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Paddle Your Own Canoe

October 29th, 2022 by Michael Dyet

Hmmm, are you determined and engaged enough to keep paddling against the current?

The participation rate in elections is a good indicator of the current engagement level in the population. What do I mean by engagement? I mean how motivated people are to step up and play a role in what is happening around them. I could also look at it from the reverse angle and talk about disengagement as an indicator of apathy.

The participation rates in the last few elections tell a distressing story. The Canadian federal election of 2021: 62% participation rate. The 2022 Ontario provincial election: 43% participation rate. And finally, the recent Ontario municipal election: a paltry 36% participation rate overall with figures below 30% in some areas.

Why are things trending in this direction? There are a few drivers that factor into the equation.

Election fatigue is one factor: Three elections in a one-year period for those of us here in Ontario. It would be better if the various levels of government coordinated and left a reasonable interval between elections. But political opportunism rules that out.

The pandemic, more specifically the restrictions imposed around it, arguably also played a role. For two years were instructed to effectively disengage: pull in your horns and stay at home until further notice. Two years in that state created new, sometimes unhealthy behaviour patterns.

But the big driver is loss of faith in our elected officials. I challenge you to name a government in the last decade that has not had a least a few high profile scandals. Then there are the broken promises piling up one after another. Again I challenge you to name a government that kept more promises than it walked away from or disavowed.

This loss of faith breeds a why even bother mentality. Why bother putting in the effort to vote when most of the promises made will be broken or compromised and when so many elected officials constantly fail to meet basic ethical standards? It is a hard argument to refute.

But apathy is a very dangerous thing. If we all stop giving a damn, stop speaking out and stop participating in the democratic process, it allows a small percentage of people in positions of authority to do whatever they want. Experience shows that if we do not hold them accountable, many of them will do what is in their best interest rather than our best interest.

Apathy is also an unhealthy state of mind. Nothing I do will make a difference, so I will just stop trying. That kind of negativity is fertile ground for seeding anxiety, depression and other mental health issues which are already at alarming levels.

Each one of us has a degree of control over the course of our lives. We are each paddling our own canoe in the direction we want to go which often means paddling against the current. Apathy kicks in when one or more of us loses motivation and decides just to drift wherever the current takes us. In that scenario, we almost always end up in place we do not want to be.

I am going to keep paddling my canoe no matter how strong the current gets and how many people are just drifting. I hope you will too. It is easier for each of us to get where we want to go if all of us ae invested in the process.

~ Now Available Online from Amazon, Chapters Indigo or Barnes & Noble: Hunting Muskie, Rites of Passage – Stories by Michael Robert Dyet

~ Michael Robert Dyet is also the author of Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel which was a double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at .

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