The Manitoba Provincial election is April 19th. There aren’t many people enthusiastic about the prospects. As a result, I’ve heard far too many say they won’t be voting.
It is easy to become disillusioned with politics – it is far from a perfect system and power does seem to have a way of eroding values. However, it is a privilege to have the right to vote and our collective voices do make a difference.
Imagine the public outcry if we weren’t allowed to vote. One hundred years ago in Manitoba that was the case for women.
I don’t remember when I first heard of Nellie McClung, maybe grade five or six, but her story made an impact. Novelist, teacher, social reformer and suffragist, she worked tirelessly to bring about change for women in Manitoba and across the country.
Thanks to McClung, in 1916 Manitoba was the first province in Canada to give women the right to vote and run for office. It took until 1919 for the federal government to do the same.
Then in March 1928, a Supreme Court of Canada ruling stated that women were not “qualified persons”. Nellie McClung rose to the occasion, along with Irene Parlby, Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards. The Famous Five fought for change. In October 1929 they won the battle; women were declared “persons” and given equal rights.
They would be appalled to know that today so many chose not to “exercise their franchise”. Voter turnout for the recent provincial election in Saskatchewan was a dismal 56.83 percent. We can, and should, do better.
We have freedom. We have choice. We have the right.
Sometimes we need to look to our past to be grateful for the present. You don’t have to get involved in politics, but you should be informed and never take the privilege of having a say for granted. So on April 19th, get out and vote. Let’s quell voter apathy and take an active part in shaping the future of our province.