Andrew Kurjata from CBC Radio and I accomplished a rare thing together on Twitter last week: we debated each other on an important issue without resorting to name calling.
Andrew started with this post:
"Just gonna throw it out there, not a fan of journalists telling people "no matter what, make sure you vote." He then added "there are plenty of legitimate reasons for people to not vote. I dunno it just seems off-brand to me for regular newscasts or reports to endorse voting as an inherent good or duty."
I had to bite. My response:
"There is NO reasons in a democracy not to vote (just ask someone who lived in a place where they couldn't) and a spoiled ballot (an X across the whole ballot) is a vote for "none of the above" - not voting is lazy and a dereliction of duty as a citizen in my humble opinion - use it or lose it."
Andrew's response was to post a link to Wil Fundal's story about a fellow from the Sucker Creek First Nation who's not voting.
"As an Indigenous nationalist, it is contradictory to our position of Indigenous people having complete control over the social, economic, environmental, cultural and political aspects of our lives," Nipwi Kakinoosit said. "We're under no obligation whatsoever to participate."
Some food for thought but I wasn't buying.
"Not only is that sentiment wrong but it discredits Mavis Erickson, Jody Wilson-Raybould and the many excellent past and present Indigenous people who enter political life to help their communities, inspire youth and move forward on the path to reconciliation," I replied.
Andrew stuck to his guns.
"Doesn't discredit anyone," he wrote. "He directly says it's everyone's individual choice whether to participate or not. I see it more like... if you love in N Korea you can vote. But that doesn't make the system legitimate. And for some Indigenous people, our system is legitimate."
The false equivalency annoyed me so my response was blunt.
"Comparing Canada to North Korea? OK..."
Andrew eloquently clarified his remarks.
"What I'm saying is, not everyone sees this country and its electoral system as legitimate - for valid reasons, looking at the history of the relationship with Indigenous people - therefore voting isn't an inherent good for all."
Andrew either got tired of arguing with me (I seem to get that a lot!) or he graciously left me with the last word.
"I respect but disagree with Indigenous (or any other) people who won't vote, regardless of their reasons - it is a free country after all and I don't believe in mandatory voting - but let me ask you to consider this," I wrote back. "Would the US be better or worse if African-Americans refused to vote and take part in government because of slavery and ongoing racism? Individually, they have that right but Martin Luther King argued for the vote as a tool for change because of its inherent good - I defer to his wisdom."
Just like there isn't a right way to vote, it doesn't really matter who was right in my debate with Andrew. The most important thing was that we had the discussion, which is what voting and elections are all about.
On Monday, those of you who take the time to vote will be heard and your ballot will help shape the political future of this country. For those of you who don't vote, the 338 elected MPs still have a legal duty to represent you in Parliament as if you had.