Most of us can remember the images. People lined up for blocks. Some of them with tears in their eyes.

Where was this? South Africa after the end of apartheid. Across the former Soviet Republics of Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism. Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. And countless other places around the world.

Why were the people crying? Because they were voting. For the first time. Some of them had fought their whole lives for that right. Some of them had been beaten in the fighting. Some of their family and friends had died. They were crying because after all the long years of struggle they had finally achieved one of the basic pillars of democracy, the chance to determine the direction their country would take. The chance to build a government.

A sneak peek of CBC's election special. Watch at 6:30 p.m. ET:

Why your vote matters, narrated by actor Jay Baruchel2:58

Here in Canada we've all had that right for generations. We take it for granted as part of our system. And we rarely think about what others have sacrificed to achieve that right and to maintain it. Like those who died on the battlefield to keep Canada free, and those who protested in the streets to achieve a woman's right to vote. 

We've watched the turnout rate in all our elections, federal, provincial and municipal, drop over the years. The last federal election produced a turnout barely over 60 per cent, the one before it was in the 50s. 


Afghans wait to vote in elections in 2014. People in countries where the right to vote was won after years of struggle would wonder at Canada's falling turnout rate. (Tim Wimborne/Reuters)

Try to explain that to people in countries where they just won the right to vote and they turn out in the 90s. They don't get it, and neither should we.

Today Canadians have the chance again to make their vote count. Your polling station probably isn't that far from the screen you're reading this on. If you're flipping through election stories right now then surely you're motivated enough to walk to the station and vote.

Now, some Canadians do care but they still don't vote because they've given up on the system, at least the system as we know it. They're turned off by politicians and their antics. That's disappointing, but at least they've thought about it.  Perhaps they'll decide this time that voting may lead to changes in the system. It's those that haven't thought about it at all that have no excuse.

The Canada of the future starts being shaped today. You might want to be a part of that decision making. Join us tonight at 6:30 ET as we start telling you the most important story of the day — the decision YOU have made.

Peter Mansbridge

Peter Mansbridge hosts special coverage of tonight's election results beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. (Eric Foss/CBC)