COMMENTARY: A letter to the ‘undecideds’ — just get out and vote

Significance of advance polls in elections
According to Elections Canada, an estimated 4.7 million Canadians voted in the advance polls for this year's federal election.

So, the election’s coming up on Monday, and you don’t yet know who you’re voting for. Heck, you don’t even know if you’re voting at all.

I get it. Maybe your parents never voted, either. Maybe it wasn’t exactly a family tradition to head to the polling station on Election Day. Maybe you’ve voted in the past, when you were inspired to do so, but you’re turned off by the divisive nature of this federal campaign.

Maybe you haven’t paid much attention — life is busy, after all — and to be honest, you’re a bit embarrassed to admit you don’t really know who’s running in your riding, let alone the issues they’re debating this time around.

READ MORE: Canadians mostly seeing negative news, posts during federal campaign, Ipsos poll says

It’s not like you’re alone, either. In the last federal election, in 2015, just over 68 per cent of eligible voters actually showed up and participated. One in three Canadians chose to abstain from the process altogether. (This is where you’re probably expecting a lecture on how millions of people around the world would kill — and have died — for the right to cast a ballot … but I’m not here to send you on a guilt trip.)

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The fact is, when pollsters and political pundits talk about the “undecideds” leading up to Oct. 21, most people assume that same group just won’t show up at all, and statistically speaking, they’re probably right. They don’t put much faith in you.

READ MORE: Canada’s undecided voters know what they want, just not whom they want

I’m writing to you on the one-year anniversary of legal recreational Cannabis in Canada. That game-changing promise by Justin Trudeau in 2015, then the third-place favourite for PM, gave many Canadians that wouldn’t otherwise vote a reason to do so. Will those same people show up four years later to say “thank you” for an election promise honoured? A cynic wouldn’t be far off to suspect not.

This election, the experts say there’s not that single “ballot box question.” The Conservatives want(ed) it to be “Justin Trudeau’s Carbon Tax.” That, or the Liberals’ failure to build the Trans Mountain expansion to completion before, like, yesterday.

The Liberals want you to “Choose Forward,” or choose “a return to the Stephen Harper years” (no, Stephen Harper’s not running this time).

The NDP has thrown some huge ideas out there — national pharmacare, dental coverage, half a million affordable housing units — but nothing seems to stick, at least not in a meaningful fashion. (Experts almost exclusively attribute the party’s bump up in the polls to the personal popularity of their undeniably affable leader Jagmeet Singh.)

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You’d think the Greens’ proposal of free university tuition would get Canadians talking about the idea for more than an hour … but nope. And the People’s Party of Canada? Perhaps most notably, leader Maxime Bernier is proposing cutting Canada’s annual immigration numbers by more than 50 per cent. We’ll see if the party exceeds its polling position (around 2 per cent as of last Monday).

Federal Election 2019: Advance polls show increase in voter turnout
Federal Election 2019: Advance polls show increase in voter turnout

Here’s the thing. You really should vote. Last weekend, a record number of people – around 4.7 million – showed up to vote early. Some of them, new Canadians with smiles smeared across their faces, so grateful (and gobsmacked) to be voting for the first time in their lives.

Did you hear about Maddison Yetman? She’s the 18-year-old Winnipeg woman who received a sudden, devastating cancer diagnosis just a short time ago. Given just weeks or even days to live, she’s embarked on a campaign to implore Canadians to exercise their privilege to participate in our democratic process. In a video, filmed from her hospital bed and viewed hundreds of thousands of times on social media, she states, “If I can find the time, you can find the time.” And she’s not wrong.

Terminally ill young woman still votes despite one week to live
Terminally ill young woman still votes despite one week to live

I’m not going to go on about special interest groups and extremists, spendthrifts and drunken sailors, but the fact is, if you don’t vote, your reality is being written for you. Whether it’s seniors care or child care, the opioid crisis, the environment, or the economy, chances are there’s something that matters most to you right now. Take 10 minutes to check out party platforms. Have a listen to an hour or more of talk radio (ahem). Ask your friends where their heads are at with regards to the choices in front of you.

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Just … vote. My face exploded into a smile earlier this week when a listener tweeted at me to say, “For the first time ever I’m gonna vote, at 35 years old. I’m pretty excited to cast a vote. I have to say listening to @ryanjespersen over the past number of weeks on @630CHED, I’ve made up my mind and decided it’s time to vote. It’s crazy I know, but I’m looking forward to it.” I don’t care how Joshua votes, I’m just excited he’s doing it for the first time in his life.

I’m honoured to be participating in Global’s national coverage on election night. I hope to be discussing record turnout.

If you’re voting for the first time in a long time, or even for the first time ever, tweet me @ryanjespersen and let me know why you did.

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In advance, and in good faith, well done!

Ryan Jespersen is host of The Ryan Jespersen Show on 630 CHED in Edmonton.