Even as it became all too clear that we were going to have a provincial election this spring, I wasn’t prepared for this campaign to have such a record-setting nature.
No, I’m not talking about the shortness of the campaign, although it’s rare to see these things contained within the 30-day minimum set out by Elections Nova Scotia. (For contrast, think back to the seemingly-interminable 72-day slog that Stephen Harper foisted on Canada in the back half of 2015.)
I’m also not talking about the number of registered candidates, the billions of dollars in election promises from each party, or the lengthy list of insults directed at each of the party leaders.
From where I sit, the 2017 Nova Scotia campaign will go down in history for having the single highest number of individuals and organizations attempting to sway your vote.
It extends far beyond the parties, leaders and candidates themselves, and has ballooned into a veritable army of industry professionals, public sector union leaders, political pundits and various others who aren’t expected to have a political agenda but have ramped up the rhetoric as we collectively stumble towards May 30.
They’re everywhere. They’re all over the traditional media and impossible to ignore on social media. They range from someone sitting in an office in Halifax, to your neighbour down the road. And they’re not simply trying to encourage you to consider all the issues in your riding or across the province, they’re working overtime to convince you that only “their” way will heal the various gaping wounds spread throughout Canada’s Ocean Playground.
Perhaps you think deciphering all this bafflegab is easier for journalists like me and my colleagues, since we’re exposed to political discourse on a daily basis.
Believe me: It isn’t.
I have to weigh the party platforms, the many issues at play, and the record – or lack thereof – for each individual candidate and leader, just like you do. While that process is a little easier in some election cycles than others, I would be lying to you if I suggested that it’s ever truly simple.
However, there is one aspect of provincial elections – or any elections – that has brought me some comfort since the very first time I officially chose a candidate of any sort, 24 years ago this week. And that’s the concept that it all comes down to me – and to you – as an individual voter.
That means party leaders, cabinet ministers, MLAs, new candidates, campaign organizers and various other cogs in the political machine don’t decide your next legislature representative or the next Premier.
Lawn signs, banners, balloons and bumper stickers don’t decide. Nomination meetings, party rallies, stump speeches and meet-the-candidate barbeques don’t decide. Brochures jammed in your front door or stuffed in your mailbox don’t decide.
Reporters don’t decide. TV and radio news anchors don’t decide. Newspaper headlines don’t decide. Political pundits and analysts-for-hire don’t decide. Commentators and editorial writers don’t decide. Pollsters don’t decide, and even the folks hired by the mass media to dissect the poll results don’t decide.
Funding announcements, ribbon-cuttings and cheque presentations don’t decide. Travel disruptions caused by asphalt-laying projects don’t decide. Endorsements – or rejections – from highly-placed public officials don’t decide.
Campaign commercials don’t decide. Slogans don’t decide. (No, not even Twitter hashtags.) Ill-advised Twitter or Facebook posts from recently-rejected candidates don’t decide. Scary-looking Internet memes with party leaders or candidates done up as Frankenstein’s Monster don’t decide.
Supposedly non-partisan third-party advertising doesn’t decide. Angry protest movements and picket signs don’t decide. Smear tactics and broken promises from previous elections don’t decide.
Your individual vote carries extraordinary weight. Your individual vote has elected three different parties, and five different premiers, over the past two decades alone. Your individual vote has the power to both begin and end promising political careers.
By simply marking an X in a box this coming Tuesday, you can determine what kind of Nova Scotia – and what kind of Strait area – you want to see over the years, and decades, to come. You can speak up about how you want our tax dollars to be spent or withheld. You can tell any of the parties whether you trust them enough to place them in a majority government position, or whether you’d rather have them working together in a minority situation.
You, the ordinary voter, wield incredible power on May 30. It would be an absolute shame to waste that power. Take advantage of this rarely-experienced power, and make sure that X is felt across the province.
Get out there – and decide.