Editorial: Civic duty

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The 2019 federal election campaign is more than half over, with voting day set for Monday, Oct. 21.

For those who already know how they are voting, advance polls run this long weekend: from Friday, Oct. 11 through Monday, Oct. 14, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. On Salt Spring polls will open at Fernwood and  GISS.

Angus Reid, who has a long career in the polling and research business and now heads the non-profit Angus Reid Institute, was on the island last weekend as a Salt Spring Forum speaker. Except for how the Greens and NDP will fare, and the turnout rate among voters aged 35 and under, he summarized the election campaign as not too interesting. He said it is also disappointingly preoccupied with side issues of “character” rather than topics of real concern to Canadians, like climate change, health care and housing. We have to agree. Political parties seem to know that people are more likely to be moved by negative feelings to vote against a candidate rather than for a party and its plans for governing. 

Reid decried the loss of a stable mass media with adequate resources to do public interest polling, in-depth reporting and meaningful election coverage. He cited “bad polling” as contributing to the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump outcomes.

Reid noted that in the past, everyone who was politically engaged would read the same materials or watch the same TV documentary and weigh in on the information presented. Today, many news sources are suspect, so-called “fake news” is rampant and misinformation can spread like wildfire.

Even the much-touted television debates — and there was only one English-language debate this time — no longer attract a big audience.

Coincidentally, Oct. 6 to 12 is National Newspaper Week, intended to highlight the importance of newspapers in a democracy with #NewspapersMatter and #NowMoreThanEver hashtags. Now more than ever, support for newspapers and traditional media sources without an axe to grind is critical for informed decision-making and protecting the integrity of our democracy.

Also important is a chance to see local candidates and learn more about their party’s platforms. That opportunity comes our way next Wednesday at 3 p.m. when the Salt Spring Forum hosts the all-candidates debate in the gym at Gulf Islands Secondary School.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to take time to make an informed decision when it comes to voting.

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