When I was little, I remember my mother taking me to vote at the local church in suburban Melbourne, Australia.
There were red and blue posters everywhere, and the smell of the barbecue nearby was overpowering. I was very confused as to why we were at a church on a Saturday for a barbecue.
Being six years old at the time, I wasn’t so interested in what my mom was doing there (voting for someone who lost), but I was able to participate in the barbecue, and that’s that experience who sold me on Australia’s famous ‘democracy sausage’ forever.
It’s not just a perk to soften up voters pulled out of bed on a Saturday morning – Democratic sausages (usually just overcooked beef sausages) are an institution in themselves and a staple of every respectable voting booth in Australia.
Line up to vote, then line up for a ‘democracy sausage’. There is a good chance that the queue at the barbecue will be longer.
While waiting in a line in front of a few folding tables and a proper barbecue at a community event, you hand over a dollar (or two if you want something fancy, like an onion), and you’re handed a single piece of bread white on a napkin (napkin, Australia). On this single piece of bread is placed a beef sausage.
You might add a little onion, or maybe a splash of watery tomato sauce.
For many, this is the most important decision they will make that day.
Does it look delicious or what?
It’s simple and straightforward: everything that politics is not.
There’s something magical about getting up early every three years on a Saturday morning to do your duty as a good citizen: Donate a few dollars to the local church, or sports club, or creative arts interpretive dance troupe. from technical school by buying a democracy sausage for 50% more than market value, because you know the meat they cook is from the cut-price trash.
I’ve had the pleasure of attending a handful of elections here in Canada, and I have to say I’m not impressed.
The options are appalling. Such a shame for democracy. Where is the BBQ?
So I start my campaign here: Bring the sausage of democracy to Canada. Help increase voter turnout by hosting a barbecue at polling stations on Election Day.
Participation in Canada is shockingly low. Given the noise on social media, I would expect Canadians to be so motivated that they vote twice in every possible election.
Alas, the numbers say otherwise. In the last federal election, turnout was only 62.3%. In British Columbia in 2020, the participation rate was 54.4%. In the last municipal election in this corner of British Columbia, the voter turnout in Fernie was 64.2%. In Sparwood, only 41.6%.
This must change, quickly. If a barbecue can motivate a few extra percentages of people to vote, a barbecue is what it takes.
In the last Australian federal election, voter turnout was over 91%. Sure, registration to vote is mandatory, but I’m going to take a chance and say the numbers aren’t high because it’s the law, but because everyone gets a Democratic sausage.
Start a Canada tradition. For my six-year-old daughter, it meant a lot of weekend barbecues for no apparent reason. So much so that I have looked forward to every election since.
Even though the faces on the posters changed with the location of the polling stations — big old red church, low cream-brick schoolhouse, disused storefront — I think back to when I followed my mom to the election where her boyfriend lost , and when she spent a dollar to buy me a “democracy sausage” to get me to stop protesting.
For what it’s worth, it made me an engaged voter.
-Scott Tibballs is editor of The Free Press, and a sucker for good barbecue.
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