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British Columbia Votes 2005,  Voting Day May 17, 2005
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Election Colombie-britannique 2005
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A Canadian election dictionary

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advance poll (n) traditionally a place where people who are unable to vote in their normal location on voting day, such as travellers, vote before (in advance of) election day. Now, any registered voter may vote in an advance poll. People may vote either in an advance poll or in their riding on election day, but not both. For the 2005 B.C. election, advance polls are scheduled from 12:00 noon to 9:00 p.m. (local time) on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday May 11-14, 2005. Addresses of advance poll locations are published in local newspapers and can also be obtained from Returning Officers.

attack ads (n) political advertisements for one party or special-interest group, actively attacking the personalities, policies or people in another group or party. These are distinct from generic political ads, which only promote the views, policies and people of the sponsoring group.




back bench (n) originally referred to the higher (back) members' benches in the federal House of Commons, farther from the floor and the Speaker of the House. Traditionally, ministers, leaders and influential members of government and the opposition sit in the front (lower) rows. A "backbencher" is an MP or provincial MLA seldom involved in party planning or policy creation, but who might sit on committees.

BC-STV (British Columbia Single Transferable Vote) (n) the modified form of the Single Transferable Vote electoral system recommended by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform.

boondoggle (n, slang) a government-sponsored make-work project or program with little purpose other than political patronage. Usually refers to a project that loses money and/or fails to perform nominal purpose.

boundaries commission (n) independent commission that makes recommendations to the Legislature on the boundaries and names of electoral districts. In B.C., boundary commissions are appointed after alternate general elections. A commission is scheduled to be appointed after the May 2005 election.

byelection (n) an election in one or more electoral districts, but not in all districts, caused by the departure of a sitting MLA (for example by death, retirement, recall or resignation). An MLA elected in a byelection may sit in the House until the next general election.




Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance (n, proper) official name of the political party commonly known as the "Canadian Alliance." The party was formed in 2000 after a failed attempt to merge the opposition Reform Party of Canada and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. Considered to be on the right of the Canadian political spectrum. Abbreviation: C.A. In 2003, this party joined with the P.C. party to form the Conservative Party of Canada.

candidate (n) person standing for election. A candidate running in British Columbia can seek a Standing Nomination or a regular nomination. Candidates must file nomination papers signed by at least 25 people entitled to vote in the electoral district. Candidates must be Canadian citizens at least 18 years old and have lived in B.C. for the six months immediately preceding the election. They do not have to reside in the district in which they run for office.

Candidates can file documents for a Standing Nomination with district electoral office at any time. Once the election has begun, Standing Nomination applications cannot be filed after 4:30 p.m. on day five after the election is underway.

Anyone, including Standing Nominees, wishing to be a candidate in a specific election must file their nomination papers between Day 6 and Day 15 of the election. If the candidate wishes to be identified with a registered political party, he or she must also submit a letter of endorsement signed by two officials of that party. Candidates must pay a fee of $100 to run. This is refunded if the candidate receives at least 15 percent of the votes cast in their district.

Candidates must be eligible to vote. Members of the House of Commons (MPs) and judges of the B.C. Court of Appeal or B.C. Supreme Court cannot be candidates.

caucus (n) 1. a closed-door meeting between a group of people planning matters of concern to all. 2. A subcommittee or faction of a larger group. 3. All the elected members of a political party. Possibly from the Algonquin word "cau-cau-is" for "adviser."

caucus (v, intransitive) to meet. Although redundant, the phrase "caucus meeting" is often used.

conservative (n, proper, slang) term used to describe a supporter of the Progressive Conservative party. Written with a small "c," conservative is an adjective describing a person on the right of the Canadian political spectrum.




democracy (n) a system of government in which individuals cast votes for elected representatives in a multiparty election. From the Greek "demos," meaning "people."

District Magnitude (n) the number of candidates who are to be elected from an electoral district. A "DM=2" means that two candidates would be elected in that district, "DM=3" means three people would get elected. District magnitude under the current electoral system is one: only one person wins in each riding. Under the proposed BC-STV system it could vary from DM=2 to DM=7.

Droop Quota (n) the formula to determine how many votes a candidate must receive in order to be elected under the proposed BC-STV system. It is named after H.R. Droop, the English lawyer who invented it in 1868. The formula is:

Quota=1+(number of valid ballots in riding / number of MLAs to elect +1)

For example, if there are 1000 ballots cast in a riding, and two candidates will be elected, the formula would be:
Quota=1+(1000/3). For this example, a candidate would need 334 votes to win a seat. This is also known as the Electoral Quota.




election (n) a vote among qualified electors. Usually, the winner of an election is the candidate who wins a majority of the votes cast. If a candidate is unopposed, they are declared the winner by acclamation.

Electoral Quota (n) (see Droop Quota)

electors (n) people allowed to vote in an election. In B.C., they must be 18 years of age and satisfy certain residency requirements.




flat tax (n) a system of taxation where every taxpayer, individual and corporate pays the same percentage of net income as tax. Commonly, a 17 per cent flat tax rate is suggested. This contrasts with current tax structure where – generally – higher income taxpayers pay a higher tax rate and lower-income taxpayers pay a lower rate.

First Past The Post (FPTP) (n) nickname for the current electoral system used. Voters elect one candidate in each electoral district. The candidate with the most votes wins that district's seat in the legislature. (see plurality system.)




general election (n) an election in all electoral districts. In B.C., general elections are now held on a fixed date: the second Tuesday in May every fourth year.

In other provinces and federally, general elections are caused when the sitting premier or governing party leader requests the Lieutenant Governor to dissolve the House of Assembly and call an election. The Lieutenant Governor commonly complies with this wish. However, in 1926 after the federal Mackenzie King Liberal minority coalition government collapsed, the Governor General asked Opposition leader Arthur Meighen to form a government. He was prime minister for four days before his government was defeated by coalition votes. The Governor General then called the election.

gerrymander (verb, transitive) to divide voting districts so that they give an advantage to one political party over another. The word was coined after an 1812 election in Massachusetts, when Governor Elbridge Gerry was accused of rigging the vote by creating an electoral district favourable to his party. On a map, the controversial district was in the shape of a salamander. A painter named Gilbert Stuart is credited with first noting the peculiar shape. A newspaper satirist in 1813 is said to have combined the governor's name and the amphibian into the phrase "gerrymander." Note: the governor pronounced his name "GARY," and not "JERRY," but modern usage has the word "gerrymander" pronounced "jerrymander."

Grit (n, slang) a member of or supporter of the Liberal party of Canada. An 1840s Upper Canada radical reformist party named the Clear Grits merged in 1870 with reformers in Quebec to form the Liberals. "Clear Grit" was a complimentary term meaning tenacious or dedicated.

Green Party (n, proper) a political party whose goals include environmental sustainability, social justice, gender equity and decentralization of political power. The Greens have never won a seat in Canada, but members in European countries such as Germany, Belgium and Finland have enjoyed wider support and have influenced government policy on many occasions.

In the 2001 B.C. election, the Green party received 12 percent of the popular vote.




health care(n) in Canada generally refers to a medical care system of doctors and hospitals. Often used as shorthand to describe the Canadian medicare system, where the federal government provides a portion of the funding to each province for provincially administered medical delivery systems. Minimum standards of care are supervised by the federal government. However, individual provincial governments determine the exact treatments to be provided at no fee and determine payment levels and doctors' salaries.

husting (n) any place where a candidate meets with the electorate. Scandinavian origin. In Nordic languages the word thing refers to a group meeting or deliberative body. The Althing is Iceland's parliament. Old English adopted the word husthing, literally "house meeting," later dropping the second "h." Before written ballots were adopted in Great Britain in 1872, candidates for Parliament would meet with the electorate at a husting and the hand votes would be counted. Modern usage has added an s to the end and the word is often seen as 'hustings.'




Independent (n, adj) a candidate who is not running as the approved nominee of a registered political party and can choose to be listed on the ballot as an Independent.




jerrymander (v) alternate, rare, spelling of "gerrymander."




King-Byng Affair(n) 1925-26 constitutional dispute between Prime Minister Mackenzie King and Governor General Lord Byng. The outcome of the dispute - an election victory by King - firmly established the principle that a Governor General must agree to a prime minister's request for the dissolution of Parliament and a general election.




left, Left (adj, n) end of the political spectrum espousing humanism, socialism, managed economics. Extreme left could be identified with pure communism. Canadian politics in general is said to be more "left-leaning" than American politics because of the generally accepted socialist principles of health care, employment insurance and other government-administered policies with social impact. As a group, people following this belief are said to be part of the Left. (see also "right")

Liberal (n, proper) short form for B.C.'s ruling party, the Liberal Party of B.C. The B.C. Liberal Party is not affiliated with the Liberal Party of Canada. In the 2001 general election, the B.C. Liberal party won 77 seats and received 58 percent of the popular vote.

liberal (adj) person with political beliefs leaning toward humanism, socialism, to the center or left of the political spectrum. (see also "Liberal", "conservative")

Lieutenant Governor (n) person who is the Queen's representative in B.C., and therefore the chief representative of the province. Largely a ceremonial role today. Important duties include opening the legislature and issuing a writ for general elections. The Honourable Iona Campagnolo is the current Lieutenant Governor of B.C.




Majoritarian System (n) electoral system that requires the winning candidate to have an absolute majority of votes, i.e. more than 50% of the total votes cast. Examples of this system are the Alternative Vote used in Australia and "run-off" systems that may require a second round of voting, common in European presidential elections.

majority government (n) a government in which the ruling party elects more members to the Legislature than all other parties and Independents combined. In the current B.C. Legislature, with 79 members, a party would have to elect 40 members to hold a majority. The term is used in the assumption that, in case of voting in the House, all government members would vote the same way.

minority government (n) a government in which the ruling party has not elected more members than all other parties and Independents combined. The government holds power either by forging a formal coalition with other parties and/or members, or by informal support from non-government members.

MP (n) abbreviation for federal Member of Parliament. Confusingly, this commonly means a member of the lower house, the House of Commons and not Senators, who are members of the upper house. (see "Parliament")

Member of the House of Commons (n) elected member of the lower house of Parliament, often referred to simply as "the Commons." Members are colloquially known as MPs. A serving MP cannot run in a British Columbia provincial election.

MLA (n) abbreviation for Member of the Legislative Assembly (of B.C.). Most provinces call their representatives MLAs, however in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia they are known as MHAs (Members of the House of Assembly) and in Quebec MNAs (Members of the National Assembly) and in Ontario MPPs (Member of the Provincial Parliament).




New Democratic Party (n) social-democratic party on the left of Canadian politics, formed in 1961 after fusion with the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) party. It has strong roots in prairie agriculture and organized labour unions. Abbreviation is NDP. In B.C., the party is known as the B.C. New Democrats.

In the 2001 general election, the party won two seats and received 22 per cent of the popular vote.

non-confidence (adj) a vote in the legislature which the government loses, and which is interpreted to represent a reason to call an election... declaring the loss as an indication that the government no longer has the "confidence of the people."




Official Opposition (n, proper) the political party that wins the second-highest number of seats in the Legislature, the Official Opposition could theoretically be asked by the Lieutenant General to form a government if the government falls on a non-confidence motion.




plurality system (n) electoral system that requires the winning candidate to receive more votes than any other candidate. (see FPTP)

PMO (n, parliamentary slang) abbreviation for Prime Minister's Office, meaning the political staff and intimate counsellors to the prime minister.

Parliament (n, collective) the Sovereign and two federal legislative houses that govern Canada. The houses are: the elected lower house, the House of Commons; and the Senate, whose members are appointed by the prime minister. In common usage, people often refer to the House of Commons as "Parliament" (see MP). There are currently 308 seats in the House of Commons. There are 105 senators. New legislation that requires financial expenditure can be introduced only in the Commons. Bills of a technical, philosophical or political nature but not requiring financial expenditure can be introduced in the Senate. The sovereign's role is represented by the Governor General.

party (n, collective) a group of candidates united by allegiance to a common set of principles and leader, for the purpose of winning representation in a legislature. In B.C., the Elections Act states that a party is "an organization that has as a primary purpose the fielding of candidates for election to the Legislative Assembly." The Chief Electoral Officer decides whether an entity can be a party. Some criteria include: a published platform; representation in many ridings; published constitution; affiliation with a registered federal party.

platform (n) policy statement of a political party.

poll (n) 1. a survey or sampling of opinion. 2. the smallest (e.g. neighbourhood) division of an electoral district, as in "there are six polls reporting final results in this district." 3. a polling station.

polling station (n) location with one or several voting booths. Also colloquially called a "poll." A voter's name is usually on an eligibility list associated with the polling station nearest his/her residence.

Privy Council (n, proper) an esteemed group of advisers to the Governor General, made up of current and former premiers, cabinet ministers, senators, House Speakers and Supreme Court judges. This is essentially an honorary group, consulted for ceremonial state events.

proportional representation system (n) electoral system that uses the popular vote a party receives in the general election to determine how many candidates it elects. The proposed BC-STV system is a proportional system.

pundit (n) a commentator who makes pronouncements about political affairs. Often used ironically or sarcastically. From Sanskrit "pandit", an expert in religion, politics and culture.




Queen (n, proper) Canada's official head of state. In her role as Sovereign, Elizabeth II performs only ceremonial duties, which are usually delegated to her representative in Canada, the non-partisan and appointed Governor General.




riding (n) a Canadian slang term for an electoral district. In B.C. there are 79 electoral districts or ridings. Origin is Scandinavian and Old English. There are two possible histories of the phrase; both trace to Yorkshire in England. One history has the old Norse word "triding" meaning one-third, which evolved into riding over time. Yorkshire was once divided into three administrative divisions or ridings.

Also, the Yorkshire custom of "Riding the Stang" meant a person to be held up for public ridicule (especially for wife-beating) was placed on a pole or scaffold ("stang") and carried around to be insulted and jeered. The pejorative term "riding" came to mean rural, unsophisticated, countryside.

Rideau Hall (n, proper) since 1867, the official residence of the Governor General. Visiting kings, queens and presidents stay at this 32-hectare estate in Ottawa. When the prime minister visits the Governor General to request the dissolution of Parliament and the calling of a general election, he is said to be "paying a visit to Rideau Hall."

In some provinces, the premier visits the Lieutenant Governor to request the dissolution of the Legislature and the calling of a provincial general election.

right, Right (adj, n) end of the political spectrum espousing smaller government, conservative social policy, open economics. Extreme right could be identified with absolute dictatorships. Canadian politics in general is said to be more "left-leaning" than American politics because of the generally accepted socialist principles of health care and employment insurance. People on Canada's Right are more centrist than the Right in many other countries. (see also "left")




Social Credit party (n) party founded on the 1920s economic theories of Major C. H. Douglas involving currency flow. The British Columbia Social Credit Party was first registered in 1949 as the British Columbia Social Credit League. The party formed the government in B.C. from 1952-1972. The party also formed the majority from 1975-91. Since the 1991 election when they won 7 seats, the Social Credit party has not been a major political force in the legislature.

Socred (n, slang) term for member of the Social Credit Party.

social safety net (n, collective) term used to describe government medical, legal, insurance and assistance programs that supplement income or employment in order to maintain a pre-defined standard of living or care.

standing nomination (n) see "candidate."

STV (Single Transferable Vote) (n) a form of vote counting that tries to reflect more accurately the overall public vote trend, rather than reward the one candidate who received more votes than any other single candidate. Electors rank candidates in order of most favourite to least favorite on the ballot. If a voter's first choice is not elected, or has more than enough votes to get elected, the vote is transferred to the elector's second-favourite candidate. Proponents say this means a vote is never "wasted", it is always counted toward someone who gets elected.

The modified form of the Single Transferable Vote electoral system recommended by the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform is known as BC-STV.




Tory (n, slang) a person who supports or is a member of the Progressive Conservative party. Origin is thought to be old Irish for "outlaw" or "bandit." Term later applied to political movement that supported the claims of Catholic James II to the throne. In following years, Tories backed the established government political and religious regime. Eventually the Tory party became the Conservative Party in England.

two-tier (adj) term to describe social services offered in parallel, where one level or tier is available to all people for free (or in return for taxation) and the other is available on an individual payment of extra fees. Often used to imply twin systems where similar services are offered both by government and business. Not to be confused with contracting out or privatization, where government-run facilities are taken over by private business but the services continue to be offered for free to consumers. Sometimes used to describe the United States health-care system, where poorer people use the free publicly funded hospitals and others pay fees for service at privately run corporate hospitals. Considered to be the political opposite of universality. Many Canadian provinces already have a tiered health-care system, in that some services (hospital, medical) are generally free to residents, and others (optometry, dental, prescription drugs) are not.

Twenty-four (24) Sussex (n, slang) the street address, 24 Sussex Drive, of the prime minister's official residence in Ottawa. Built in 1866 by mill owner and member of Parliament Joseph Merrill Currier as a wedding gift for his bride, Hannah. He called the home "Gorffwysfa," a Welsh word for place of peace. The home became the official residence for the prime minister in 1951.




universality (adj) free access for all people to government services or programs, regardless of their income levels or ability to pay. Considered incompatible with "Two-Tier".




voters (n) synonym for electors, those people allowed by law to vote. Interest in an election is usually measured by "voter turnout," a percentage of the number of eligible voters who actually took the time to go vote.




Whig (n, British slang) a person who supports or is a member of the British Liberal party. The name came into use in the 1680s in England when there was the threat of establishment of a line of Catholic Kings, starting with James II. Protestants who held that Parliament could prevent such a succession were inspired by a radical Presbyterian group in Scotland, the Whigamores. In later years, the Whig party favoured political reform and fought conservatism. The Whig party changed its name to Liberal in the 1800s. From 1834-1856 there was a Whig party in the U.S., which promoted development of infrastructure such as roads, canals and railroads. Abraham Lincoln was a Whig most of his career. The term Whig is not used often in Canada but can refer to Liberals.

writ (n) The document signed by the chief electoral officer instructing the returning officer in an electoral district to conduct an election (or referendum) on a specific date. The phrase "dropping the writ" has come to mean the start of an election.

In B.C., general elections are held on the second Tuesday in May every four years. After the election, the returning officer signs the writ containing the voting result and returns it to the chief electoral officer.




X (n) traditional mark placed by elector on a paper ballot to indicate their choice of candidate. Some ballots require the complete shading in of a white circle, others require the joining of two points in order to form a line. Canada does not use voting machines or punch-tab systems that are sometimes used in other countries.




youth vote (n): participation in the electoral process by young Canadians, aged 18-25. Studies show that youth voter turnout is at an unprecedented low after dropping throughout the late 1980s and 1990s. Only 25 per cent of eligible young voters cast a ballot in the 2000 federal general election.




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