Canada’s Federal election comes at a time of domestic and global uncertainty, with Canadians expressing concern over the environment, economic growth, civil liberties, increasing terror threats, and the potential return of Rob Ford. Fortunately, there are a number of political parties campaigning to address these very concerns.
In an attempt to get their message across and persuade voters to generously donate, all major political parties have been flooding social media with campaign advertisements. And although these advertisements may be well intended, a few in particular have attracted the attention of Canadians for all the wrong reasons. For instance, the Conservative attack ads targeting the Liberals and NDP have been chastised for focusing on personality and not the issues, whilst the Liberals’ latest advertisement had people asking less questions about the state of the economy and more questions on how Justin Trudeau managed to walk up the wrong escalator.
Trivial matters aside, this election could prove to be one of the most important and contested elections in Canada’s history. Because of that, it’s critical all Canadians become adequately informed and vote. This article will highlight the crucial factors that many Canadians may not know about this election, from the implications of the Fair Elections Act to the new rules in regards to campaign spending limits and how much money individuals can donate to their favored party.
10. Longest Election Campaign in Canadian History
The law in Canada states that an election campaign must run for at least 37 days but doesn’t set a maximum length. Taking advantage of this law, the Harper administration announced on August 2 the beginning of the longest election campaign in Canadian history. This 11-week ideological battle has already been running for a month and still has another month and a half to go. Opinions on the early election call have been mixed, with government critics arguing it gives the Conservatives a huge advantage and others arguing it gives undecided voters more time to research and make their minds.
9. Canadians Can Donate More
In the 2011 election, individuals could only donate up to $1,200 per candidate. However, in this election, individual voters can now donate up to $1,500 to their preferred candidate. On the face of the matter, an additional $300 may not appear like a lot and it may have little to no impact on the election results. Nonetheless, it’s important to recognize that in highly contested constituencies, $300 could be the difference between winning and losing.
8. New Electoral Districts and Boundary Changes
Thirty new electoral districts have been established for the 2015 election and 87% of current constituencies have had their boundaries changed. The creation of new electoral districts has largely been welcomed by voters, primarily because it’s suspected to give Ontario, B.C., Alberta, and Quebec a greater voice in parliament. However, critics of the Conservative government have argued that Harper’s decision to redraw constituency boundaries is a deliberate attempt to secure more votes – a tactic known as gerrymandering. To find out more information, check out the Elections Canada website where they provide an interactive electoral map.
7. Voters Can Register Online
For the first time in Canadian history, a new Elections Canada initiative will enable people to register to vote online. Elections Canada hopes that by doing so it will expedite the registration process and improve the quality of the voters list in advance. Despite this monumental change to Canada’s electoral process, Canadians will still be unable to cast their ballots online. According to Elections Canada, there are too many concerns associated with enabling online voting, especially regarding the possibility of hacking or voters being coerced to vote against their will.
6. Tactical Voting Will Play a Factor
This election is predicted to be one of the most contentious in history, with the three main parties all gaining traction and expecting success. What will undoubtedly occur in this election – like with all contentious elections – is tactical voting. Tactical voting occurs when a voter supports a candidate other than his or her sincere preference in order to prevent an undesirable outcome. Already there are a number of groups on social media established to help Canadians who are considering tactical voting. For instance, the social media group Anyone But Harper is established to inform Canadians of which candidate in their riding is most likely to beat the Conservatives.
5. Conservatives Only Need 11 Additional Seats to Retain a Majority
Currently the Tories form a majority government in the house of commons, holding 159 seats out of 308. However, following the electoral redistribution of 30 new seats, the House of Commons increased its total number of seats from 308 to 338. This is significant because it means the Conservatives will only need to attain 170 seats – an additional 11 – to form another majority government. Furthermore, according to Ipolitics, Harper’s Conservatives could suffer defeat in 18 districts and still retain their majority, and lose up to 40 and still secure a minority government.
4. New Voting Rules
After the last election, the Conservatives introduced the Fair Elections Act which changed the voting process. In the last election, voters only had to show their registration cards. Whereas now under the new Act, Elections Canada requires that all voters have to prove who they are and where they live. Simply, all voters need to do is bring a piece of identification that has their photo, name, and current address.
3. Most Expensive Election in Canadian History
As well as this election being the longest in modern Canadian history it will also go down as the most expensive. Last year the Harper government passed new legislation that increased how much money parties could spend during the campaign period. Specifically, campaign spending limits for parties and candidates is increased by 1/37th for every day longer than 37 days. This news should alarm Canadians, as it’s predicted that this election will cost taxpayers over half a billion dollars. Critics have argued that the decision to launch a long campaign period and raise party spending limits will benefit Harper’s Conservatives the most, as currently they’ve raised more money than all the other parties combined.
2. Debates Are Different
Traditionally, Canada would hold two televised leaders’ debates during election campaigns. However, that tradition has ceased following a Conservative announcement that Harper would not participate in the usual debates. Instead, there will be a series of four debates throughout the campaign, sponsored by a variety of sources. Last month Maclean’s magazine sponsored the first leadership debate and over the coming weeks there will be further debates sponsored by the Globe and Mail, Google Canada, and the Munk Debates. Although it’s not usually part of the Conservative ideology to break ties with tradition, many Canadians will be pleased with more opportunities to see their party leaders spar over the pressing issues.
1. Undecided Voters
In the 2011 Federal election, voter turnout was 61%, and in British Columbia’s 2013 Provincial election it was under 40%. What these statistics prove is that there is a significant percentage of Canadians who feel apathetic towards the political system. And in all honesty, who can blame those who didn’t vote? When politics is barely taught in school, when the politicians are corrupt, and when masses of people don’t recognize the political system as having much impact on their lives, political apathy is inevitable.
However, it has to be stressed that politics is something everyone must be sufficiently informed about, as without it the lives we live today would be very different. Canadians who are unsure of how, or don’t feel inclined to vote should take into consideration that this is one of the most crucial elections in Canada’s history and that it takes very little time to become informed. Below is a list of links that are designed to help undecided voters become knowledgeable about the parties running and choose who to vote for.
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