|| Are there
any Canadian citizens who are not entitled to vote in a federal election?
Only two Canadian citizens aged 18
and over do not have the legal right to vote in the June 28 election.
They are the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada and the Assistant
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, both of whom must preserve strict
Groups of Canadians have been given the right to vote gradually
over the years. Starting back in the early 1800s, you had to be
over 21 and own land in certain quantities in order to have a voice
in responsible government in the British colonies that would go
on to become modern Canada. That status that was mostly reserved
for middle- and upper-class men, although widows and daughters who
inherited property were also allowed to vote. Women gradually lost
that right throughout the colonies, and in the years after Confederation
only property-owning males over 21 could vote as colonial systems
were gradually harmonized.
Still, members of some religious denominations, Canadians of Asian
descent and most aboriginal Canadians were specifically excluded
from voting even if they met the other standards.
As Robert Borden's government tried to retain support during the
First World War, military women, aboriginal soldiers, enlisted men
under 21 and male and female relatives of soldiers won the franchise,
even if they owned no property. At the same time, the government
took away the right to vote from religious groups opposing the First
World War and recently arrived citizens from non-English-speaking
countries. All women aged 21 and up won the vote the year the war
ended, in 1918.
The office of the Chief Electoral Officer for Canada was established
in 1920, leading to the recognition of several new classes of voters
throughout the land. That meant that about 50 per cent of the population
was allowed to cast a ballot in the general election held a year
In 1948, Canadians of Asian origin were finally allowed to vote,
Inuit people followed suit in 1953, and registered Indians living
on reserves earned the franchise in 1960.
Canada Elections Act revisions in 1970 lowered the age for voting
and running for office from 21 to 18. Federally-appointed judges
were allowed to vote for the first time in 1988, with mentally disabled
people and prisoners serving less than two years in jail not far
Finally, a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2002 gave the vote
to inmates serving sentences of two or more years. That leaves only
the two top officials at Elections Canada without the right to vote
in the 2004 election.
don't we have even distribution of constituencies? Within 100 or
so voters, why aren't all MPs representing the same number of Canadians?
There are at least four issues involved.
The first is the vast difference in population density across Canada.
In the last federal election, the largest riding in geographic terms
was Nunavut, with about 27,000 people inhabiting 3,117,463 square
kilometres. The smallest, BQ Leader Gilles Duceppe's East Montreal
riding of Laurier-Sainte-Marie, had more than 96,000 people living
in just 9 square kilometres. In city ridings, it is relatively easy
for an MP to visit and represent all parts of his or her riding.
That's not the case in ridings with farflung borders, especially
in the Far North, so that kind of riding has historically been allowed
to contain many fewer than the national average number of voters.
At the moment, one MP represents each of the three northern territories
of Nunavut, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
The second issue is the difficulty of keeping up with rapidly changing
population rates in growing metropolitan areas of Ontario, Alberta
and British Columbia. Some ridings in the Greater Toronto Area,
for example, can add tens of thousands of people from one election
to the next as new residents flood in. Meanwhile, rural ridings
can shrink as older residents die and younger ones move away to
find work. Every 10 years, after the national census results are
tabulated, an independent federal electoral boundaries commission
is established for each of the 10 provinces to study and recommend
how riding borders should be adjusted to compensate for population
trends like this. After the 2001 census, these commissions recommended
an increase in the number of seats in the House of Commons from
301 to 308, with three additional seats given to Ontario, two more
to Alberta, and two more to British Columbia. The boundaries of
many other ridings were changed to try to equal out the number of
constituents. The goal is to have ridings within the same province
contain roughly the same number of voters.
A third factor comes into play in Prince Edward Island, which has
four electoral districts each representing an average of 33,824
voters (the average in Ontario is one MP for every 107,642 voters).
Logically, Canada's smallest province should have fewer ridings,
perhaps only two, but because of a 1915 senatorial clause added
to the boundary changing formula, PEI was guaranteed that it will
never have fewer MPs than it does Senators. So to this day, PEI
has four Senate seats, which were granted at its entry into Confederation
under the terms of the British North America Act, and four federal
Finally, a complicated piece of legislation in 1974 laid out more
elements to the amending formula, which among other things guaranteed
that no province will ever lose federal seats because of redistribution.
So without further legal changes, redistribution will always leave
the number of seats in the House of Commons at the same level or
higher - it will not shrink.
A fuller explanation can be found on the
Elections Canada website.
do the CBC and other media outlets get poll results so quickly on
We have an intricate electronic system,
and an awful lot of people sitting near telephones as a backup.
CBC, four other major Canadian networks, and the Canadian Press
(representing the country's newspapers) have set up a special organization
to save money and effort when it comes to getting fast, accurate
election-night results. It's called the Media Election Consortium.
Before its birth, every network and CP used to send a worker to
the district returning office in each of Canada's ridings. In this
election, that would have meant 308 offices and a total of 1,848
employees with the sole job of phoning or e-mailing results back
to the newsroom for analysis. It was an expensive, cumbersome system
with some potential for error and not much competitive advantage
to be gained by any one network.
Now, because of media co-operation and technological advancements,
getting the numbers is a much simpler matter. For one thing, in
every general election since 1997, Elections Canada has sent an
electronic report to the consortium from each returning office every
time another five per cent of the poll results are returned in that
riding. The consortium instantly transmits those numbers electronically
to each of its members, as well as some outside subscribers. Each
broadcaster's computer system sorts the information into the format
it prefers and airs the results almost instantaneously, usually
through a combination of screen graphics and journalists reading
results out loud. The broadcasters also use computer software to
crunch the numbers and their editorial research and experience to
add analysis of what that means for the riding or for the developing
picture of how the parties are doing.
In CBC's case, the results are also beamed to the CBC Decision
Desk, a team of journalists from English and French radio and television,
which uses the figures to consult with each other and decide when
a lead is insurmountable in each riding and project a winner. An
even more senior group has the responsibility of deciding when to
declare a party elected, and whether it will be a majority or minority
As a backup, the consortium still sends correspondents out to staff
each of the returning offices on election night. They phone in the
results to the consortium every time another five per cent of the
polls report in, in case the computer system should suddenly crash
or start spewing out incorrect numbers. Another advantage: These
308 people will be the media's eyes and ears on the ground in each
riding if the results are delayed for some reason. They will be
able to report back that there was such a lineup at the polls that
the returning officer decided to keep a few polling stations open
past 8 p.m., for example, or alert the consortium if the building
had to be evacuated for some reason.
an election be postponed, once it has been called?
Yes, a federal election can be postponed,
and sections 17, 59 and 77 of the Canada Elections Act spell out
why and how. Basically, the Chief Electoral Officer can extend voting
hours later into the evening as a result of a minor local emergency
or an administrative error if he or she thinks large numbers of
voters might otherwise not get to vote. But voting can't take place
later than midnight, and the total voting time can't be more than
In a major emergency, such as a flood or fire in one or more ridings,
the Chief Electoral Officer can ask the Governor in Council to withdraw
the election writ for those ridings, and reschedule voting for no
more than three months down the road.
A full general election has never been postponed in Canada, and
it's hard to imagine what kind of widespread disaster could cause
a nationwide postponement.
However, voting in the Quebec riding of Frontenac during the 1980
general election was held off for two weeks because of the death
of one of the nominated candidates. That delay fell under a different
provision of the Canada Elections Act, which allows a postponement
if one of the candidates for a registered party in a riding dies
after 2 p.m. on the fifth day before the closing day for nominations,
yet before the close of polling stations on polling day.
An interesting note from recent history: If similar delaying provisions
had been included in Prince Edward Island's provincial election
legislation, Hurricane Juan's after-effects would almost certainly
have postponed the election that took place on Sept. 29, 2003. Little
seems to faze Island voters, though, 83.3 per cent of whom showed
up to cast a ballot despite the storm's devastation and widespread
true that voters can go to the polling station and refuse their
ballot as an official protest against the electoral system or the
choices before them? How would a refused ballot be recorded?
So far, you cannot refuse your ballot
and have it recorded in a federal election or by-election, although
Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and the Yukon all allow
ballots to be declined, through their provincial or territorial
All forms of protest involving Elections Canada ballots are currently
recorded as spoiled, along with the ballots accidentally spoiled
by people who do intend and try to vote. So it's impossible to get
a true reading of the level of federal protest votes that way -
just as it's impossible to know how many of the hundreds of thousands
of eligible voters who stay away from the polling station on the
big day do so out of protest as opposed to apathy or ignorance.
That could change soon, however. Elections Canada recently recommended
that federal legislation be changed to allow people to officially
decline their ballots, and for that to be recorded alongside spoiled
ballots so that the public will know how many people are making
a peaceful protest against the process.
The recommendation came in the wake of a bizarre form of protest
during the 2000 general election, when at least eight members of
the Edible Ballot Society ate their ballots at advance polling stations
in Edmonton. The stunt was a protest against what the society, formed
in 1997, saw as the superficial differences between candidates from
different parties and the historical gap between the popular vote
and standings in the House of Commons. The activists brought woks
and blenders to the voting booths, adding the recyclable cardboard
ballots to other ingredients to make stir-fries and smoothies. Others
across Canada were reported to have put the ballot in ready-made
sandwiches or eaten it unadorned.
Three of the ballot eaters were charged with "unlawfully and willfully
altering, defacing or destroying a ballot or the initials of the
Deputy Returning Officer signed on a ballot contrary to section
167(2)(a) of the Canada Elections Act thereby committing an offence
under subsection 489(3)(e)." Two others were charged with having
the intention to delay or disrupt the electoral process. In the
end, two of the ballot eaters were acquitted in April 2002 and charges
were stayed against the others.
event of an equality of votes, how is the tie broken?
When there's a tie in a particular
riding, or when there's a vote difference of one-1000th of the total
number of votes cast or less, the returning officer for the riding
automatically orders a judicial recount.
If the difference is wider, any voter, including a candidate, has
four days after the election to ask a judge to carry out a judicial
recount. If the judge grants a recount, it must begin within four
days of the receipt of the request. The candidate with the most
votes after the recount is declared the winner. If the two top candidates
are tied after the recount, a by-election will be held for that
electoral district, according to a Canada Elections Act amendment
In the past, three tied federal races were decided by the returning
officer for the riding in question, using whatever method that officer
chose, such as tossing a coin or drawing a straw. Victories were
granted to �douard Guilbault (Cons.) during the 1887 general election
in the riding of Joliette, Que.; Nicholas Flood Davin (Cons.) during
the 1896 general election in the riding of Assiniboia West, NWT;
and Paul Martineau (P.C.) during the 1963 general election in the
riding of Pontiac-Temiscamingue, Que.
federal party wins a majority in a general election, but its leader
does not win his or her seat, does the leader still become prime
minister? Must he or she sit in the gallery of the House of Commons?
Has this ever happened?
The party leader could become prime
minister if the Governor General agrees to that happening, but would
not be allowed onto the floor of the House of Commons because he
or she is not a member of Parliament. That leader would likely ask
one of the victorious MPs from the party to resign and create a
vacancy so that the leader could run for that seat in a byelection
as soon as possible.
Interestingly, the office of prime minister was not described or
created in any Canadian legislation, though it has been recognized
and referred to in legislation after the fact. So what happens in
this kind of case has been determined by custom, not any regulation
And custom has determined that the Canadian prime minister does
not have to be an MP in order to assume the title.
Two Conservative prime ministers have been Senators who held cabinet
posts before being asked to take over upon the death of the serving
prime minister: John Abbott, who was PM from 1891 to 1892 after
the death in office of John A. Macdonald, and Mackenzie Bowell,
who presided from 1894 to 1896 after John Thompson died in office.
Only twice has the leader of a victorious federal party not won
his own seat in a Canadian general election - and it was the same
man each time. William Lyon Mackenzie King managed to lose his riding
twice while his Liberal party won enough ridings to be re-elected.
King first became Prime Minister in 1921, but was defeated in the
Oct. 29, 1925 general election in his Ontario riding of York North.
He did not resign from office and remained prime minister, returning
to the House of Commons in a February 1926 byelection after the
Saskatchewan seat of Prince Albert was vacated by an obliging MP
from his party. He continued on as Prime Minister until June 28,
1926, when he took his minority government into a new general election
and won a majority, as well as his own seat in Prince Albert.
King repeated the dubious achievement on June 11, 1945. He was
again prime minister when he lost personally in Prince Albert. Once
again, an MP resigned to make way for a byelection, this time William
MacDiarmid in the Ontario riding of Glengarry, and King was back
in the House of Commons after the byelection in August of the same
is a Canadian citizen who lives overseas in Scotland, where her
husband works for a multinational company. As it happens, she will
be in Canada on vacation on June 28. Can she vote?
Yes, she can, with a little advance
Elections Canada says citizens living abroad but intending to return
to Canada to live at some point retain the right to vote on two
First, you must have been on Canadian soil for at least a short
time at some point in the previous five years; even a flight change
at a Canadian airport counts, Elections Canada has told CBC.ca.
If you don't meet that requirement, you can still vote if you're
a member of the armed forces serving overseas, if you work overseas
for a federal or provincial government department or agency, or
if you work for an international organization of which Canada is
a member and to which Canada contributes (for example, the United
Nations, CIDA or the International Red Cross). If you live with
a person who falls into any of those categories, you can vote too,
even if you haven't visited Canada within the past five years.
Elections Canada maintains a special register of voters temporarily
living outside Canada, and you can find out how to get your name
on that register by clicking
here. Be aware that you'll need to apply very soon if you want
to vote from a foreign country by special ballot and have the ballot
arrive back in Canada in time to be counted on June 28.
Another big question arises during the process of registering from
abroad: What riding must you vote in? If you don't have a permanent
address here, Elections Canada will ask where you lived last in
this country. You can also choose to give the street address of
a spouse or common-law partner who is living in Canada, somebody
related to you or your spouse, or another person with whom you intend
to live when you eventually return to Canada. Election officials
will use that information to determine where you will vote.
In the case of the questioner's visiting friend, she should apply
for a special ballot and find out which riding she will be assigned
to. If she will not be vacationing at her assigned polling station
in that riding on either election day or one of the three advance
poll days (June 18, 19 and 21), she might still have to mail in
the special ballot rather than show up to vote in person.
would happen if the Prime Minister died during an election, or one
of the leaders of the other parties? Has this ever happened?
One can only imagine the logistical
chaos a political party would go through if a Prime Minister or
another federal leader died in the midst of a campaign. However,
the Canada Elections Act does not spell out any special treatment
for leaders as opposed to other candidates. The normal postponement
rules would apply only in the leader's personal riding, it seems.
The act allows a postponement in a riding if one of the candidates
for a registered party dies after 2 p.m. on the fifth day before
the closing day for nominations yet before the close of polling
stations on polling day. In that case, new nominations for the party
involved would close on the second Monday after the death, and the
new election in the riding would be held three weeks after the new
closing day for nominations. If advance poll or regular polling
day ballots have already been cast before the candidate dies, they
would be considered void and would be destroyed.
If a party leader were to die, the race would likely go on in the
rest of the country, though there's an outside chance the Chief
Electoral Officer would ask the Governor in Council to withdraw
the election writ. Our election legislation allows that to happen
when a major disaster happens in one or more ridings, as long as
voting is rescheduled for no more than three months down the road.
A federal campaign death has been recorded only once, and it didn't
involve a party leader. Voting in the Quebec riding of Frontenac
was held off for two weeks in 1980 because the nominated Social
Credit candidate there had died.
On a related note, a handful of victorious candidates have died
before they could take their seats in the House of Commons: Liberal
John Clark in 1896 and Progressive Conservatives John Ernest McMillin
in 1949, William Gourlay Blair in 1957 and John Dahmer in 1988.
In those cases, byelections were called to fill the vacancies.
understand it, both provincially and federally the life of a government
ends after five years in office. Has there ever been a case of a
government remaining in power without an election beyond its five-year
Yes, one federal government held office
for longer than five years, the term laid out in the 1867 Constitution
Act and reinforced by the 1982 Constitution Act.
Sir Robert Borden's Conservative government was elected on an anti-free
trade platform on Oct. 10, 1911, and remained in power until October
6, 1917. That's a total of five years and almost 11 months, with
the last three of those years consumed with First World War matters.
(Voters then elected a Unionist government under Borden's control,
consisting of pro-conscription Liberals and Conservatives, that
held office until July 10, 1920.)
Canada's 12th Parliament was allowed to run for almost six years
only because of a temporary amendment contained in a 1916 revision
to the British North America Act. On top of the strong argument
that the job of governing should not be interrupted by an election
during the height of the First World War, that was a terrible, chaotic
year in Ottawa. Six people died as the Centre Block of the Parliament
Buildings burned down on Feb 3, 1916. Borden himself was working
that evening and barely escaped, having to be treated for minor
burns. His office and all his papers were destroyed, and only the
Library of Parliament was saved. Construction began on the current
Centre Block in July of 1916 and the new building was opened in
So Borden got to stay in power an extra year - and during that
extra year, Parliament passed legislation that imposed the country's
first income taxes and allowed for the conscription of able-bodied
men into Canada's armed forces, the supply of volunteers having
The change allowing a longer term of office than five years was
repealed in 1927, and all other federal governments have presided
for no more than the mandated time. The 1982 Constitution Act that
is now in effect says that no federal or provincial government "shall
continue for longer than five years from the date fixed for the
return of the writs at a general election of its members," though
a subsection lets a federal or provincial government stay in power
beyond five years "in time of real or apprehended war, invasion
or insurrection" as long as two-thirds of all elected members agree.
it true that to run for a seat in the Liberal Party you must have
a law degree? All current
members seem to have one. Even new candidates like Ken Dryden, a
former hockey player, have a law degree.
"No, having a law degree is not a prerequisite
for Liberal candidacy," says party spokesperson Heidi Bonnell. "Certainly
our roster of candidates includes doctors, nurses, entrepreneurs
and many others as well as lawyers." Bonnell couldn't come up with
total numbers, but a quick look at the Atlantic roster of Liberal
candidates, for example, shows six lawyers out of the 32 people
Going back a little further, there were only 30 lawyers among the
Liberal party's 168 MPs in the last Parliament, according to a
searchable occupational database maintained by the Library of
It's a common perception that the House of Commons is filled with
lawyers, but the numbers show the MPs from all parties are a much
more diverse crowd than that. After the 2000 election, there were
44 people whose main career was listed as "lawyer" holding seats
in Canada's 301 ridings, compared to 77 businessmen/women, 47 teachers,
38 consultants, 29 administrators, 29 managers, 22 farmers, 21 professors,
15 authors and 13 journalists. Some MPs could have law degrees as
well as other professions, of course.
Lawyers historically held a bigger chunk of the seats than they
do today. The Parliament elected in 1904, when Liberal lawyer Wilfrid
Laurier was prime minister, contained 71 lawyers, 40 merchants,
38 farmers, 23 businessmen, 21 physicians, 17 lumber merchants,
12 editors, nine professors, nine journalists and eight teachers.
In 1953, when Liberal lawyer and law professor Louis St. Laurent
held the country's top job, the roster of MPs included 88 lawyers,
38 farmers, 26 merchants, 25 teachers, 21 managers, 10 journalists,
nine businessmen/women, eight physicians, eight professors and eight
Only five of the 21 Canadian prime ministers over the decades have
not been lawyers, by the way: Tories Joe Clark, Charles Tupper and
Mackenzie Bowell; and Liberals Lester B. Pearson and Alexander Mackenzie.
number of seats in the House of Commons has been growing over successive
elections and now stands at 308. How many seats can Parliament physically
hold, and what happens when the maximum is reached?
The House of Commons chamber can physically
hold only 308 seats similar to the desk-and-chair combination now
used. After the last riding redistribution exercise left the House
with 301 MPs, it was renovated to hold 304 chairs for sitting members.
That number jumped to 308 with the current round of changes that
take effect with the June 28 vote. The Speaker's Office tells CBC.ca
that four more chairs and desks were added in the room's northeast
corner, to the Speaker's left, replacing a sitting area for the
parliamentary pages. Now there's no more room for expansion.
However, riding redistribution must by law take place every 10
years, adjusting the federal electoral districts to reflect population
changes. As Daily Answer explained on May 26, the provinces are
guaranteed that their number of federal seats will not decrease,
even if their proportion of the Canadian population shrinks dramatically.
So the number of seats is bound to keep going up in the absence
of dramatic changes to the way we elect a government (through bringing
in some form of proportional representation, for example).
There are options to deal with the looming seat squeeze after the
next redistribution, and the MPs themselves will have to make the
decision. Canada's Parliament could follow Britain's lead, where
not all MPs actually sit in the main chamber. It could take out
some or all of the current seating and replace it with either bench
seating or rows of skinnier chairs and desks. It could commission
an expansion of the historic Commons chamber. Or it could come up
with an innovative solution that wouldn't offend traditionalists
as the other solutions are bound to do.
Representation 2004 website, it says that the new riding boundaries
will not come into effect until one year after August 25, 2003.
Why are we using the new electoral boundaries in this election,
The House of Commons voted on Feb.
11, 2004, to change the effective date so that a spring election
could use the new boundaries to elect 308 members of Parliament,
not 301 as was the case in the previous election. Bill C-5, making
the change official, received Royal Assent on March 11, setting
the stage for Prime Minister Paul Martin to call an election at
any time after that.
MPs have the power to change or supercede any previous piece of
legislation or set of regulations, of course. This particular change
had gone through all the normal stages and committee reviews in
the House the previous year, passing third reading on Oct. 23, 2003.
much is the incumbent government restricted to spending on ad campaigns
and how much for the opposition parties?
All registered political parties with
candidates running in all 308 ridings by today's nomination deadline
can spend up to $17,528,373.88 on all election expenses in this
campaign. That includes all forms of advertising, signs, campaign
offices, campaign events, catering, professional services and everything
else you might want to procure during a national campaign.
There's no specific limit on advertising costs within that amount,
or within individual riding expense limits. However, the Liberals,
Conservatives and NDP are each expected to spend about $5 million
in mostly national television ads over the course of the campaign,
as well as $1 million each for mostly regional radio and newspaper
ads, according to a June 4 Globe and Mail story.
The national election expense limit is calculated by adding up
the expense limits in all the ridings in which a party is running
candidates. That's why the Liberals, the Conservatives, the NDP
and the Green Party (should they field 308 candidates by the time
nominations close today) are allowed to shell out $17.5 million.
The Bloc Qu�b�cois does not nominate candidates outside Quebec,
so it can't spend as much in total. Its limit of just under $6 million
for this election comes from adding the individual expense limits
in the province's 75 ridings.
Not every riding has the same expense limit. Elections Canada calculates
them based on the number of registered voters (they can spend about
70 cents per voter in most ridings) and the riding's size (candidates
in sprawling ridings like Nunavut can spend more). All candidates
within one particular riding have the same spending limit, even
if they're running as Independents or for a small registered party.
For example, candidates running in the riding of Peace River, Alta.,
can spend up to $98,522.19 each, while candidates in PEI's Malpeque
riding have a limit of $60,572.36. The amounts for all the ridings
are given on the Elections
That's not all money down the drain for the candidates and parties,
it should be noted. Candidates who win or get at least 10 per cent
of the popular vote in their ridings, and then follow all the rules
for filing expenses, will qualify for a federal government cheque
covering 60 per cent of their total personal and election expenses.
That includes the cost of advertising.
A footnote: A recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling confirmed previous
restrictions on ad spending by so-called "third parties" in a federal
election campaign. For the 2004 campaign, a person or group other
than a candidate, a registered party or the electoral district association
of a registered party can spend no more than $168,900 in total on
election-related ads, or $3,378 in any one riding. (If you want
to visualize how much ad space your money would buy, someone placing
a single ad could expect to pay about $3,300 for a black and white
message measuring 3.5 by 3.5 inches inside a weekday city section
of the Toronto Star.) The rules are designed to ensure that outside
interest groups or business lobbies with deep pockets can't "hijack"
a campaign and sway the results of the vote.
a sign on my front porch to support my candidate, but my landlord
removed it. He said that because I rent and don't own, I don't have
the right to post a sign on the outside of the building, though
I could put one in a window. Is he correct?
The Canada Elections Act says in section 322 that no landlord can
prohibit a tenant from putting up election posters "on the premises
to which the lease relates." However, the landlord can "set reasonable
conditions relating to the size or type" of posters or signs and
"may prohibit the display of election advertising posters in common
areas of the building in which the premises are found."
So, is the porch a "common area" under the terms of the act? It
might depend on whether the questioner is the sole tenant of the
house or shares the building with other tenants. If the latter is
true, even if all the tenants in the building support the same party
and want that party's sign displayed, the porch is technically a
common area and the landlord can remove the sign.
The same rules apply for condominium units. Even though the resident
owns a unit, the condo board or manager can restrict the size or
type of signs posted in a window or on a balcony, under the same
section of the Canada Elections Act.
If you think a landlord has acted improperly and committed a Canada
Elections Act infringement, you have the right to make a complaint
in writing to the independent Commissioner of Canada Elections.
There's no way to file that complaint online, but you can fax it
toll-free to 1-800-663-4908 or mail it to the Commissioner of Canada
Elections, 257 Slater St., Ottawa, ON, K1N 0M6.
What about the opposite scenario, in which a landlord posts campaign
signs on the building's lawn or porch for a candidate the tenants
don't support? The Canada Elections Act is silent on that issue,
but Carol Kiley, manager of program development for the Ontario
Rental Housing Tribunal, says tenants could try to make a Tenants
Rights Application under the Tenant Protection Act. The matter would
go to an adjudicator for a ruling on whether the action has "seriously
interfered with the reasonable enjoyment" of the rented premises.
Ontarians can get online forms
from the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal website, or call the tribunal
does a person become a senator?
Unlike Americans, Canadians do not
elect their senators. Instead, the Governor General appoints people
to sit in the Upper House of Parliament according to the wishes
of the prime minister of the day, as vacancies occur when a sitting
senator retires at age 75 or dies.
Each province and territory has a set number of senators, under
the terms of the Canadian constitution, adding up to a total of
105. The number ranges from one each from Nunavut and the other
territories to four from PEI, six from Alberta, 21 for Quebec and
24 for Ontario. So when a senate seat becomes vacant, a new candidate
must come from the same province or territory as the departing senator.
The system was designed to protect regional interests while acting
as a counterbalance to the House of Commons, where the number of
MPs gives a rough version of representation by population and MP
from two large provinces could theoretically push through laws that
hurt smaller regions.
Because the senate has a role in reviewing and endorsing most types
of legislation, the prime minister tends to choose either past members
of his party or people who will promise to be party sympathizers
when deciding on senate appointments. Like the House of Commons
before the election was called, Canada's current Senate is broken
down by party affiliation. It is heavily Liberal at the moment,
with 65 senators from that party compared to 24 who identify themselves
as Conservatives, three who still insist on being considered Progressive
Conservatives though their federal party has been merged with the
new Conservatives, five independents and eight vacancies.
The Senate has long been a target for political reformers, with
its reputation as a cushy, undemanding patronage posting for party
hacks leading to label of "a taskless thanks," as opposed to the
"chamber of sober second thought" the Fathers of Confederation meant
it to be. One of the main rallying cries of the Reform Party as
it built support in the West during the early 1990s was adopting
a "Triple-E Senate," with the three e's standing for elected, effective
ruling party comes in second in an election in which no party has
a majority, can that party continue as the government?
Many Daily Answer readers have asked
questions about minority governments in recent days. So here goes.
A minority government is a situation in which no one party has
more than 50 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons. With
308 ridings electing MPs this time, a party would need 155 to form
what's called a majority government.
If no party wins 155 seats, the leader of the ruling party (the Liberals
in this case) gets first crack at convincing the Governor General
that he can form a government, even if another party has won more
ridings. That's because the prime minister remains the prime minister
until his government is defeated by another party that wins a majority
of seats in a general election, he resigns, or his government loses
a vote of confidence on a major motion in the House of Commons (for
example, on the vote to accept a budget). With all the other parties
combined holding more seats and thus votes than the ruling party,
this is the usual way a minority government comes to an end.
Anna-Maria Tremonti interviews Peter Russell
about minority government in Canada.
day of defeat can be staved off for months or even years if the
governing party strikes a pact with one or more small parties to
support it on parliamentary votes. (Click
here for our look at minority governments in Canadian history,
including a summary of the King-Byng Affair.) The usual payoff is
a promise that the ruling party will introduce legislation that
accomplishes some of the planks in the minor party's platform. At
some point, however, the relationship falls apart over some deep
disagreement on policy or an itch to get back to the polls to ask
voters for a more stable majority government.
Governor General Adrienne Clarkson would come into the picture
if our next government falls on a confidence vote. She would go
to the party with the best chance of forming a different minority
government with the same group of 308 MPs sitting in the House of
Commons. Say the Liberals had won 110 seats and the Conservatives
140, with the other parties racking up 58 between them. If Liberal
Leader Paul Martin's attempt at a minority government fell, Clarkson
would ask Conservative Leader Stephen Harper if he was prepared
to form a government. If he could form an alliance with another
party, the Bloc Québécois for example, he could then
rule for as long as that friendship stayed intact (or until the
natural end of the government's five-year mandate). But that coalition
too would likely fall apart before long and the Conservatives would
lose a vote of confidence.
If no party is prepared to form a government, the Governor General
will dissolve Parliament and call a general election, in which all
the parties get a chance to win more than half the seats and form
a majority government.
That's not a guaranteed result after a minority government falls
in Canada, it should be noted. Liberal Lester B. Pearson led two
back-to-back minority governments following elections in 1963 and
1965. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was the first prime minister
in Canadian history to never win a majority government.
move during this election campaign from one federal riding to another
(from one province to another), is my ability to vote in the new
riding contingent on the amount of time I plan to live there? What
are the rules around that scenario to ensure I get to cast a ballot
for either riding? And what is expected of me, after my move, to
ensure I can vote?
Once you have moved, you are eligible
to vote in your new riding, period. There is no minimum time of
residency before you can vote, and you don't have to plan to stay
in your new riding for any specific length of time. You just have
to consider it your official address on voting day. That's why students
can choose to vote in the riding where they go to school or in their
parents' riding, depending on which one they consider their "place
of ordinary residence."
The Elections Canada definition of this is almost poetic: "The
place of ordinary residence of a person is the place that has always
been, or that has been adopted as, his or her dwelling place, and
to which the person intends to return when away from it. A person
can have only one place of ordinary residence and it cannot be lost
until another is gained."
It's a slightly different situation when it comes to federal byelections,
where there's a danger an unscrupulous political party could send
in a flood of temporary "residents" to sway the result of the vote.
That could prove decisive if a tightly contested byelection could
change a minority government into a minority one or vice versa.
The Canada Elections Act says you can't vote in a byelection unless
you have lived in the riding at least since the first day of revisions
to the preliminary voters' list. This is usually four days after
the byelection is called.
If you move, as 16 per cent of Canadian voters do every year, you'll
need to produce some proof of your new address. This can be a driver's
licence showing the change, a lease showing your name as the tenant
at the rented address, a mortgage document, or a friend or relative
who's a voter in the new riding who's willing to come with you to
the Elections Canada office or voting station and sign a declaration
that you do live in the new riding. If you don't have those documents
yet and can't find anyone willing to vouch for you, you might want
to vote by advance poll in your old riding before you leave (while
you still live there, in other words.)
Let's back up a bit: Elections Canada no longer does a house-by-house
enumeration across the country before each election to find out
how many eligible voters are living at each address, although enumerators
are sent to highly transient areas such as student neighbourhoods,
new subdivisions, and seniors' complexes. Enumerators were eliminated
after the 1997 election, at a savings of $30 million per election,
in favour of the permanent computerized list of voters called the
Register of Electors. It contains the name, address, gender
and date of birth of every Canadian who is qualified to vote, and
is updated as people move, become new Canadian citizens, turn 18
This master list is updated through information-sharing arrangements
with certain other government departments. These include provincial
and territorial vital statistics registrars, the Canada Customs
and Revenue Agency, provincial and territorial motor vehicle registrars,
Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and provincial electoral agencies
with permanent voters lists (only B.C. and Quebec have those at
the moment). If you don't want these agencies to share your information,
you can tell them not to provide details to Elections Canada, but
in that case you have to take extra steps to get your new address
onto the voters' list.
To ensure you can vote in your new riding after a move, call 1-800-463-6868
or find the direct number for your riding by plugging in your new
postal code on the
Elections Canada site, and check to see if your new address
has been reflected on the National Register of Electors yet. If
not, an operator can tell you where you should go in your new riding
to speak with an Elections Canada official and get your name onto
the list while it's still being revised (revisions end on June 22
at 6 p.m. local time in each riding). You'll need your new driver's
licence or some other form of ID showing your name, new address
and signature (two pieces of ID that in combination show all three
elements will do), or you can bring along a friend or relative who
will vouch for you. Your name will then be taken off the list for
your old riding and placed on the list for your new one, so that
you can't vote in both.
If you don't make this visit before June 22, you can still vote
on June 28. In that case, you'll still have to call the above toll-free
number to find out which polling station to use, and voting will
take a bit longer because you have to stand in a special lineup.
By the way, people who move to a different address but stay within
their riding don't have to jump through these hoops. They can just
phone Elections Canada and ask for their address information to
be adjusted, getting the location of their new polling station at
the same time.
that for this election, parties will receive a dollar amount per
vote. Is this true? If so, why has it not been more widely publicized?
Yes, it's true. The change has received
some publicity and media attention since the bill amending the Canada
Elections Act to do this was introduced on Jan. 29, 2003. However,
a different story stole the headlines. Changes in the same bill
were designed to shed more light on how party leadership races are
funded, given that Paul Martin was in the midst of taking over the
Liberal Party from an unfriendly Jean Chrétien. Many saw
the bill as Chrétien's attempt to embarrass Martin, and that
became the bigger story.
When it was introduced, Government House Leader Don Boudria explained
that Bill C-24 was responding to long-held concerns about the danger
of a political system in which parties are financed by large contributions
from individuals, businesses, unions, lobby groups and other associations
that might expect a return on their investment once their chosen
party was in office. That's no longer the case in Canada, since
the so-called party financing law came into effect on Jan. 1 of
Now, according to the Elections Canada website: "Any individual
who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada may contribute
up to $5,000 in total in a calendar year to a particular registered
party and its registered electoral district associations, nomination
contestants and candidates. No other person or entity (including
companies, trade unions and associations) may make a contribution
to a registered party." Exceptions are made for people who leave
bequests to political parties in their wills, and for people who
give money to unregistered political parties, which earns them no
income tax deduction.
Imposed in isolation, that kind of sudden severing of a major source
of funding would have a huge impact on parties, of course. So the
same bill set out a system for paying publicly financed allowances
to registered political parties under certain conditions. The system
is meant to ensure that parties are beholden primarily to Canadian
citizens for their annual funding, based on a relatively fair formula:
their share of the popular vote in the previous general election.
Three provinces already had similar allowances in place, Boudria
pointed out as he introduced the changes in Parliament.
The new allowance will give registered parties large and small
$1.75 every year for each vote they received in the previous general
election, as long as they attracted 2 per cent of the national votes
cast or 5 per cent of the eligible votes cast in the ridings in
which they ran candidates. The $1.75 per vote will be adjusted for
inflation, so it will rise as time goes by. The allowances will
be paid out quarterly, as long as the parties eligible file their
financial papers and all other Elections Canada documents properly.
Let's crunch some numbers: In the 2000 general election, the Liberals
received 5.25 million votes, or 40.8 per cent of the valid ballots
cast. If the allowance formula had been in place, the party would
have received $9.19 million in public funding the following year.
That number would increase according to the rate of inflation each
year until the next general election. In the same election, the
Reform/Alliance party's 3.28 million votes would earn it an allowance
of $5.73 million; the Progressive Conservatives' 1.57 million votes
would mean a $2.74-million payout; the NDP's 1.09 million votes
would garner it $1.91 million; the Bloc Quebecois would earn $2.41
million for its 1.38 million votes; and the Green Party would get
no funding because it attracted only 104,102 votes, or less than
1 per cent of the votes cast.
As the same bill went through, by the way, Parliament also voted
to increase assistance for political parties and candidates in other
ways. The percentage of election expenses that can be reimbursed
to parties has been increased from 22.5 to 60 per cent; the definition
of reimbursable election expenses has been broadened to include
polling; and the ceiling for expenses eligible for reimbursement
has been increased as a result. Finally, individual candidates have
to earn only 10 per cent of the valid votes cast in their riding
in order to have 50 per cent of their personal campaign expenses
refunded. The old threshold was 15 per cent of the votes.
The total cost to taxpayers of the changes could reach about $30
million during this election, some onlookers have estimated. At
the same time, though, former political donors won't be able to
claim the hefty tax deductions they used to, so there should be
more tax money coming into federal coffers than was the case under
the old system.
when are the ballots of Canadian Forces electors counted and the
results added to the specific riding's total?
The ballots of soldiers serving on
Canadian bases at home and overseas are gathered and counted with
military precision, as you might expect.
Troops and support staff will vote in advance starting two weeks
before Election Day, abiding by voting hours set out by a military
employee who has been designated as the base returning officer.
Voting ends on the Saturday nine days before the day on which most
civilians will vote, in order to give the ballots time to arrive
at Elections Canada in Ottawa by mail or courier before 6 p.m. on
Starting at precisely 6 p.m. on Election Day, Elections Canada
staff will begin to sort and count the ballots, each of which has
been placed in an unmarked envelope inside another envelope with
the soldier's normal home riding marked on the outside.
The still-closed double envelopes are sorted into 308 different
piles. When that's done, election workers handle one pile at a time,
taking the unmarked envelopes containing the ballots out of the
outer, labelled envelopes and mixing the unmarked envelopes in a
ballot box. Then the ballots are shuffled within the box, it is
opened, and each ballot is removed from its unmarked envelope and
counted. When each riding is done, the results are fed into Elections
Canada's main computer database for results, and they show up along
with the civilian vote tallies as the evening progresses.
An interesting note: Soldiers don't use the same kind of ballots
that civilians are given, with the names of all the candidates in
their own riding printed on it. Time is too short after nominations
close for candidates (three weeks before election day) to allow
properly printed ballots to be delivered to farflung bases, with
the number delivered correctly reflecting the breakdown of soldiers'
homes in the 308 ridings. Instead, the base returning officer hands
soldiers a special blank ballot as well as a list of all the candidates
running in the election, turned to the page listing the candidates
for that specific soldier's home riding. The military voter chooses
a candidate and writes the first initial and last name of that candidate
on the ballot before putting it in the unmarked envelope that preserves
the sacred privacy of the Canadian ballot box, even in Afghanistan
a set amount of time between the election call date and the day
of the vote?
Under the current legislation, no less
than 36 days must pass between the time the election is called and
voting day. Nobody wants to be on the campaign trail longer than
they have to be, so the minimum has become the standard in recent
Canadian federal elections must take place on Mondays unless a
statutory holiday falls in the chosen week, in which case voting
takes place on the next day, Tuesday. Counting back 36 days from
a Monday voting day puts the election call on a Sunday five weeks
and one day before. That's why Paul Martin visited the Governor
General to ask her to dissolve Parliament and order an election
on the Sunday in the middle of this year's Victoria Day long weekend,
rather than waiting for Tuesday. He had to take the action on that
Sunday to ensure a June 28 voting day.
The 36-day requirement was put into place in 1997, shortening national
campaigns from the previous 47-day minimum. Elections Canada used
to need that much time to prepare the voters' list because it was
sending teams of enumerators to every home in Canada to update information
from the previous general election. Now a permanent database of
eligible voters has been set up, called the National
Register of Electors, which is updated between general elections
with the help of information-sharing deals with provincial and territorial
government agencies as well as federal departments such as Citizenship
Historically, the duration of federal campaigns varied greatly.
The campaign leading up to the general election on Sept. 24, 1926,
lasted for 74 days or almost 11 weeks. In contrast, the shortest
campaign in Canadian history was one of the country's first. The
20-day campaign leading up to the election on Jan. 22, 1874, gave
voters less than three weeks to make up their minds.
we vote by secret ballot, and because a voter's age is not entered
on the voters list, how do the statisticians determine the percentage
of voters in any given age group who have voted?
The voter's list itself doesn't have
this information printed on it, but the list from which it's generated
contains both your gender and your birthdate. It's called the National
Register of Electors. Your name is crossed off the voter's list
when you show up at a polling station and collect your ballot, to
prevent people from trying to vote twice. So which party you choose
to support in the privacy of the ballot box remains a secret, but
the fact that you voted is not.
When the election is over, these lists are cross-referenced against
the National Register of Voters for the purpose of preparing a statistical
look at who voted among the 21.2 million Canadians who were eligible.
That's important because Elections Canada wants to be aware of populations
who aren't exercising their franchise. Knowing the percentages of
young people or women who voted, not to mention the locations where
a failure to vote is more of a problem, lets the election agency
come up with a strategy for publicizing the value of voting to these
groups and locations in future elections.
For example, young voters became a big target leading up to the
current campaign when the numbers from the 2000 election showed
that only 22 per cent of them showed up to vote. If this trend continues,
Canada could face a situation where less than half of eligible adults
get involved in choosing who will run the country. Elections Canada
commissioned an academic
study on youth voters, then used the results to come up with
a cutting-edge series of ads aimed at young Canadians and a special
section of its website designed to quickly answer the most frequent
questions of young voters.
could we do differently in Canada to get more MPs who are minorities
and women? Is any other country doing better at this, and if so,
what makes the difference?
Some Canadian political parties have
encouraged more equality in Parliament by contributing money toward
the election expenses of new female candidates (the Liberals); nominating
white men only when every effort has been made to find a suitable
female, disabled, racial minority or gay and lesbian candidate (the
NDP); or hand-picking women or visible minority Canadians as candidates
when they might not have the organizational support to win a rough-and-tumble
nomination battle at the riding level (the Liberals, sometimes controversially).
Parties such as the NDP, the Greens and the Bloc Quebecois have
long fielded more female candidates because of their left-of-centre,
more progressive views and policies. The Conservatives have no special
process for appointing or recruiting women, former MP Deborah Grey
told a reporter recently.
At the moment, according to the lobby group Equal
Voice, 35 democratic countries in the world have a better record
of electing women than Canada does, including Monaco and Nicaragua.
The last two federal elections each sent 62 women to the House of
Commons to sit as MPs; that's just 20.6 per cent of the total, though
women make up 52 per cent of the Canadian population.
Only 391 of the 1,685 candidates in this election are women, or
23.2 per cent of the total. Among the current crop of candidates,
96 out of 308 are running for the NDP, 77 for the Greens, 75 for
the Liberals and 37 for the Conservatives. The BQ has 18 women among
its 75 candidates in Quebec.
The number of visible minority candidates running is also small.
CBC research indicates the Liberals have 23 such candidates, as
well as 10 aboriginal candidates; the Conservatives have 32 visible
minority candidates; the NDP has 25; and the Greens have 10.
A number of other countries have had more success in adding the
voices of women and minority politicians to their legislatures.
Three methods that have been tried are all-female candidates' lists,
designated seats for groups seen as under-represented, and proportional
When Wales won the right to election its own parliament in the
1990s, the regional Labour Party decided that it would institute
all-female candidate shortlists for half the available seats. Today,
women occupy 50 per cent of the seats in the Welsh parliament, one
of the highest percentages in the world. They also make up more
than half the Welsh cabinet. Labour also tried the tactic in 1997
in the British election, aiming it at half the party's winnable
seats, and succeeded in doubling the number of female MPs at Westminster
from 62 to 121. An employment tribunal ruled the practice potentially
illegal in a 2000 ruling, but anti-discrimination legislation was
later amended to allow it, in the interest of making politics at
all levels more representative of the general population.
In New Zealand, four seats were reserved for Maori politicians
in 1867, when that country's parliament was in its infancy. The
intent was far from totally pure; though early parliamentarians
did want to ensure a voice for aboriginal affairs, they also knew
that Maori voters could outnumber European settlers if and when
voting rights were extended to the general population. In the eyes
of some Maori leaders, the seats were a bone thrown to distract
the community from wanting to send many more of its own members
to the legislature in general elections. Still, the designated seats
did provide a guaranteed voice over the years, and were maintained
when the country adopted proportional representation recently.
That kind of electoral reform could hold the most hope for redrawing
Canada's parliament, according to the Equal Voice website. "Democracies
with proportional representation have on average twice as many women
in their legislatures compared to 'first past the post' systems
such as Canada," the group points out.
One option explored by the Law
Commission of Canada is a mixed system in which two-thirds of
the seats in the House would be elected according to the current
procedure, with the candidate attracting the most votes from a riding
winning the seat. The other one-third of seats would be filled according
to the result of a second vote given to each voter, in which they'd
be asked which party they support, as opposed to which specific
local candidate. Those seats would then go to the top candidates
on specific lists provided by the political parties, according to
the percentage of the popular vote they earn. That would give more
representation to smaller parties such as the NDP and the Green
Party, which tend to put forward more women and minority candidates,
but even front-running parties wanting to establish their credibility
with certain groups of voters that are traditionally under-represented
would be encouraged to present more female and minority candidates.
This kind of political reform has increased the number of women
taking part in politics in New Zealand and Germany, among other
a minimum number or percentage of voters required to make an election
No, says the legal department at Elections
Canada. There is no provision in the Canada Elections Act requiring
a minimum number or percentage of votes in order for the election
results to be valid.
Parliamentarians and Elections Canada have been growing more worried
about Canada's continuing decline in voter turnout in recent years,
however, even though elections will continue to be valid as numbers
With a few blips caused by the timing of elections at the height
of either winter or summer, plus a few other political factors,
about 75 per cent of eligible Canadians have traditionally tended
to vote since the end of the Second World War. That number started
to drop with the 1993 general election, to 70 per cent that year,
67 per cent in 1997, and just over 61 per cent in 2000. Particularly
troublesome is the fact that less than one-quarter of young people
who were eligible bothered to vote in the 2000 election. A study
done for Elections Canada indicates that young people who don't
vote turn into middle-aged people who don't vote, so the numbers
will keep getting worse unless we as a society can convince youth
that ballots are important.
The same voting trends have been seen in other major Western countries,
including the United States, France and Britain. Just over 50 per
cent of potential voters in the United Kingdom cast a ballot in
the 2002 election, for example.
"The legitimacy of a government lies in the fact that it is elected.
Low voter turnouts may call into question this democratic legitimacy,"
Elections Canada tells young voters on its website in a section
Should I Vote? "While democracy involves much more than holding
elections every five years, voting is a powerful way to send a message
to governments and politicians. The more votes, the more powerful
the message is. In other words, every vote counts."
in jail have the right to vote, but do they vote in the riding where
they are held? Wouldn't that result in a large imbalance for a city
This is an interesting point, which
comes into play more strongly this year. For the first time, prisoners
serving sentences of longer than two years are allowed to vote because
of a 2002 Supreme Court ruling. If a judge hands you a sentence
of less than two years, it's considered "provincial time," to be
served in a jail in your own province, usually the nearest to your
home at the time of incarceration. "Federal time" of two years and
up is served in a federal institution.
There are many federal prisons for men and women spread across
the country, with security measures ranging from minimum to maximum,
and in most cases, Correctional Services of Canada will try to send
prisoners to the institution closest to supportive family members.
Still, Canada's best-known prison "hub" is located in Kingston,
Ont., and its surrounding communities, so theoretically, it would
have a higher percentage of inmates among its temporary residents.
That doesn't mean they're automatically Kingston residents for
the purpose of voting, though. The Elections
Canada website says an inmate's home riding is considered to
be the place he or she lived before being imprisoned, or the house
of a spouse, common-law partner, relative or friend with whom the
voting inmate would usually live. If these addresses are unknown,
the home riding is the one in which the prisoner was arrested or
last went to court for sentencing.
That said, a place like Kingston could indeed see a bump in voting
by inmates given that wives, husbands or common-law partners often
move to the city for the duration of a long sentence to make visiting
more convenient. In that case, the prisoner's home riding would
be a Kingston-area one.
That doesn't mean inmates will be flooding into Kingston polling
stations accompanied by guards, though. Inmates all across Canada
vote by special ballot, with a liaison officer appointed in each
prison to help them acquire the proper forms and sort through the
method. Polling stations are set up on the 10th day before the regular
voting day (in the current case, June 28), and prison officials
make sure the collected ballots get to Elections Canada headquarters
in Ottawa in time to be counted on election night, along with all
the other special ballots filled out by Canadians living abroad
temporarily, military voters and other citizens traveling within
elections, I have cast my vote in Tulameen at the community centre.
This election I have to travel to the Legion in Princeton to cast
my vote, about a 45-minute drive further. This is very inconvenient
and I would like to know why?
Elections Canada does shuffle polling
stations occasionally to make sure they're in the most convenient
place for the largest number of voters in a riding, but the agency
says no voter should have to travel more than 30 kilometres to a
polling station, even in spread-out rural and northern ridings.
The questioner does have to travel further to cast his ballot this
time, but a search on the
Natural Resources Canada website lists Tulameen as being 21
kilometres away from Princeton. He may be out of luck unless he
lives on the far side of Tulameen and can prove it's more than 30
kilometres from the Legion branch in question.
If you've received a Voter Information Card that tells you to
go farther than 30 kilometres to cast a ballot, you should call
the returning office in your riding and complain. Mistakes do happen.
You can find the number of your local returning office by plugging
in your postal code on a
special form on the Elections Canada website.
By the way, if a voter is disabled and even a 30-kilometre trip
to a polling station would be arduous or impossible, it's now possible
to vote at home with the help of visiting Elections Canada staff
and a witness of your choosing. Ask your local returning office
14 years old and have a huge interest in Canadian politics. I was
watching CBC's The National on Day 2 or 3 of the election
when the registered political parties were listed in a report. I
don't understand why the Christian Heritage Party, Libertarian Party
of Canada and Progressive Canadian Party were not listed as registered
parties. When I visited electionscanada.ca later, these three parties
were listed. I understand that there are rules and regulations that
a party needs to follow to be registered as an official party. Can
you please explain them to me?
The rules changed just before this
year's election, because of a court ruling in 2003. Before now,
a party had to run 50 candidates in a general federal election as
well as follow a lot of regulations related to membership, record-keeping
and financial management in order to qualify to be a registered
political party. The stakes were high: Registered political parties
can provide tax receipts for donations, collect unspent money made
available for candidates earning a certain percentage of the vote,
and have their name printed next to the candidate's name on the
election ballot, raising their profile.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruling said it was not fair to require
a party to nominate 50 candidates in order to enjoy these benefits.
For one thing, it would rule out small regional parties just starting
out. So Parliament drafted revisions to the Canada Elections Act
that made it possible to be a registered political party even if
you have only one candidate running, as long as all the complicated
paperwork was done to ensure the party's organization and finances
were in good order.
The three parties Michael mentions became eligible for registered
party status under the new rules as of May 15, but hadn't yet officially
won status by the time the election was called about a week later.
They subsequently did qualify after Elections Canada confirmed on
June 9 that they each had at least one candidate properly nominated.
Now they enjoy all the privileges associated with registration -
which for the first time, includes guaranteed annual funding of
at least $1.75 a voter as long as they receive 5 per cent of the
popular vote in ridings in which they field a candidate, or 2 per
cent of the total national vote.
much will this election cost and is it more because of the extended
Elections Canada estimates the 2004
general election will cost as much as $265 million. That's $65 million
higher than the bill for the last one, in 2000. Inflation, population
growth, the creation of seven new ridings, and increased reimbursements
to candidates and payments to parties under new
election financing laws are all being blamed for the higher
cost. The extension of voting hours shouldn't be a very big factor
in the increased bill, compared to these other factors.
Going back four years, the 2000 general election cost $199.6 million,
actually down a shade from the $200.6-million cost of the 1997 election.
That's mostly because widespread enumeration was eliminated in favour
of a permanent, computerized national list of eligible voters, updated
for each election by a small amount of targeted enumeration and
new data supplied by provincial and federal government departments
Where does the money go? Well, about 166,000 staff worked on the
2000 election, at Elections Canada in Ottawa and across the country
in 301 returning offices and almost 57,000 polling stations. Every
riding needs about 500 workers, when you take into account deputy
returning officers, automation co-ordinators, poll clerks, revising
agents, registration officers, information officers, data entry
staff and security officers. On the physical side, the election
generated 550 tonnes of materials, including ballot boxes, forms,
training manuals and signs. Then there was the cost of advertising
about the nomination and voting process, and sending Voter Information
Cards out to voters, as well as funding for a small enumeration
operation targeted at highly transient neighbourhoods such as student
hotspots, new suburbs and seniors' residences. Click here
for a more detailed breakdown of the 1997 and 2000 election costs.
you please explain what a judicial recount is? What is the procedure?
Does it mean that a judge presides over the recount? Where does
it take place – in a courtroom?
A judicial recount is held when two
candidates in a federal riding are tied or almost tied for first
place after the votes are counted on Election Night. Given how close
this particular election seems a week before voting day, we may
be seeing more than the usual handful of them at the beginning of
If the two top vote totals are very close to each other, with the
different being less than one one-thousandth (or 0.1 per cent) of
the total number of votes cast in that riding, a recount is automatic.
The riding's returning officer must fill out the paperwork within
four days of the results being validated. A judge who normally presides
in a court within the riding then sets a date within the next four
days on which the judicial recount will begin.
If the difference is more but still fairly close, either one of
the candidates or a person acting on their behalf can request a
recount. Of course, the candidate with the lower total is much more
likely to do so, given that the stakes are so high. The Canada Elections
Act leaves the door open wider, saying any voter can request a recount,
as long as he or she can provide an affidavit from a credible witness
that "a returning officer has incorrectly added up the results of
the voting statements; a deputy returning officer has incorrectly
counted or rejected ballots; or a deputy returning officer has incorrectly
recorded the number of votes cast." The major parties usually send
representatives to the polling stations to monitor the counting
procedures on Election Night, so these people are usually the "credible
It's a complicated procedure, spelled out in more detail in the
Elections Act. But briefly, here's how it works.
After the votes from each polling station in every one of Canada's
308 ridings are counted, the ballot boxes are all sealed and stored
in a safe place authorized by Elections Canada. Then, if a judicial
recount is authorized for a certain riding, the relevant boxes are
brought to either the appointed judge's courtroom or some other
designated place (there is nothing in the Canada Elections Act that
specifies where a judicial recount must be held). The judge checks
each box's seal to make sure nobody has tampered with it. Then each
box in turn is reopened and the judge counts every single ballot
in it, as well as carefully adding up the totals from all the boxes
gathered from the riding.
During the recount, the top two candidates in the riding and up
to two representatives each may be present to watch. (If a candidate
can't be there, he or she can send three representatives instead,
all of whom must be voters in the riding.) The returning officer
for the riding must also attend. The judge may choose to summon
and question witnesses as well as simply count the ballots.
After the recount is completed, the judge will certify the number
of votes cast for each candidate and the final total is entered
as the result in the contested riding. And finally and officially,
voters in the riding will know who their next MP will be.
MPs have to swear allegiance? If so, to whom? If not, why not, and
if one refuses, what if anything are the consequences?
Yes, all Canadian MPs and Senators
must swear an oath or make an affirmation of allegiance, promising
to "be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty Queen
Elizabeth the Second." So must members of provincial legislatures
and legislative councils.
The affirmation option was made available for those who decline
to swear the formal oath using a Bible because of their personal
religious beliefs, but in all cases politicians must pledge to be
faithful to the reigning monarch or they cannot take their seat
in the legislature or Parliament to which they have been elected.
The House of Commons can decide to punish a member it deems to
have broken the oath. It has never done so, though former speaker
John Fraser was asked to rule in 1990 on whether Bloc Québécois's
first elected MP, Gilles Duceppe, had been sincere in making his
solemn affirmation. After making the affirmation as the rules decreed,
Duceppe made a statement outside the House of Commons Chamber expressing
his loyalty to the people of Quebec. Fraser declared he could not
judge whether Duceppe had been sincere in his initial solemn affirmation
to the British monarch and left it up to each MP's conscience to
assign a due seriousness to his or her personal pledge.
Lucien Bouchard, then the leader of the BQ, justified the seeming
contradiction of avowed separatists pledging allegiance to the British
Crown in 1993 by saying, "A pledge to the Queen is a pledge
to the collectivity, and that is still very important."
The oath of allegiance is described in section 128 of the Constitution
Act, 1867, better known as the British North America Act. It reads:
"Every Member of the Senate or House of Commons of Canada shall
before taking his Seat therein take and subscribe before the Governor
General or some Person authorized by him, and every Member of a
Legislative Council or Legislative Assembly of any Province shall
before taking his Seat therein take and subscribe before the Lieutenant
Governor of the Province or some Person authorized by him, the Oath
of Allegiance contained in the Fifth Schedule to this Act."
The Speaker's Office says federally elected politicians must also
sign the Test Roll, a book whose pages are headed by the text of
the oath, so that their participation is on permanent record.
Such oaths stem from British practice, and their history in that
country is an interesting one. Queen Elizabeth I imposed the first
oath of allegiance in 1583. She was reacting to religious tensions
gripping Protestants and Roman Catholics in Britain at the time.
Her father, Henry VIII, had split with Rome over his desire to divorce
his previous wife to marry Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn. Members
of Parliament were required to acknowledge in their oath to Elizabeth
that the monarch was the only supreme governor of the realm, not
only in secular matters of state but in ecclesiastical matters too.
Devout Roman Catholics naturally refused to swear such a thing,
and thus the oath effectively barred them from holding office.
Here's an interesting look at what could be the future of our country's
oath. For more than a decade now, Eugène Bellemare, the Liberal
member of Parliament for Ottawa-Orléans, has been trying
to add to the oath Canadian politicians use. He wants his fellow
MPs to also swear a pledge of allegiance to Canada and its Constitution.
At his own oath ceremony, Bellemare voluntarily read the affirmation
he favours: "I will be loyal to Canada and that I will perform
the duties of a member of the House of Commons honestly and justly
in conformity with the Constitution of Canada." Bellemare points
out that the existing oath to the monarch is practically identical
to oaths sworn by politicians in many other Commonwealth countries
including Australia, Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Pakistan, Nigeria
and Tanzania. He'd like to see a made-in-Canada addition.
been reading about the problems that some areas in the U.S. are
having with electronic voting machines. Does anyplace in Canada
use these new machines, or are there any plans to do so?
So far, Elections Canada is not aware
of any Canadian experiment with electronic voting machines, though
there have been two recent cases of local elections conducted partly
through internet or phone-based voting (more details appear below).
Nor does the independent agency that runs federal elections in Canada
have any plans to introduce electronic machine voting or electronic
ballot counting, let alone internet or telephone voting as some
other countries are doing for their national elections.
Before we get into why, let's define some terms.
Direct recording electronic machines, or DREs, are typically specialized
voting kiosks much like automated bank machines that can be carted
around to office buildings, hospitals, universities, malls or seniors'
homes. As a voter, you'd approach the machine and use either a keypad
or a touch-sensitive screen to select which candidate you favour,
then follow the instructions to confirm your vote on the same machine.
Results can be tabulated instantly, and supporters of the technology
claim the machines could greatly improve voter turnout by making
it more convenient to vote. The United States is planning to use
DREs on a limited basis this year to streamline voting in the November
Electronic ballot counting machines are just that; you still make
your mark for a candidate or candidates on a paper ballot, but instead
of putting it in a box to be hand-counted after the polls have closed,
you slide the ballot through a reader which scans it and instantly
reports your choice to a central computer bank. In Canada and many
other countries, these are often used to speed up the counting process
in local elections where multiple candidates are running for more
than one spot on a city or town council or school board.
Internet or telephone voting would let you vote from the privacy
and convenience of your home, your office or anywhere you can carry
a laptop or cellphone. Election experts refer to it as remote voting
by electronic means, or RVEM. Voters are typically mailed a card
containing a password and personal identification number (PIN),
then punch those in while visiting an election website or phoning
a special phone number before being allowed to select the candidate
they're supporting. The best-studied experience with this was a
series of 30 local council elections in Britain in 2002. Partly
as a result of those elections, the U.K. Electoral Commission thinks
RVEM will eventually be an option in most elections because it is
easy and convenient for the highest number of people, though the
commission wants to retain polling stations as well as introduce
voting by mail to reach seniors and low-income voters without easy
and/or private phone or computer access. Britons could also conceivably
vote by interactive digital television before too long.
The new technologies have advantages, but there are great concerns
over the security and privacy of DREs and internet/phone voting
as the systems are now structured.
In the traditional polling station, you are completely alone as
you mark your ballot. Your privacy is further protected because
nobody opens your unidentifiable ballot before it goes into the
box for later counting. The ballot boxes are zealously guarded,
the ballots they contain are carefully counted in front of witnesses,
and the paper ballots are safely stored after Election Night in
case a judicial recount is needed.
If you are voting by computer or phone, there is no such guarantee
of secrecy and independence. A domineering relative or corrupt employer
could conceivably make you vote in a certain way, or just take your
password information and vote in your name.
Security is perhaps a greater concern. In January, four analysts
submitted a report to the Pentagon on the SERVE internet-based electronic
voting system that will be used by up to 100,000 voters in U.S.
elections this year. They warned that the system is highly vulnerable
to computer hackers, who could launch an attack resulting in "large-scale,
selective voter disenfranchisement, and/or privacy violation, and/or
vote buying and selling, and/or vote-switching even to the extent
of reversing the outcome of many elections at once, including the
presidential election." Politically motivated groups, anti-American
agencies overseas or just hackers looking for glory could exploit
weaknesses that "cannot be fixed by design changes or bug fixes,"
the analysts continue, because "the vulnerabilities are fundamental
in the architecture of the internet and of the PC hardware and software
that is ubiquitous today." Instead of continuing with SERVE this
year, the report recommends building a more secure kiosk-based electronic
voting machine network for use in some future election year.
Then there is the difficulty of conducting a recount should the
results come into question. With electronic voting, what physical
thing is there to recount to confirm who won, in the case of a severe
system crash or computer hacking episode, for example? Manufacturers
are now looking at adding a paper printout of each vote placed through
a kiosk, so that a voter can check to make sure his or her vote
was recorded properly and then leave the printout behind as a permanent
On the face of it, the two recent Canadian experiments with phone
and online voting did not suffer major security breaches, though
much less was at stake to attract wrongdoers.
In the fall of 2003, citizens in 11 rural townships in the Ottawa
area received letters containing passwords and PINs. A few weeks
later, they were given six days to cast their ballots for local
politicians by touch-tone phone or computer, day or night. In one
of the two counties involved – Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry
– voter participation rose by five per cent from the previous
election, just three years before. (The other county, Prescott-Russell,
doesn't keep countywide records.) One local mayor later said he
had heard rumours of voter passwords being bought and sold in an
attempt to sway the results, but overall, officials were more than
satisfied with the experiment.
The Toronto-area town of Markham had mixed results when it experimented
with online voting in advance polls during the same 2003 round of
municipal elections. Overall voter turnout dropped slightly, but
a quarter of those who voted online said they hadn't cast a ballot
at all in the 2000 election, so the method did prove to be more
convenient for them.
As for the future of federal election technology, Elections Canada
has no plans to move to any kind of electronic voting until all
possible glitches have been ironed out (a March
2003 article in its online election magazine gives more detail).
We'll be marking paper ballots for the foreseeable future when we
choose our MPs.
However, the agency is moving ahead on a system to let adults go
online to register to vote, or change the riding in which they are
many polling stations does Elections Canada establish, on average,
in the process of holding a general election?
There will be more than 18,000 polling
locations in Canada for this election, including everything from
hospitals to fire stations to Legion halls to make voting as convenient
as possible. Elections Canada needs that many to ensure that no
eligible voter has to travel more than 30 kilometres to cast a ballot.
Usually about a quarter of the polling sites are located in educational
facilities and a quarter are found in community centres; these are
the buildings most likely to have wheelchair-accessible premises.
In the 2000 election, 883 mobile polling stations were also sent
out to collect the votes of elderly or disabled persons living in
institutions in neighbourhoods with two or more health care institutions.
All federal ridings (formally called electoral districts) are broken
down into many different polling divisions, also known as "polls".
Each stationary polling site usually has several polls within it,
so voters in the 308 ridings will cast ballots in about 58,000 individual
polls this time out, up from 57,705 in the 2000 election.
Polls correspond to neighbourhoods and include on average less
than 400 voters each. Breaking it down this way helps election workers
to find voters' names on the master list more easily, speeds the
process of counting on election night and helps party and academic
researchers examine voting patterns within regions with a greater
degree of accuracy.
The number of your individual poll is printed on the Voter Information
Card you receive in the mail before the election, so bringing that
card with you to the polling station is a good idea.
If I have a power of attorney
for a relative, can I vote on his or her behalf?
No, you can't. "Canadian citizens 18 years of age and older on polling day are eligible to vote," says Elections Canada. However, because the act of voting is supposed to be one of personal choice and responsibility, "the Canada Elections Act does not provide for decisions by a personal or legal representative."
Voters with a disability retain the right to vote all their lives, the independent election agency adds. If they are so seriously disabled that they need help to go behind the screen and mark the ballot, subsection 155(1) of the Canada Elections Act says "a friend, the spouse, the common-law partner or a relative of the elector or a relative of the elector's spouse or common-law partner" can go into the voting booth with them and physically help them carry out the task.
Elections Canada makes special efforts to ensure older and disabled citizens can vote. Almost 900 mobile polling stations travel among health-care facilities when there are a cluster of them within one part of a riding, and many stationary polling stations are set up at seniors' complexes. People receiving medical care in another part of the country on Election Day can apply in advance for a special ballot. As well, if there's no other way for a disabled voter to cast a ballot, you can now request that Elections Canada staff visit your home to collect your vote. Ask your local returning office for details.
Why does the CBC give so much airtime to the NDP (i.e., how many times do we have to see Olivia Chow)? Why doesn't the CBC provide equal time to political parties and not give more attention to the NDP?
There are three types of airtime at play during a campaign: editorial time, where radio and television news and current affairs programs cover the parties, leaders and candidates; commercial time, where the parties buy time to broadcast their political advertisements; and free time, which is provided by some broadcasters to all parties free of charge so that they can explain their point of view. The content of all three types of airtime is determined in different ways.
First, CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices policy says that during election campaigns, the corporation's news and current affairs programs must pay "meticulous attention to overall political balance" when it comes to editorial airtime. Indeed, fairness and balance is the hallmark of CBC coverage of all the political parties, candidates and issues in the campaign.
To be clear, "balanced" coverage does not mean "equal" coverage of all parties, leaders or candidates. To be balanced, the policy says, CBC must take into consideration the weight of opinion behind a particular point of view - or the support for a political party, if you will - as well as its significance or potential significance.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) Guidelines for Broadcast Licensees, issued at the beginning of this election, affirm that while election coverage should be left to the editorial judgement of the broadcaster, there is an "obligation to provide equitable - fair and just - treatment of issues, candidates and parties." Again, the guidelines stress that "equitable" in this context does not necessarily mean "equal," although the CRTC has made it clear that all parties and candidates are entitled to some coverage that will expose their ideas to the public.
Sometimes it can seem as if one party is getting a lot of attention - when a celebrity candidate enters the race, for example, when the party has just released its platform, or when a controversy erupts on the campaign trail, but that evens out over the course of the five-week campaign. In addition to the regular editorial process, the CBC has a number of ways of ensuring its coverage is balanced and fair, including an internal monitoring process and external tracking that looks at different things.
The second type of airtime is paid advertising. Under the provisions of the Canada Elections Act, all registered political parties are allocated a maximum amount of advertising time they can buy on each broadcasting station based on a formula that takes into account the number of seats they won in the last election and the number of votes they got. Of course, the parties can choose to buy as much or as little of that allocated time as they want, according to their budgets and strategic plans.
CBC TV accepts advertising all the time, of course. But CBC Radio is also obliged by the Act to accept paid political ads during federal campaigns - it's the only time the public radio network ever runs paid ads, in fact. Radio show hosts introduce the ads with a statement explaining why they are running, and stressing that all registered parties can take advantage of the same opportunity if they so choose. Not all parties decide to spend their advertising dollars this way, however. For example, during the current campaign, only the NDP has bought advertising on CBC Radio in the Metro Toronto area, although the time is equally available for purchase by all registered parties.
Third, the Canada Elections Act also obliges some stations and networks, including CBC Radio and Television, to make available a certain amount of time free of charge to registered political parties so that they can explain to voters their point of view. Like the commercial time, although in different amounts, free time is allocated to each party based on a formula that takes into account the number of votes and seats won in the last election.
CBC offers that free time in two-minute long "programs," in which the party can express its views as it sees fit without questions or interruption from journalists. The political parties are invited to produce their own free program-time messages, using CBC production facilities if they choose, to make the airwaves accessible even to smaller parties.
How many pencils does Elections Canada go through for each election? As well, how many do voters walk away with, rather than leave them for the next person to use?
Elections Canada says it bought 300,000 "golf-style" pencils for this election. That�s the
short stubby kind with no eraser, such as people use to mark on golf score sheets.
Three of the pencils are inserted into each kit of materials used to set up a voting booth. A
new kit is provided for each voting booth within a polling station, each advance poll and each
mobile poll. Any unused kits go back into stock at Elections Canada in readiness for the next
Returning officers also receive some pencils for use by the special-ballot co-ordinators who
run voting operations at military bases and in prisons, among other sites.
Elections Canada doesn�t keep records of how many of the pencils are taken by voters, either
absent-mindedly or deliberately. At the end of voting day, all the pencils at each station are
rounded up and returned to the district returning officer�s headquarters. From there, they are
either recycled or provided to schools for their use, if the schools have made a request in
advance to pick up any leftovers.