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Analysis & Commentary

Susan Mohammad

Running a mini-marathon to my first vote
1 a.m., June 29, 2004

Susan Mohammad
Susan Mohammad  
After rushing out of work and struggling to climb up one of the many steep hills that make up downtown Halifax, I found myself catching my breath in line at the voting station feeling like I had just run a mini-marathon. A jolly woman in a yellow dress (who was obviously on a Timbit sugar-high) handed me my ballot and told me to drop it into the box. Afterwards, I felt like I had finished a marathon, or a journey of some kind - and thank heavens, it was over!

So it looks as though the race is over and the Liberals will have a minority government with the NDP holding the balance of power.

I have to say that I was worried the Conservatives would win it at one point, making me consider voting Liberal to counter that. However, I took local Green Party candidate Michael Oddy's advice and decided not to vote out of fear but with my heart instead. I thought about voting for the Green Party, but at the last minute decided to vote NDP.

Throughout this election, my vote has been bouncing around between the NDP and the Green Party, over to the Liberals and back.

When I started writing these diaries, I felt that I didn't know anything about Canadian politics. Because of that I bought newspaper upon newspaper, watched any election coverage I could get my hands on, and started conversations with random people in town, hoping to better educate myself, hopefully gaining more confidence in my vote.

I explored party platforms, candidates, and issues such as proportional representation and leadership, but in the end I didn't feel a whole lot more sure of myself.

Most of the people I spoke to today were unsure themselves about who they would vote for, and told me that their minds too had been bouncing around from one party to the next.

So, how did I come to my decision? Well, like I said earlier, I did not want to vote strategically because I felt the Liberals would win anyway, and I like what the NDP stands for when it comes to social programs. Add to that the fact that Alexa McDonough would most likely win in my riding again (which she has). I also like Jack Layton and feel that even though he is not the most experienced party leader, he is interested in health care, minority issues and the environment.

I am pleased that the NDP has doubled its popular vote in this election and am impressed by how much solid support the Bloc has received in Quebec. I feel the NDP having a stronger voice in Parliament will force the Liberals to listen and be more flexible.

I can't say I'm happy the Liberals have squeaked through in the outcome of this election, especially after the sponsorship scandal, but I am one of those Canadians who is relieved that it wasn't the Conservatives.

On the upside, Paul Martin was finance minister and has a lot of political experience, although that is not too important for me.

All I can hope for is that the Liberals have learned that Canadians are not nearly as willing to support them as they were these past few elections, and that they keep a closer eye on their spending habits. The heat is now on, big time. However, news becomes old news and people forget, so I am still skeptical that this new Parliament will truly be a marker for change in this country.

Looking forward, I would like to see some changes made to our electoral system and I hope that this new government keeps the interests of the Canadian people in mind when making important decisions.

Over all, I feel this election was unpredictable and intense, with a lot of issues being raised, and some ignored. For example, no party talked extensively about investments in Canadian culture or the arts.

Yet I have to say I am relieved it's all over.

Though I was not completely confident in my voting strategy, I feel my experience as a first-time voter was an average one. Surprisingly, I saw more young people like me at the voting office than I expected. I have a feeling that more of us voted in this election, although I can't be sure.

Although I understand why many young Canadians do not vote, I think that I will continue voting in upcoming elections and urge young Canadians to do the same. Hopefully enough of us can get out so that the men in charge will take notice of our numbers and start speaking our language.

Past Diaries

Susan Mohammad is a student and freelance writer. She was born in Toronto and grew up in nearby Kitchener-Waterloo. The 22-year-old started her journalism degree at Carleton University in Ottawa and is now attending the University of King's College in Halifax. Susan plans to travel through Europe and parts of the Middle East after finishing school. In her spare time, she volunteers with the YWCA in Halifax.

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