Cybernaut 

Making the e-lection

Democracy, free speech and good taste will be put to the test in the coming months as Canada’s federal parties gear up for Election 2004.

The big day is June 28, which gives candidates six weeks to inflict as much damage on one another as possible while shamelessly promoting themselves as the answer to all of our problems. It’s going to be fun.

The Internet is playing an even bigger role in times like this, as voters look beyond the 10-second soundbites on the evening news and the partisan newspaper coverage to get a real sense of the candidates and the political parties they represent.

The Internet also gives equal space to all the pundits out there to rank and criticize our would-be leaders, as well as to point out the flaws, shortcomings and complete hypocrisies in their platforms.

The democratic system only works when the public is informed about the issues and engages in the process. Make yourself familiar with the people running in your riding and what they represent, then vote for the one who you think will represent you and your community the best.

If you vote Liberal because you’ve always voted Liberal, like your daddy and your grand-daddy before him, you might be better off in a dictatorship. These days the Liberal Party no longer represents the centre-left, the NDP no longer represents the far-left, and the Conservatives are no longer the party of choice for right-leaning, upper-middle-class white people. Things have changed drastically in recent years as the political landscape has changed.

You could argue that things have actually changed a little too much, that all of the parties have become middle-of-the-road centrists with similar priorities and platforms – and you would have a point. But there are differences, and they are too important to ignore.

Elections Canada – www.elections.ca

Before you go nuts and start nailing pickets into your front lawn you might want to make sure that you are eligible to vote in our 38 th General Election. The Elections Canada Web site can help you with everything, from getting on the voters’ list, to the locations of polling stations, to your voting options if you’re going to be out of the country on June 28. There is also some information about the candidates, information on campaign laws and contributions, and more.

The Globe and Mail – www.theglobeandmail.com; The National Post – www.nationalpost.com; The Toronto Star – www.thestar.com

All of our national newspapers have been chomping at the bit to cover this election, and cover it they will. Special online sections will allow readers to follow the daily grind of the campaigns, as well as compare parties and policies. Some people believe that it is the media, not the political parties, that sets the agenda for an election by focussing their coverage on controversial issues, interpreting public opinion polls, and subtly favouring candidates, so my advice is to read all the information you can get. Twice, if you can manage it.

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