The motivated minority vs. the silent majority


There’s been some talk about the 97.5% of the Pontiac population that didn’t show up for the EFW town hall meetings. Both sides of the debate try to claim them. “People who support something won’t show up,” or “People are busy with work and can’t attend,” or “The entire population is against this,” we are told.

I’m sorry to be the realist, but they didn’t show up because they didn’t care. It wasn’t a priority for them either way. If it was, they would’ve made time for it. This is reflective of the general attitude of the average Canadian towards, well, basically anything that isn’t hockey or entertainment. As long as the average citizen is comfortable and entertained, they aren’t going to pop their head up. They aren’t going to rock the boat. It would take fumes from the incinerator pouring into their living room window (and disrupting their hockey game) before they took notice that something was amiss.

Warden Toller wasn’t wrong when she said that due to low voter turn out, referendums aren’t reflective of the will of the majority. But the problem is that the will of the majority is to eat cheese and watch sportsball!

Take that thought one step further and it becomes clear that our elected officials are chosen by a narrow “majority”. According to Elections Canada, less than 63% of the eligible population voted in the 2021 federal election. Where were the other 37%? The stats are similar for provincial and municipal elections. That said, if you aren’t paying attention, if you don’t know what’s going on, if you’re going to cast your vote based on the opinion of your favourite celebrity, then you probably should stay home on election day.

So, what does this all mean? It means that a motivated, vocal, well-organized minority can always sway the course of anything. This has been the case in revolutions throughout history (American, French, Russian etc.). And it means that 2.5% of the Pontiac population have successfully shutdown the EFW project, for better or for worse.

I’d like to congratulate you, dear reader, for paying attention. For showing up. For taking the time to read this newspaper rather than scroll social media. Whether or not you’ve taken any action, you are at least paying attention. And that’s a start.

Question everything. Look for patterns. Participate. Find ways to have an influence. See if you can’t wake somebody else up. And don’t forget to continually test the views and hypotheses that you arrive at. This is the intelligent way to actively participate in and influence democracy.