Elections / Opinions

This person goes to vote, and you will be amazed at what happens next

October 8th, 2015

Students get ready to vote

On Monday, October 19th you can be part of what is likely to be the most important federal election in Canadian history.

For probably the first time ever there is a very close race between three parties: the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP, any one of which could potentially win. One or two seats could make all the difference to decide which party gets power in Ottawa and shapes the future of our country. So every single riding counts! (A riding is an electoral district that is represented by one Member of Parliament; for example, UBC Okanagan campus is in the “Kelowna – Lake Country” riding, while the Kelowna campus of Okanagan College is in “Central Okanagan – Similkameen – Nicola”.)

It is a sad fact that most young voters do not get out and actually vote. In the last election only 40% of eligible Kelowna voters under the age of 25 decided to vote, compared to about 60% of the entire eligible population who showed up at the ballot box. So in a city like Kelowna with a large population of seniors, the underrepresentation of young educated people in the election was even more pronounced.

How much does it even matter? Have a look at the numbers: current estimates suggest that in each Kelowna riding there could be a gap of something like 10,000 voters between the top two candidates.  At a rough estimate I think there are perhaps 6000 Canadian students at UBCO who could potentially vote, and 3500 at the Kelowna campus of Okanagan College, so their potential impact on the election is huge. If all the eligible post-secondary students in Kelowna voted in this election, they could easily change its outcome, which could in turn help to change the ruling government of Canada. Do not underestimate your power.

But I realize that for most university and college students, this is probably the first federal election in which you have had a chance to vote. It might seem kind of intimidating, so let’s make it easy for you!

First, you can go to www.elections.ca for all the official information and details on how to vote and what you will need. You can also download an app called VoteNote for easy access to useful information, automatically detecting your riding, and reminders of important dates.

But if all that seems like too much effort, I will spell out the main points for you right here:

  1. 1) Know where you live! Your “home address” determines the riding where you can vote. If your address while you are studying is different than your usual “home”, you can decide which one to use for voting. You will need a piece of ID with this address, but if you live in a student residence you can get a “Letter of Confirmation of Residence” from the university that counts as ID for your address.
  2. 2) Know your riding! That depends on your home address. You can find this with the VoteNote app on your GPS-enabled phone or by searching your postal code at elections.ca.
  3. 3) Get registered! Check online at elections.ca to see if you are already registered. If not, you can register online at that site, or else by mail, or in person at the Elections Canada office in downtown Kelowna. Make sure to register no later than 6:00pm on Tuesday, October 13, or else you will just have to register when you go vote.
  4. 4) Have ID! Your driver’s licence (or other government-issued photo ID) will work, or you can use your student card plus something with your name and address, like a utility bill or Letter of Confirmation of Residence.
  5. 5) Vote! The list of polling places (where you can go to vote) should be announced by September 25th.  In the last election there was one at UBCO campus, so I hope there will be one here again. If you are registered, you should get a voter information card in the mail that will tell you where to go to vote.
    Ways to vote:
  • • Advance voting: You can vote at an advance poll on October 9 – 12.
  • • In person: You can vote at the Elections Canada office until October 13.
  • • Vote by mail: You can mail in your vote, especially if your home riding is not where you live now. But you have to apply to do this by October 13.
  • • Vote on election day: Monday, October 19.

So now you know how to get ready to vote. But maybe the real question on your mind is who you should vote for.  Well, check out the next issue of the Phoenix where I might be able to help you with that too. ;-)

But here is a hint. Why did I say this election might be the most important one in Canadian history? Because for the first time we have a real opportunity to fix our broken electoral system and make progress toward real democracy in Canada. The way we now elect our Members of Parliament is a system that goes back hundreds of years to medieval England. It is hopelessly out of date and terribly unfair. Did you know that the Conservatives received less than 40% of the popular vote in the last election even though they currently have a majority government? The same kind of thing happened with the NDP victory in this year’s provincial election in Alberta. Now we can finally join the 21st century and fix this broken system so that every party has representation in Parliament that matches their percentage of the popular vote. In this election, every major party except for the Conservatives has promised to reform our electoral system in one way or another. It is time for real democracy in Canada!

Leave a Reply