Canadian Democratic System

Canada is faced with an upcoming election in the fall and it’s important for citizens to understand what that means for Canadian society. I’m not here to talk opinions on parties, there will be more than enough of that in your life, I am here to talk about the voting system in Canada and just how the election system works. For people to be able to understand how the election system works I want to look at a few of the changes Canada has been going through as well as some of its institutions which have shaped our democracy. Now due to the reason I doubt many of you remember much about politics from your high school classes, I will give a brief overview of the Canadian democracy then get into the concept of voting.

Canada is formally run by a constitutional monarchy and has what is called parliamentary democracy. Canada’s parliament consists of three parts: the Queen (as represented through the governor general); the Senate; and the House of Commons. Each part of the government has it’s own specific roles and responsibilities. Some of these seats in parliament are elected, while others are hand picked. Canada also has three divisions of powers and governments including: the federal; territorial or provincial; and municipal. Canada has many different parties at each level and several options for different types of leaders of who they want to run their country, province or city. Some popular parties include the Conservatives, Liberals, New Democratic Party, the Green Party and the Quebecois. Elections occur every four years.

The main focus for this article though is the idea of our voting system. First things first, there are 338 ridings in Canada. These are based on geography and population size and each riding has one Member of Parliament (MP). As a Canadian, voting is voluntary and you vote only for your local candidate. You do not vote for a party, but for an individual. The candidate who gets the most votes in your electoral district wins. The winning candidate represents you in the House of Commons and this is called the First Past the Post system (FPTP). You do not vote directly for the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is the leader of the political party which has the most seats in the House of Commons.

Some people have an issue with this FPTP system and are pushing for a proportional representation system, where the numbers aren’t based so much on individuals and ridings but focus more on total votes. The Liberal party currently with a majority government had actually promised to get rid of this system and move to a system which is a little more fair. However it is unknown in the coming months how much not getting rid of the FPTP system will affect the Liberal chances at getting elected again or if it will have any affect at all. Maybe the FPTP system isn’t seen as bad enough yet by Canadians? Maybe it will be pushed out of the way shortly? The most recent change to the election system came to us just last week on a supreme court ruling about Canadians living abroad. In the decision made it was decided that a Canadian Elector, living abroad, who has previously resided in Canada, is entitled to vote by special ballot in federal elections, regardless of how long they have been living abroad.