Once again, it’s time for people to listen to the Conservative and Liberal candidates and cast their votes . . . in Canada, that is. Canadians are ready to vote for their members of parliament and subsequently, the prime minister. The upcoming October election is a close race and polls split support for the top three parties almost evenly. The equal split in support in the Conservative party, New Democratic party, and the Liberal party have brought about some disharmonious proclamations between some of the party nominees. First, let us look at how parliament works and some of its similarities to the better understood republican democracy in the U.S.
Canada’s parliamentary democracy is certainly distinct from the republican democracy that is familiar to the United States. While Canadian campaigns and elections do have some parallels to the U.S. presidential campaigns and elections, a majority of the processes are likely unfamiliar to Americans.
To begin, parliament is made up of constituencies and there is no party which has overall control. Parliament has checks and balances, much like U.S. gubernatorial systems and it is a session like congress. A parliamentary session must be opened and dissolved by the Governor General (the commonwealth’s representative of the ruling monarch) and has a limit of five years. A session of parliament cannot be open for longer than five years, although this doesn’t necessarily apply to a leader. Parliament is dissolved in order for parties to campaign and for elections to proceed. Parliament may dissolve before five years have passed, but this is atypical.
This brings us to the elections. Unlike in the U.S. where citizens vote for the individual, parliamentary democracy dictates that a nominated leader from each party must have the most elected members of parliament in order for such a candidate to become prime minister. In other words, a party leader can remain in office for more than five years, providing that his or her party has the most members of parliament in each election and that he or she is continuously nominated. This is, of course, putting it rather simply as there are other factors which contribute to the election process. Coincidentally, this has happened with Canada’s Conservative party for the past three terms. Stephen Harper has served three terms as prime minister and could win a fourth term.
According to the Polls…
Currently, the campaign atmosphere is tense. With this year’s campaign being the longest in Canadian history (only 79 days), the parties are in for a long haul. While this isn’t quite comparable to the long campaigns in the United States, it certainly leaves little time for the candidates to gather support. This cycle of elections is especially unpredictable with the Duffy scandal that Harper was allegedly involved in. The Conservative party had started the campaign trail with a modest edge in the polls, despite the Canadian public having known about Duffy. However, as Duffy’s trial was continued in mid-August, his numbers fell.
The once-popular Liberal party has been garnering approval and is currently on the tails of the Conservatives.
The party had been the national favorite until the Sponsorship scandal involving the sponsorship program which ran from 1996 to 2004. The party had misused the money intended for the program and for government advertising along with being connected to illegal activities in 2004. Since the 2006 elections, the Conservatives have been the majority party, although the Conservatives scandal is being compared to the sponsorship scandal as well. The leader for the party, Justin Trudeau, is the son of a former Liberal party favorite, Pierre Trudeau. Justin Trudeau faces the daunting task of amassing party votes in order to win the seat of prime minister.
The leading party as of August 24th, according to a poll by CBC News, is the New Democratic party (NDP) with 32.3% support. Tom Mulcair, the party’s leader has surprised the public by coming out with only slightly more support than the Conservatives and Liberals. Of course, it’s still early in the campaigns and the contest could really go to anyone. Backing for the Conservative party is only just below the NDP’s at 29.4% while the Liberal party has 28.3% approval. The main focus of the candidates' campaigns has been to discuss economic policy. The elections are scheduled to be held on October 19.