Let’s Make All Voters Turn Out: Senator

Media Appearances, Municipal Government, Frontier Centre

MANDATORY voting reduces the power of special-interest groups, ensures the concerns of minority groups are addressed and restores public trust in the political system, Liberal Senator Mac Harb said yesterday.

Harb was in town yesterday to promote the idea of mandatory voting in a speech to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

More than 30 democracies including Australia, Switzerland, Greece and Brazil already mandate voting.

Harb said the system ensures high voter turnout and more focused public policy.

In Australia, for example, 95 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in the country’s 2001 election. Compare that to the 61 per cent of Canadians who voted in last year’s federal election.

“That’s not good for a democracy,” he said. “Only 22 per cent of youth bother to vote.” Last December, Harb introduced a bill in the Senate which would make voting mandatory for all eligible Canadians.

It has passed first reading and is awaiting second reading in the Senate.

Under Canada’s current voluntary system, Harb said, powerful special-interest groups exert too much influence over the government. Politicians are all too aware that those groups are skilled at getting out the vote come election time and tailor their platforms and promises to keeping those groups happy.

Harb said each vote would carry the same weight and politicians would be less likely to become embroiled in scandal because they would no longer be beholden to lobby groups.

In Australia, there is a $25 penalty for those who do not vote. But few are penalized. Harb said it’s because voters in Australia have become accustomed to the process and realize they not only have the right to vote, but the civic responsibility to do so.