Politics

Do some provinces' votes count more than others? Your election questions answered

From CRA oversight to marking the wrong box, more answers to some of the most interesting questions we've gotten during the federal election campaign.

From CRA oversight to marking the wrong box, here's what you were wondering

We're breaking down what you need to know to vote, party platforms and taking your election questions throughout the campaign ⁠— all via text message. And then we're answering those questions here. (Sködt McNalty/CBC)

Hundreds of you have texted your questions since we launched our election texting service earlier this week. Some common themes have emerged: the climate, carbon tax, health care, electoral reform, debts and deficits.

We've broken some of those out into separate articles — explaining the difference between debt and deficit and where the parties lie on electoral reform given the Liberals' broken 2015 promise.

But we've also rounded up some of the most intriguing questions here. You can ask us yours by texting ELECTION to 22222.

Do some provinces' votes count more than others?

It's not that they count for more, it's that provinces with greater populations have more seats in the House of Commons. More seats, more say.

Here's how it works: seats are allocated based on provincial population. A province with a large population, such as Ontario, will have more seats than, say, Prince Edward Island. Ontario has 121 seats — more than British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba combined.

The more seats Ontario voters give to a specific party, the greater chance that party's leader has of becoming prime minister.

Since Confederation, the formula for determining how many seats a province gets has changed many times as the overall population of the country has grown and provincial populations have shifted. Some smaller provinces, including Saskatchewan, Manitoba, P.E.I. and New Brunswick, have a slightly higher number of seats than their population, as a percentage of national population, would dictate.

There's a simple explanation, says Gerald Baier, political scientist at the University of British Columbia. "No province can have fewer seats in the House of Commons than it had senators at the time that it joined Confederation." So absent a constitutional amendment, P.E.I. will never have fewer than four seats, even if its population decreases. Because of that, votes in P.E.I technically may count more than those in other parts of the country, if only because its average riding population is much smaller than the national average.

What's more, the 1985 Representation Act guaranteed each province would never have fewer seats than it had in 1976 or during the 33rd Parliament.

 

Several of the Fathers of Confederation strike a pose during the Charlottetown Conference in Sept. 1864 where they had gathered to consider the union of the British North American Colonies. No province can have less seats than it had senators at the time it joined Confederation. (National Archives of Canada)

When should I be getting my voter card?

Elections Canada says it has now sent 26.9 million voter information cards out. If you are on the voters list, expect yours by Oct. 4. If it hasn't arrived within a few days of that date, reach out to Elections Canada, who can re-send it — in case it got lost in the mail or was never sent.

If you've changed your address or have other information to update, you can do it online now. Elections Canada will send a new card with your updated information. A voter card is a good way to have proof of your new address if you just moved and don't have any identification with that new information yet. Just remember you need an additional piece of ID if you choose to use your card.

The due date for any voter card changes is Oct. 15 at 6 p.m. New voter cards will be sent out for any updates received by this date and should get to you prior to election day. 

You don't need your voter card to vote though. Here's all the forms of identification you can use.

28 million voter information cards have been sent to Canadians and are expected to arrive by Oct. 4. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Why do polling numbers change from outlet to outlet on the same day?

It depends on the way polls are conducted and what a poll's margin of error may be. Polling analyst Éric Grenier likens it to a pot of soup. 

"If you dip your spoon into the soup, no two spoonfuls will be identical. But even if one spoonful has a bit more pepper and the other has an extra piece of carrot in it, it still tastes generally the same. It is the same way with polls," he said.

That means, even though there are variations, Grenier thinks they are still "broadly reflective of the population as a whole."

Have any parties mentioned making the CRA responsible to someone?

No party leader has made oversight of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) a platform issue for 2019. The minister of national revenue is responsible for the CRA.

Earlier this year, the Liberals came under fire when CBC's The Fifth Estate and Radio-Canada's Enquête reported the CRA had settled out-of-court with KPMG clients who had dodged tens of millions of dollars in taxes as part of an offshore tax scheme.

In terms of oversight, the Canada Revenue Agency is overseen by a board of management, as is mandated by the Canada Revenue Agency Act. It also undergoes regular internal and external audits and evaluations. According to the CRA, the board of management oversees the organization and administration and the management of agency resources, services, property, personnel and contracts. 

The overall performance of the CRA is publicly reported every year in a departmental results report.

A look at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) headquarters in Ottawa. No party leader has made oversight of the CRA a platform issue for 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

What if I accidentally mark the wrong box when voting?

It happens. If you put a mark beside someone you didn't want to vote for or make a mistake like ripping your ballot, let a polling staffer know. Your ballot will then be counted as a "spoiled ballot" and will be kept secret. They are tracked, but the number of "spoiled ballots" aren't made public.

Elections Canada will give you a replacement ballot but will also give you a warning that you only get one replacement.


Until election day, we'll be rounding up your questions and answering some in articles like the one you just read. If you've got questions, text "ELECTION" to 22222 or send Haydn an email at haydn.watters@cbc.ca. He'll try his very best to get you an answer — or include it in a future article. 

Corrections

  • Election Canada initially told CBC News they had sent out 28 million voter information cards. In fact, they actually sent out 26.9 million.
    Oct 10, 2019 3:58 PM ET

With files from Stephanie Hogan and Haydn Watters

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

...

Thank you for subscribing to CBC Newsletters. Discover more CBC Newsletters.

Happy reading!

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.