Updates on the Canadian Federal Election

On the 11th of September 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada. After finally informing her Majesty, Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, parliament was dissolved, and the country embarked on its quadrennial national barometer. Thus, as predicted by the Canada Elections Act, Canada will hold its federal election Monday October 21st.

The dissolution of parliament means that it cannot sit to pass bills and create laws. It also signifies that the campaign period has begun, so political parties and candidates are allowed to spend much more money than they are usually permitted. For the average person this means a lot of billboards, posters and YouTube attack adds. It is expected that these messages propose solutions to the problems faced by the electors.

In order to be an elector in the federal Canadian election, you must be a Canadian citizen aged 18 or older on the date of the election. If you are living temporarily away from home (e.x. in a campus residence), in jail or residing outside of the country, special accommodations like early voting or mail-in voting are made, thanks to the guarantees of Section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

So how exactly do you vote, and who do you vote for? In Canada we use the antique system of first-past the post. Essentially the country is divided up into 338 ridings of roughly equal size, though many complicated exceptions and clauses accorded to certain provinces, there are numerous exceptions. Within each riding, any Canadian eligible to vote, usually with the backing of a political party, may declare their candidacy. Electors in the riding can vote for one singular candidate, and whichever candidate has the most votes wins the riding and receives a seat in parliament.

What happens in one riding has no bearing on what happens in another, thus it is easier to think of it as 338 individual elections as opposed to one giant election. In fact, a party having the most votes nation wide does in no way guarantee that it will have the most seats.

If a single party does have the majority of seats in parliament (in this case 169+1), the Governor General will ask the leader of that party if they would like to “form government”. Thus the party leader will be sworn in as Prime Minister and choose a cabinet of ministers.

If no single party gets a majority, as seems more likely this time around, parties may cobble together to form a coalition government (unlikely) with a blended cabinet. Alternatively, the largest party will govern as a minority government (likely) where parliament haggles and barter to pass each bill. Inevitably, said government loses a confidence bill (a specific set of important bills, defined by parliament, like a budget), triggering an election, and the process repeats itself.

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