For most of the modern political history of Saskatchewan, voters were provided with viable choices at the ballot box. More choice meant folks had more options to express themselves and their views politically. Consequently, democratic participation in the form of voter turnout has been quite high historically.
However, as voter choice became more and more limited over time, participation began to drop.
In 2007, the last time Saskatchewan had at least three viable political parties, voter turnout in that year’s general election was 76%. Since that date, provincial politics became dominated by just two parties and voter turnout has been in steady decline ever since. The last general election in Saskatchewan (2020) saw voter turnout barely crack 50%. This means that almost half of folks simply did not bother to participate in our democratic process. Clearly, more choice at the ballot box means more voter turnout.
Why does more choice bring out folks to participate?
Because choice drives three important factors in our democratic system: Authenticity, Accountability, Integrity.
Authenticity means to be true to your own personality, values, and spirit, regardless of the pressure that you’re under to act otherwise. In a democratic system of just two viable options, this is stifled in favour of candidates simply towing the official party line as voting becomes nothing more than an “us vs. them” exercise. Candidates, become simple props with little individuality. More viable choices, however, allow candidates more freedom to express themselves and their ideas in a positive light. In short, it gives folks the chance to VOTE FOR something rather than just VOTING AGAINST SOMETHING.
Accountability is an assurance that an individual or an organization will be evaluated on their performance or behavior related to something for which they are responsible. In a democracy, this comes in the form of the ability of voters to have a meaningful way to express themselves on the way both the current government and official opposition have been handling their jobs. A two-party system limits the effectiveness of both jobs as replacing one with the other in a continuous loop turns into a “robbing Peter to pay Paul” situation. Greater choice gives greater options for enforcing accountability so parties and politicians do not feel self-entitled to an immediate role (government or official opposition) but must always earn it.
A person with integrity has a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values. Democracy depends on the quality of its representatives. Not only does less choice mean a smaller pool to find such people, but it also forces folks in many cases to vote for the “lesser of two evils” or to prevent what is perceived to be something or someone worse from attaining power. In this case, gone is any real ability to simply vote for what we think is the best person or who will do the best job. In short, we become a society where we vote for a NEGATIVE rather than voting for a POSITIVE. Ideas and long-term plans often get abandoned in favour of short-term band aid solutions. Over time, a lack of long-term goals or strategies means we fall behind and communities and families pay the price due to lack of vision.
“Anything that keeps a politician humble is healthy for democracy.”
Having more choice at the ballot box is nothing to be feared. On the contrary it is the linchpin of a healthy democracy. Choice allows authenticity, accountability, and integrity to thrive in our democratic process. When we allow this, everyone benefits.
Together, let’s bring Saskatchewan into a new era. The journey starts right here in Saskatoon-Meewasin.
Candidate for Saskatoon-Meewasin
Leader of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party
For Further Comments Or To Arrange For a Media Interview
Communications Support, Saskatchewan Liberal Party