VOTING: RIGHT OR RESPONSIBILITY? • Citizens are guaranteed the right to vote under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is a very important right that should be exercised by all citizens. • Democracy only works if people participate. Therefore, it is our duty to use our democratic right to keep the system working. • The right to vote is what gives us our voice in government and decision making. • Citizens can exercise their democratic right and participate in decision making in two ways: • Elections: electing our representatives • Referendums: when the government consults the people on important issues.
HISTORY OF THE VOTE Not every Canadian has always had the franchise. For many groups of people it was a hard-won democratic right. Here is a brief time-line outlining the right to vote in Canada. 1867 Only men who own property are allowed to vote. 1916 Women in Manitoba become the first in Canada to win the right to vote in provincial elections. 1917 The War Times Election Act gives wives, sisters, and mothers of servicemen the right to vote in federal elections. The right to vote is extended to Aboriginal Canadians in the armed forces. 1918 All adult women win the right to vote in federal elections, except those of Asian, Inuit, or Status Indian descent. 1934 All Inuit lose the right to vote. 1948 The vote is extended to Japanese Canadians. 1950 Inuit become eligible to vote. 1960 Right to vote extended to Aboriginal Canadians living on reserves. 1968 People with mental disabilities are granted the right to vote.
ELECTORAL DISTRICTS Canada is too large to use direct democracy so we have use the representative democracy system, where we elect individuals to represent us in government. For the purposes of both federal and provincial representation and voting, each province is divided into ridings, or constituencies (electoral districts). Roughly, it is 1 representative per 100,000 voters. The people who live within the boundaries of a riding are allowed to elect one representative to government. The candidate who receives the largest number of votes in each riding becomes its representative. Each riding equals a seat in the House of Commons (federal) or Legislative Assembly (provincial). In a Provincial election, 106 representatives (MPPs) make up the Ontario Government. The political party with the most seats leads. In a Federal election, 308 representatives (MPs) make up the Canadian Government. The political party with the most seats leads.
URBAN vs. RURAL REPRESENTATION Our Riding (electoral districts) system tries to divide Canada as fairly as possible for equal representation according to population. But, Canada is so unequally populated and it is very difficult to keep the amount of voters and geographical area for each Member of Parliament equal. The system tries to give more populated provinces, like Ontario and Quebec, more representation in government, but even in these provinces the amount of people who live in cities (urban) is much higher than those who live in the countryside (rural) making it difficult to keep it completely equal representation. The result is that ridings in Rural areas or in less populated provinces cover more land but have less people, and the Urban ridings cover less area and have more people. Some ridings, like in the Northwest Territories or northern Ontario, have 20, 000 voters per MP, while ridings in cities like Toronto and Montreal have 150, 000 voters per MP.
SEAT MAJORITY NOT VOTE MAJORITY • Each voter votes for who will represent them in parliament. They only vote for who their MP (federal) or MPP (provincial) will be not who the government will be. • The person who gets the most votes in a particular riding becomes the Member of Parliament and wins a seat in parliament. • The political party with the most seats will form the government. • The leader of the government party becomes the Prime Minister. • It is important to note: • A member can win a riding with less than 50% of the votes. • A party can be the government even though it did not get a majority of votes nation wide. • Parties have formed governments with as little as 38% of the vote. (Ontario NDP in 1990)
MAJORITY vs. MINORITY GOVERNMENT There are two types of Governments that can come out of an election: Majority or Minority Governments. A Majority Government occurs when the party who leads the government has more seats than all the opposition parties combined. A Minority Government occurs when the party who leads the government has the most seats but not more than the opposition parties combined. A Minority Government is very unstable because the leading party can be outvoted on any issue and decisions cannot be made. The leading party must ally itself with the other parties in order to get bills passed and decisions made. If the leading party is outvoted in parliament (non-confidence vote), people lose confidence in the government, parliament dissolves and a new election is called.
The House of Commons The Government Cabinet P.M. Sergeant at Arms Hansard Speaker Leader Other Bloc Quebecois NDP Shadow Cabinet Official Conservatives The Opposition