It’s election time in Canada! Here’s what you need to know

Story by CBC Kids News • 2021-08-16 07:35

The last election was less than 2 years ago


For the next few weeks, expect to hear a lot about a federal election.

That’s because on Sept. 20, Canadian adults 18 and over will be voting on who should represent them in Ottawa.

Even if kids can’t vote, it’s important to understand how elections work so that when our turn to vote comes, we know what it’s all about.

Here are some key bits of information about what’s happening this time around.

The leaders

There are five major political parties in Canada.

Here are their leaders in this election:

Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party of Canada

Image credit: Ron Ward/The Canadian Press

Erin O’Toole, Conservative Party of Canada

Image credit: Paul Daly/The Canadian Press

Yves-François Blanchet, Bloc Québécois

Image credit: Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Jagmeet Singh, New Democratic Party

Image credit: Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press

Annamie Paul, Green Party of Canada

Image credit: Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press

But these aren’t the people whose names will appear on signs around your community.

On election day, voters will choose a local candidate who represents their party of choice.

Elected candidates become MPs (Members of Parliament).

The party with the most MPs usually forms the government. The leader of that party becomes the prime minister (one of those pictured above).

You won’t see many lawn signs with the names of the party leaders on them unless you live in a riding that the leader represents. (Image credit: Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press)

Why now?

Wait…. Didn’t we just have an election not long ago?

You’re right!

The Liberals won the last election in October 2019.

Aren’t elections supposed to happen every four years, you ask?

Well, they are, but the prime minister can call an election any time.

An election could also happen if the other parties have lost confidence in the governing party.

In the last election, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won less than half the total seats, but more than any other party.

This allowed them to form a minority government.

In this case, the election was Trudeau’s call and he’s hoping his party can win more than half the seats and form a majority government.

If he gets a majority, he will be able to govern with less pressure from opposition parties.

A sign outside a polling station that says

Any Canadian citizen 18 and older can vote in an election. (Image credit: Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Is this a good idea?

Some people are worried about the spread of COVID-19 during an election campaign, and that’s being called out by other candidates.

Last week, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said, “If Justin Trudeau was listening to people and their concerns and their worries, he would not be holding a selfish summer election.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole made a similar statement.

“We shouldn't be rushing to an election,” he said. “Mr. Trudeau always seems to put his own self-interest ahead of the interest of Canadians.”

On Sunday, Trudeau defended his position, saying this is a critical time for the country, and Canadians should have their say.

“After making it through 17 months of nothing like we've ever experienced, Canadians deserve to choose what the next 17 months, the next 17 years and beyond, look like,” Trudeau said.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, has said she's confident in-person voting can happen safely if people follow public health measures.

Several provinces have had elections during the pandemic.

On election day, voters fill out a ballot on which they mark the name of the person they choose to vote for. The ballot is placed in a box like this before it’s counted. (Image credit: Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The top issues

Expect leaders to be talking about things you’ve been hearing about in the news lately, such as Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Climate change and the environment, gun control, residential schools and reconciliation, as well as jobs and the economy will also come up.

Stay informed!

Keep an eye on for videos about the election process.

We also want to know what issues are most important to you for this election.

Email us at and tell us what you want us to ask Canada's political leaders.

TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Graham Hughes, Paul Daly, Adrian Wyld, Tijana Martin, Cole Burston/The Canadian Press
With files from Catharine Tunney, John Paul Tasker, Aaron Wherry/CBC

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