As you may or may not know, Canada is going to have a federal election on May 2, 2011. That's in like 2 days, guys. This election is very neatly straddling the line between "stupid" and "super important". Mostly it's stupid because we keep having elections and nothing has changed, and super important because, well, maybe it will.
There are all sorts of reasons not to vote, especially for young people. Politics can seem like this alternate reality in Ottawa where men in suits are really boring and money disappears and what exactly does it have to do with me? Maybe we don't realize the extent to which it does have to do with us because it feels like politicians aren't talking to us, aren't making policies for us, and just plain aren't taking us seriously.
Figuring out who to vote for and how the voting system works can be confusing, especially since most of that isn't taught in school. The Globe and Mail has a pretty decent rundown on the major parties and their policies, where you can compare their platforms. If you're not sure which party you align with the most, CBC has a vote compass to help you figure it out. If you're doing it and you don't understand or know which policies the questions are talking about, then that's a really good reason to look them up to see where you stand on these issues. Just because you're young doesn't mean you can't understand politics. Here are the ridings in Quebec. Find your riding, see who's elected now, see which way its leaning, and what's going on.
Elections Canada breaks down how our voting system works. Here's a quick explanation:
Canada's parliament is made up of two bodies: the Senate (appointed) and the House of Commons (elected). The government is made up of the House of Commons, ie, the people we elect. Canada is divided into electoral districts, known as ridings. One person from each party can run for election in a riding, as well as independents. We, the people, vote for one candidate in our riding. If that person gets the most votes in that riding, then they win a seat in the House of Commons and represent that riding as an MP (member of parliament).
Our Prime Minister is the leader of the the party with the most seats, or MPs, in the House of Commons.
So, for example, in my riding of Pierrefonds-Dollard, Bernard Patry of the Liberal Party is currently my MP. If everyone else in Canada elected a member of the Liberal Party to the House of Commons, then Michael Ignatieff, as leader of the Liberal Party would be our Prime Minister.
The system is a little bit messed up, in that we don't get to directly vote for who we want to be PM. If you happen to be in a riding that is extremely Conservative, then your Liberal vote doesn't actually go to the Liberals. Not to mention that the left is split into 4 different parties. This is how Stephen Harper was able to win a minority government in the last election despite the fact that about 60% of Canada voted for Not-Harper.
There are 5 major parties running in this election: the Conservatives, the Liberals, the Bloc Quebecois, the New Democratic Party, and the Green Party.
Leader: Stephen Harper
These are some of my feelings, re: Stephen Harper:
+ He wants to spend $29 billion on fighter jets
+ He wants to build more prisons despite the fact that crime rate is going down
+ He has filled the government lobby with pictures of himself
+ etc, sorry can't provide an unbiased review of Harper & the Conservatives
Leader: Michael Ignatieff
Some things I care about re: Ignatieff & the Liberals:
+ learning passport: $1000 a year tax free bursaries for post-secondary students (for 4 years)
+ cares about our environment - especially cleaner oil sand development
+ possibly introducing online voting?
+ apparently care about women
+ is not Stephen Harper
Leader: Gilles Duceppe
To be quite honest, I find this party kind annoying. They take a fairly liberal stance on most things except that they want the separation of Quebec and Canada, which is basically reason enough for me to not vote for them. Aside from that, they will never have enough votes to become the government of Canada, though I understand the need for "Quebec to be represented".
Leader: Jack Layton
Jack Layton did a good job in the debates for this election and is gaining a lot of popularity in Quebec. Here is part of the NDP's platform:
+ hire lots of nurses and doctors
+ $800m transfer to provinces and territories to lower tuition fees.
+ reinstating federal minimum wage (actually not entirely sure what this would do)
+ ELECTORAL REFORM!!! but also they want to abolish the senate. not sure how I feel about that yet.
+ Be not-Stephen Harper
The Green Party
Leader: Elizabeth May
My parents said that Elizabeth May should be the leader of the Liberal party and that sounds like something I can agree with. The Green Party is a lot bigger in BC than it is in Quebec. Also I find it weird that the Bloc is invited to debates but the Greens aren't.
+ The Green Party is much more committed to the environment than any of the other parties, it is the foundation of their platform.
+ establish a $10 minimum wage
+ "$400-millon annual increase in funding of post-secondary education needs-based scholarships and bursaries"
+ reform the electoral system
+ are also apparently the only party to have a budget (it's at the end)?
+ not Stephen Harper
This is basically information I have gathered from each party's website in about 10 minutes. But don't trust everything I say! Reading and getting at least a small grasp on where each party stands doesn't take a long time, and you want to vote for what's important to you, not what's important to me. So one more time, here's the vote compass and here's the Globe's comparison of party policies.
This is what I have to say to people who are not voting: Why do you live here? Why not live in a place where you don't have to vote, like, say, China? I'm sure you enjoy your rights and freedoms here in Canada. Well, so do I. Just because the system might not make perfect sense, however, is not a reason to not vote. If you really think it's that stupid, then spoil your ballot. But don't sit at home not caring, because this is your life. Don't throw yourself around like you don't matter, because you matter, okay? And you know what? This is my life too. This is my country, too. So when you don't vote, you're taking a little piece of it away from me.