Democracy. That was the real winner is last week’s federal election. Canadian voters turned out at the polls in droves with an average of almost three in four eligible citizens choosing to cast a vote. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, these numbers swelled to almost 80 per cent.
Yet, since the year 2000, more and more of us have become disenfranchised, with barely 60 per cent showing up at the polls.
On October 19th, more than 17 million Canadian filled out a ballot, resulting in the highest voter turnout rate since 1993. Advanced polls were busy with approximately 3.6 million of us casting votes early.
The largest uptick in participation came from Aboriginal Canadians who increased their numbers by a whopping 270 per cent.
Even more surprising was that this happened in spite of changes to the Fair Elections Act that made it more difficult for anyone to cast a vote without approved identification.
The outcome was that a record number of 10 aboriginal MPs were elected. Was it the threat of making activism criminal in Bill C-51 that drove First Nations people to the polls or the fact that over the last five years an average of $200 million earmarked for Aboriginal education and social services was left unspent and returned to general revenues?
Social justice supporters will hail the results as well. Of the 21 candidates who openly identified as members of the LGBTQ community, six are now sitting MPs. Women will also be better represented with a total of 88 being elected, up from the 76 who were elected in the 2011 election.
While the crop of 2015 MPs will only be 26 per cent women, Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau has promised that half of the cabinet seats will be occupied by the more intelligent of the two genders.
Whether we choose to celebrate or vilify the election results, the next great victory for democracy will be the day that the government of Justin Trudeau adopts proportional representation for the next federal election. Then every vote will truly count.