he were predicting election season, he’d have been bang on.

Silly season came early this year, and we’re ramping up not only municipal elections in November, but also the federal election in 2015. That’s the downside to fixed election dates – campaigning starts almost before the previous mandate has worn out.

But it’s not so much the two elections that involve B.C. in which I’m most interested – it’s two others that have little to no bearing on my day-to-day life on the West Coast.

Last night the people of Quebec most likely didn’t vote in the Parti Québécois (early deadlines mean I might be having a “Dewey defeats Truman” moment here) for a majority government. After an election that rivaled even B.C.’s wackiest, it’s not hard to reason why.

This is the same party that brought in the Quebec secular values charter, which banned wearing of any religious symbols, from turbans to crosses. But not just banned – there is some question whether people would actually be allowed to work for the provincial government if they wore these items.

There was the accusation that students from McGill and other universities were mass registering from out of province, suggesting that English Canada was trying to hijack the Quebec election to avoid another referendum on sovereignty. Turns out, the ridings that the PQ cited in its accusations actually had voter registration decline, suggesting there was no mass sign up whatsoever.

Then, of course, the sovereignty debate. English Canada certainly isn’t interested in heading down the constitutional path anytime soon – and judging from polling numbers, neither are Quebeckers.

But it highlights the importance of voting. If turnout is low, there’s a good chance that the Parti Québécois could return to power. It’s the same with any election – even if you believe that voting is simply choosing between the lesser of two evils, it’s still really important that you do so.

Saturday’s elections in Afghanistan caught my attention, too. Specifically, the photo that’s almost become synonymous with elections in the Middle East – a voter, often a woman, with an ink-stained finger.

If any voter in the world has an excuse not to exercise their democratic right, it’s probably the folks in Afghanistan. The Taliban is still a real threat there, and the fanatical group claimed more than 1,000 acts of violence at polling stations throughout the country.

But it failed to deter the thousands of people from voting. Threats of violence and accusations of corruption throughout Afghanistan’s government didn’t stop their residents from casting their ballots. It makes any excuse that Canadians come up with for failing to vote seem weak.

The municipal election will heat up in the next few months, and will be in full swing by the end of summer. You’ll see letters to the editor, people speak out on issues, and folks turning up at city council and school board meetings to take in the proceedings. Once elected, the decisions these people make will have the most impact on residents’ lives.

For or against the incinerator project? The people you elect in November will likely make the decision whether it’s built here or somewhere else.

Come November and you choose to vote, what’s the worst that can happen? You might change the world.