Millions of Canadians are heading to the polls today to cast their ballots in Canada’s third federal election in a little over four years.

Canadian elections work much different than their American counterparts.‚  For starters instead of two major parties there are three, the Liberals, the Conservatives and the New Democrats (NDP), along with a couple of others like the Green Party and the Bloc Quebecois (for whom only people living in Quebec can vote) that always tend to pile up a decent amount of votes.

Regardless of the number of parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives are in reality the only two parties that have a shot at seeing their leaders elected.

However since Canada isn’t run on a two-party system, Canadian government is elected as either a minority or a majority. A new leader is sworn in based on whether or not his or her party wins the most seats in the house of commons (the room where elected representatives from different constituencies across Canada sit) by the end of election night. There is no set amount of seats needed to win, the number just has to be higher than any other party’s.

Also, unlike in the U.S., people do not vote for who they’d like to see as leader; the names of the candidates for prime minister aren’t even on the ballot.

Voters choose who they’d like to see represent their community in the house of commons and whichever party gets the most representatives, wins the federal election.

There are in total 308 different electoral ridings across Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories.‚  Majority governments only come into place if the public elects more than half of the country’s electoral district representatives from the same party.

Minority governments can stay in power until the opposing parties in the house of commons decide that the current government is no longer productive.

When the opposing parties call this to attention, it is known as a no confidence motion or a vote of no confidence.‚  The phrase’s meaning is literal; the majority of the political representatives no longer have confidence in the current government’s ability to effectively govern the country, and want the public to reevaluate their choices through an election.

An election can also take place (and this is rare) if the leader of the minority government calls one because HE feels the government isn’t being as productive as it could be. The election’s goal would be to re-establish support for his party.

This happened about five weeks ago.‚  Opposing candidates have been campaigning for five weeks (yea, a lot shorter than in America eh?) in hopes of replacing current Prime Minister Stephen Harper of the Conservative party.

Pre-election polls predict another minority government for Harper’s Conservatives.

Not surprising, here’s the main opposition, Stƒ©phane Dion of the Liberal party.‚  In this interview, he has a moment that’s well…Sarah Palin-esque.‚  The interview starts about 45 seconds into the video.

I do support Liberal government, just not one run by this dude.

I really don’t like how elections are run in Canada. I’d much rather see it run on a two-party system. That would allow for a much more stable government for at least four years.

In the current electoral system, opposing parties are always clawing at each other in an attempt to gain more prominence while the citizens of the country suffer under an unproductive government. They do that in the States too, but in the U.S. there is no way three elections could happen in a little over four years.

Nothing gets accomplished if elections are held so close together.

UPDATE: Stephen Harper is elected Prime Minister of Canada and leader of another minority Conservative government.

About The Author

Sachin Seth is the Blast Magazine world news reporter. He writes the Terra blog. You can visit his website at or follow him on twitter @sachinseth

One Response

  1. Justin

    Great article. I was looking for information on this today.

    One thing I hate about the US’s two party system is that if one party goes to hell, the other party has no reason to be anything more than slightly better. Plus it makes it so easy to vote just on one two-sided issue.


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