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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
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
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
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"
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
In the 2001 B.C. election, the Green party received 12 percent of the
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
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
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.
PMO (n, parliamentary slang) abbreviation for Prime Minister's
Office, meaning the political staff and intimate counsellors to the
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
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,
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
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
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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