A little over a year ago our family all took the oath of Canadian citizenship. One of the many reasons we did it was to have the ability to vote in our elections and hopefully make a difference in our country’s future. That’s a happy coincidence because doing that is one of our civic duties. Yes, it’s not mandatory to vote as it is in places like Australia, but it is still considered very much the right thing to do.
While we voted in a municipal election a year ago, this is our first federal election – one that’s got a bit more significance.
So we wake up early, aiming to get to the polls before any rush and avoid lineups. It’s a beautiful autumn day, the cool and blustery with colourful leaves coming down just a few at a time. Along the way we see many signs for different candidates.
One thing I immediately like about voting in Canada: Early voting is an option. While in the US it is only an option in 33 states, here early voting is standard. While the official election day is October 21st, this weekend we are able to go to the polling station and cast our vote. I work on that Monday so if I wanted to vote on Election Day, I would have to line up with so many people after work. Instead, at 9:30 when the polls open, we walk through the door of our neighbourhood community centre and follow the many signs:
A person takes our Voter Information Card which was mailed to us a few weeks ago, checks it against our ID and directs us to one of two tables based on the first letter of our last name. When we get there, our ID and voter information card is checked. And then our ballots are handed to us.
Now I’m used to US ballots. On my last one we had candidates for senator, representatives from the house of representatives, county sheriff, town clerk, treasurer, and other city offices, a few referendums for various laws, and a district judge or two. But the ballot we are handed here is slightly bigger than a business card. It looks like this:
It can’t get any simpler. One office to vote for and a handful of candidates. Put an X in the box next to the one you want. Fold it back up, put it in the ballot box. Done. No hacked machines, no hanging chads, simple. The entire process takes approximately 5 minutes as there are no lines today.
The reason for this is that unlike in the US, we don’t elect a president. We vote for our members of parliament (MPs) who are similar in function to the House of Representatives. The leader of the party with the majority of elected MPs becomes the Prime Minister and then can form a government, appointing various MPs to ministerial posts (Ministry of International Trade, Defence, and so on.)
One challenge we do share with the US, though, is the fact that our electoral system is still “First past the post.” meaning that smaller parties – some with more progressive (or regressive for that matter) ideas, can draw votes away from the larger but more mainstream parties. The result is that if you vote for a smaller party that better matches your beliefs, the major party that somewhat matches them could lose to the major party who you really don’t want to see win.
I’ve been struggling with this one for a long time. Since I got to Canada I’ve been a big fan of the NDP and they tend to promote the same values as I hold when it comes to environment and social justice. But the Liberals are OK, albeit pretty disappointing – but not nearly as disappointing as I would find the Conservatives. And so I struggled with this dilemma for a while. And then I saw this interview and my decision was made.
Our country’s relationship to its indigenous people is embarrassing at best. So many reserves are without clean and safe drinking water, often spoiled by mining and industry. The fact that this hasn’t been resolved – that effectively clean water isn’t being viewed as a right for everyone is embarrassing.
Is this the only issue that I am voting on – is this one issue so important to me that this could change my mind? No, not at all. However, the willingness to say “There is a problem that we are obligated to fix.” and not say “But not right now because wow, that’s going to be tough and expensive. We need to wait longer.” is really refreshing. This is an attitude we need with social problems, education, and especially the environment. Creating the world we want is going to be hard, and it’s going to cost money and the sooner we admit it the better.
The only downside about early voting, though, is the wait. I want to see how it goes. Will we have an NDP government? I’m pretty sure we won’t. But will we have a minority government in which they have influence? I think this is very likely – and this is a step in the direction of the world I want to see.
As we often do with these adventures, we recorded Instagram Stories along the way. You can watch them here.