The Trolley Problem is a heavily discussed experiment amongst philosophers on the nature of morality, most notably associated with Philippa Foot, an ethical philosopher (Hacker-Wright, 2018). In this moral dilemma, a trolley is speeding down a track. There are five people tied to said track. You are standing beside a lever. By pulling it, you can divert the trolley to an alternate track on which there is a single person tied. The end result can either be the death of one person or the trolley can continue on its path to killing five. So, do you pull the lever?

This dilemma poses the question: should one do what is most beneficial for the greatest amount of people, at the cost of another? Or is it more “morally correct” to avoid the situation altogether?

The Trolley Problem is a great way to evaluate one’s position on politics. As the 2019 Canadian federal elections were recently held, many people found themselves questioning their true political stances. Much of the Canadian voting populous was torn. Should we vote strategically or vote for who we really want in power? Those who couldn’t decide chose not to vote at all. 65.9% of eligible Canadians voted in the 2019 federal elections, dropping from the 68.3% during the 2015 elections. This leaves an approximate 34% of eligible voters not voting (CBC News, 2019).

The issue with not voting, or casting a non-vote ballot, is that by refraining from voting for a political candidate, an unfavourable party may get elected. This, in turn, affects many minority groups, as the “unfavourable” often prioritizes the needs of the majority, rather than taking into account each individual and their separate needs.

The Liberal Party won the 2019 federal elections, renewing Justin Trudeau’s role of Prime Minister. Although exponentially better than Andrew Scheer of the Conservative Party, he is still only the lesser of the two evils. Between Scheer’s support for lifting harsh gun restrictions (Stone, 2018) and his racist refugee policies (Blatchford & Rabson, 2017), Trudeau appears to be the better choice. However, despite doing many positive things for Canada, we cannot overlook the negatives done by Justin Trudeau—the effects of his support for the Trans Mountain pipeline, the hurt felt by minorities post-blackface scandal, or the violation of the Conflict of Interest Act in a corporate criminal case, to name a few (CNN, 2019).

The argument often upheld by non-voters is that if they feel they are personally unaffected by government changes, or they simply do not care, then why vote? The reason why voting is important is that policy changes will always affect somebody, somewhere. If you feel as though you are unaffected, think of those who would be.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

– Desmond Tutu (Brown, 1984).

Is neutrality the same as a non-vote? Is pulling the lever the same as a strategic vote? Is a non-vote the same as not pulling the lever at all?

So, do you pull the lever?

Brown, R. M. A. (1984). Unexpected news: reading the Bible with Third World eyes. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.

Canadian election drew nearly 66% of registered voters | CBC News. (2019, October 22). Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/voter-turnout-2019-1.5330207.

Hacker-Wright, J. (2018, August 17). Philippa Foot. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/philippa-foot/.

Justin Trudeau Fast Facts. (2019, December 18). Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2015/11/03/americas/justin-trudeau-fast-facts/index.html.

Stone, L. (2018, March 14). Andrew Scheer’s gun policies include firearms ombudsman, taking power from RCMP. Retrieved from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-andrew-scheers-gun-policies-include-firearms-ombudsman-taking-power/