6 Questions About Federal Elections In Canada You May Be Too Scared To Ask Your Friends

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Contributing Writer
6 Questions About Federal Elections In Canada That You May Be Scared To Ask Your Friends

With the election process currently taking place in Canada, it's normal to have questions about the different parties, their platforms or voting in general. In life, there are no bad questions, so we're answering six you might have about federal elections in Canada but might be too afraid to ask your friends.

Talking about elections is not everyone's cup of tea and it's not necessarily part of everyone's general knowledge. So you can find out a little bit of information right here — all in one place.

How does the government call an election?

It's a pretty simple process. The current prime minister arranges a face-to-face meeting with the governor general of Canada, Queen Elizabeth II's representative.

This meeting is to recommend the dissolution of Parliament. In the case of the 2021 federal election, Governor General Mary Simon agreed and approved the dissolution of the House of Commons, at the request of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

A campaign period of at least 36 days is therefore announced.

However, the queen's representative doesn't have to comply with the request of the head of government. Under the constitution, she has the "discretionary power" to accept or reject the PM's recommendation.

The GG then informs her boss, Queen Elizabeth II. Once Parliament is dissolved, the government's four-year term is over.

But don't elections have to be held on a fixed date?

Yes, but they're still flexible; let's take a look at why.

According to the Canada Elections Act, "each general election must be held on the third Monday of October in the fourth calendar year following polling day for the last general election."

Thus, the next election would have been scheduled for October 16, 2023, but an election can still be called at the request of the prime minister, particularly if he loses a key vote in the House of Commons, which is rare in a majority mandate.

In the case of the 2021 election, the incumbent PM, leading a minority government, thought it was a good idea to call it in order to win a majority. This is considered a risky gamble according to several analysts, including Philippe J. Fournier, who is behind the electoral analysis and projection sites Qc125 and 338Canada.

What is the difference between a minority and a majority government?

In Canada, there are 338 ridings from coast to coast, each one with a seat in the House of Commons in Ottawa.

In order for an elected government to have a majority, it must win more than half of the seats in the House of Commons, or 170. With a majority, the party elected to lead the country will have full power.

In the case of a minority, as was the case until August 15, 2021, it is the opposition groups that hold more seats than the government. In this case, the Liberal Party of Canada has to get along better with the various parties in the House.

This may make it slightly more difficult for a government to pass a bill, for example.

The opposition parties could, if they wished, form a coalition to govern the country and bring down the government. In Canada, this has only happened once before, during the First World War.

In both minority and majority situations, governments must retain the confidence of the House of Commons to govern. In a majority situation, a government is assured of the confidence of the majority, which may not be the case in a minority situation.

However, according to the House of Commons procedure, as outlined in the Canadian Encyclopedia, the PM and their cabinet must have the confidence of a majority of MPs.

"In a minority parliament, the party that forms government does not hold the majority of votes required to completely ensure its approval. It must therefore earn its approval from members of other parties and independents," the Encyclopedia says.

Could the Bloc Québécois actually form a government?

No, and that's not the goal of the Bloc Québécois. The party itself states on its website that its presence in the House of Commons is to ensure the legitimacy of Quebecers' rights on the federal scene.

As a political party based exclusively in Quebec, there are only 78 candidates running in 338 ridings across Canada.

So, no, Yves-François Blanchet, the current leader of the BQ, will never be prime minister of Canada. However, he could be the leader of the official opposition.

In the 1993 election, Lucien Bouchard's BQ won 54 seats and, due to a split vote, became the official opposition of Jean Chrétien's government.

What is "strategic voting?"

It's a concept that comes up in every election, both provincial and federal.

When a voter decides to vote for a party that's not necessarily their first choice, this is an example. The person judges that their preferred party will not win the election in their riding and therefore votes for the party that has the best chance.

In an interview with 24 Heures, Ruth Dassonneville, a professor in the Department of Political Science at Université de Montréal, said that this "strategy" is especially advantageous to the Liberal and Conservative parties, "since those who prefer a small party will choose what they consider to be the lesser evil of the major parties."

When did women get the right to vote in Canada?

After the creation of the Canadian Confederation in 1867, it wasn't until 1918 that women were given the right to vote in federal elections, and that was more than two years after Manitoban women became the first women to vote at the provincial level.

Quebec was the last province to grant women the right to vote, in 1940.

While Canadian women were able to vote as early as 1918, Indigenous women could only do so if they gave up their status and treaty rights.

Otherwise, it has only been since March 31, 1960, that all Indigenous people have been able to vote in Canadian federal elections, without giving up their status.

Alanna Moore
Contributing Writer