49th Parallel Has Canadians Confused About Voting In Federal Elections In Canada….Just Saying….

October 15, 2015         Andrew Chernoff


It has occurred to me that one of the reasons most Canadians have no logic or reason behind their voting in federal elections is that most Canadians live near the Canada-U.S. border.

And some do not vote at all, then grumble and complain for four more years like they had no way to influence which federal party would be the government of Canada. That is why it is so important to vote.

An estimated 75 percent of Canadians live within 161 kilometers (100 miles) of the U.S. border, according to http://travel.nationalgeographic.com.

According to CBC News, 90 Per cent of Canadians who live within 160 kilometres of the U.S. border as of 2009, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/by-the-numbers-1.801937.

About four-fifths of the population lives within 150 kilometres (93 mi) of the contiguous United States border.[200] Approximately 80 percent of Canadians live in urban areas concentrated in the Quebec City–Windsor Corridor, the British Columbia Lower Mainland, and the Calgary–Edmonton Corridor in Alberta.[201, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada.

I for one will admit I have followed U.S. politics closely since the summer of 1972 when my family moved from Kitimat, B.C. to Midway B.C. and I had access to NBC, ABC and CBS, and became educated in their political system and it is striking.

When I lived in Kitimat B.C. and Ocean Falls B.C. (where I was born) the main television station was CBC and it was Canadian politics I became acquainted with and watched from time to time, due to my parents, unless I went outside to play and be a kid.

You can’t blame all those Canadians from being unduly influenced by our Southern neighbours, especially when it comes to politics and voting in elections. There are great differences between U.S. and Canadian political systems when voting.

Here is a brief explanation of some differences between the United States and Canada:

From: http://www.parl.gc.ca:

  • In the United States, the president, the senators and the representatives are elected for different periods, it can happen, and often does, that the president belongs to one party while the opposing party has a majority in either the Senate or the House of Representatives or both. So for years on end, the president may find his or her legislation and policies blocked by an adverse majority in one or both houses. The president cannot appeal to the people by dissolving either house, or both: he or she has no such power, and the two houses are there for their fixed terms, come what may, until the constitutionally fixed hour strikes.
  • The Canadian prime minister did not appear in the written Constitution until 1982. It still contains not one syllable on prime ministerial qualifications, the method of election or removal, or the prime minister’s powers (except for the calling of constitutional conferences). Nor is there anything on any of these matters in any Act of Parliament, except for provision of a salary, pension and residence for the person holding the recognized position of first minister. Everything else is a matter of established usage, of “convention.” There is nothing in any law requiring the prime minister or any other minister to have a seat in Parliament; there is just a custom that he or she must have a seat, or get one within a reasonable time. There is nothing in any law to say that a government that loses its majority in the House of Commons on a matter of confidence must either resign (making way for a different government in the same House) or ask for a fresh general election.
  • While the United States has a republic form of government, Canada has a a constitutional monarchy developed in the United Kingdom, where the democratically elected parliaments, and their leader, the prime minister, exercise power, with the monarchs having ceded power and remaining as a titular position.
  • In Canada, all important legislation is introduced by the government, and all bills to spend public funds or impose taxes must be introduced by the government and neither house can raise the amounts of money involved. As long as the government can keep the support of a majority in the House of Commons, it can pass any legislation it sees fit unless an adverse majority in the Senate refuses to pass the bill (which very rarely happens nowadays). If it loses its majority support in the House of Commons, it must either make way for a government of another party or call a fresh election. If it simply makes way for a government of a different party, then that government, as long as it holds its majority in the House of Commons, can pass any legislation it sees fit, and if it loses that majority, then it, in its turn, must either make way for a new government or call a fresh election. In the United States, president and Congress can be locked in fruitless combat for years on end. In Canada, the government and the House of Commons cannot be at odds for more than a few weeks at a time. If they differ on any matter of importance, then, promptly, there is either a new government or a new House of Commons.

In Canada, when a federal political party forms government, the political leader of that political party automatically becomes the prime minister. There is no separate election in Canada to elect a prime minister like there is in the United States.

In Canada, pollsters ask Canadians who they would prefer as prime minister, like it matters: the prime minister is the horse or donkey, and the rest of those that are elected follow along.

The prime minister as leader of that cart literally is along for the ride….Well o.k., I may have simplified it a little….. Still, that successful party leader literally rides the coattails of his/her party elected members of parliament to the powerful position of prime minister. And that is the short of it.

Instead of the winning federal party determining  a leader of the government from their ranks that have been elected, the parties at a convention of the federal party, elect a person who will lead their party into an election and if successful, that person will then as leader of the party, become Canada’s prime minister.

Nanos Research recently asked Canadians in a poll who they preferred for prime minister. The results were Trudeau was the choice of 33.0% Canadians followed by Harper at 28.8%, Mulcair at 19.9%, May at 6.4%, Duceppe at 1.8% and 10.3% of Canadians were unsure. (Three-day tracking: Oct 10, 11 & 13/15)

What happens if you like the political party but not the leader? Most Canadians have little or no say in the election of a future prime minister of a federal political party, even though all Canadians have an opportunity to vote for a political party in a federal election.

It’s all about voting strategy, eh?

Which is more important to Canadians:

  • The attraction of the federal party leader in determining who to vote for;
  • Or, the federal party policies and platform in an election, damn the leader?
  • And to make things more interesting, your vote is only cast for the party representative in your federal constituency: what if you don’t believe that party candidate is the best person to represent your constituents? Is that important?
  • Or, are you voting for the federal party leader using the constituent candidate of that party as the leaders’ proxy?
  • Or, are you in effect voting the federal party when you vote for that particular party candidate not caring whether the person is the best person or not, to represent your constituency?

So, Canadians don’t vote separately for a federal political party and prime minister. And I will throw this in just to create more frustration: Canadians do not elect Senators that take part in Canada’s political system. The prime minister appoints those sitting federal government politicians; or non-sitting as it turns out most of the time.

I sincerely believe that the 80-90 per cent of all Canadians that live within 100 miles of the Canada-U.S. border have been brainwashed by too much of a political romance with United States politics because it is more appealing, entertaining, logical and sensible.

Canadians may say, may claim, they understand, when they vote, why they voted the way they did, and what it means, or could mean, or hope it meant…..but do they…..I mean….it isn’t as easy as putting an “X” by my constituency candidate is it? What if I like the candidate but not the party? And should I vote for the “right party” so the constituency has a member of parliament that is part of the party in power because the constituency can get things it needs much easier than not? And who is the “right party”? Like, what if it is a minority government? Did I waste my vote: depends why I voted I guess……

God, a lot to think about…….sure do…….this is interfering with my enjoyment of the start of the Vancouver Canucks road to the NHL playoffs in 2016…..the Toronto Blue Jays back in the MLB playoffs after 22-years…..and of course, what is happening with those B.C. Lions……

And don’t get me started on the NFL……or the 2015-2016 television season.

Oh, hell…..where is my two-sided coin….heads I will pick…..and tails I will pick….nope will not work…..need two coins to get the three main federal political parties……good though……cause I can include the federal Green party….so….on the second coin…..heads I will pick….and tails I will pick…..then I will have a playoff with the two winners on a third and separate coin……heads I will pick…..and tails I will pick……WOOHOO….HOUSTON WE HAVE A WINNER…..

It is a secret ballot of course, so I am unable to disclose my choice in my constituency of British Columbia Southern Interior because I haven’t voted yet…..I live on the West Coast….Think of it….My vote could be the difference maker in this nail bitter of an election……..Have to keep that choice close  to my chest….Don’t want to spoil the suspense and drama of it all….Just saying…..