10/03/2011 04:12 EDT | Updated 12/03/2011 05:12 EST

Elections Are a Privilege, so Be Prepared and Vote!

I have watched many an election in my life and I am always amazed by the low voter turnout. Do we stay home because we don't know what to do, or is it because we feel our one vote won't make a difference?


If you are like me, it seems like the Ontario campaign has been going on for months. Yet only since Labour Day have leaders been trekking across the province in their flashy buses working to convince votes their vision for Ontario is the prudent one. You listen to the leaders, and scratch your head when comparing big numbers -- spending increases paired with attractive tax cuts meant to put more money into your wallets. Election Day (Oct. 6) is fast approaching and you want to make sure you make the right decision.

I have watched many an election in my life, in some cases with a front row seat, and I am always amazed by the low voter turnout. Do we stay home because we don't know what to do, or is it because we feel our one vote won't make a difference? I often wonder what would happen if we were all legally required to vote -- it might correct the turnout problem but voting under duress isn't right either.

I enjoy politics -- which might seem strange to many. I respect people who put their name on the ballot, and believe it is a calling and not a career. I have been inspired by leaders, and am often frustrated by a lack of leadership. Good leaders aren't always the most polished or able to deliver the most rousing speeches, yet each time an election is upon us, we hold out hope that some adults will emerge and work for us, and not fall into the same rhetoric and excuses we have seen all too often before. I had to turn off the recent leader's debate because each was essentially calling the other a liar.

To mull through each party's platform in detail would be an arduous and frustrating task. However, depending on our age, job status and marital status, these promises matter. I have been working in the renewable energy business for two years now. On principle I believe we should resist subsidies where we can, yet I also believe in the merits of renewable energy. There has been considerable investment into Ontario's economy as a result of the Feed-in-Tariff program. Yes, the rates are high and provide a reasonable return to private sector companies putting up the capital to build solar, wind, biomass and other renewable energy systems. These rates will come down in line with falling equipment costs. Many direct and indirect jobs have been created. The Conservatives have promised to cancel this program and focus instead on hydroelectric and nuclear power. They have also promised to cancel a Samsung deal which is going to create thousands of jobs across the province. I think voters are now used to classic campaign promises of cancelling contracts once they are elected only to discover the penalty to doing so is too onerous.

Outside of energy policy, we care about jobs, education, taxes, services, health care, and infrastructure improvement. In all cases I would encourage you to look for the details. Each party has committed to balancing the budget by 2017 or 2018. Assumptions are what drive these commitments. Don't forget tax cuts need to be paid for. The Conservatives have promised the most aggressive cuts in spending but won't go as far to be specific. Be aware of the classic post-election claim by the winning party: "We are in worse shape than we thought, so we will have to adjust some of our promises."

I cannot, and will not tell anyone how to vote, but I make my decisions based on a few basic factors; my candidate, party leaders, validity of both spending and tax cut assumptions, and specific programs that personally affect me and my family. At the very least, take a few minutes to compare platforms on those issues that matter to you most. More importantly, please VOTE! It is a privilege to have free and fair elections. If you have been watching footage from around the world over the past 12 months, you will know that millions of people would fight to the death to secure this privilege.