Ask The Globe: Answers to your questions on marijuana, the census and Liberal sponsorship scandal

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Spencer Smit asks: @globeandmail Harper saying cannabis is worse than tobacco, citing “evidence” please advise #AskTheGlobe

Mike Hager, a Globe reporter in Vancouver, recently looked into this:

The Canadian Cancer Society says smoking tobacco continues to be the leading preventable cause of premature deaths in the country, claiming about 37,000 lives each year. The non-profit organization says tobacco is the main risk factor for cancer, heart disease, stroke and lung disease in Canada.

In contrast, no deaths have been directly attributed to cannabis use or overdose, says Dr. Tim Stockwell, director of the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research. But it is likely a factor in “a few” fatal crashes and “a few” lung-cancer deaths each year, he said.

Elizabeth Jane Banks asks: #AskTheGlobe Please fact check Elizabeth May’s claim that almost no one completes the voluntary census. #cdnpoli #elxn42

“Almost no one” may be a bit strong, but experts have warned about the quality of the National Household Survey data after it was made voluntary in 2011. Previously the longform census, which asks for more detailed information and is sent to a fraction of households, was mandatory. The response rates for the voluntary form were about 70 per cent in 2011, whereas the response rate for the mandatory form in 2006 was 93.5 per cent.

Alex Dempster asks: @globeandmail Harper said of the Liberal sponsorship scandal that $40 million of Canadians taxpayers’ money lost. Accurate? #AskTheGlobe

Maybe? This one’s a bit tricky, and may be a case of fuzzy math in campaign slogans. But it may originate in the $40-million of government funds for contracts to a firm where there was no evidence of work done, etc.

(The Globe and Mail, incidentally, won the prestigious Michener Award for public service in journalism for its uncovering of the scandal.)

Ask The Globe: Your questions on citizenship, C-51 and refugees

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Ben asks: #AskTheGlobe Can the government legally revoke someones Canadian citizenship? #MunkDebate

and Sarah asks: What conditions can a Canadian loose their citizenship, residency, or voting rights? Do refugees hafta pay interest? #AskTheGlobe

Let’s deal with these two together.

First, yes, the government can legally revoke citizenship if it was obtained fraudulently. The Conservatives also added another policy, which is that dual nationals can potentially lose their citizenship if convicted of terrorism or treason crimes. Depending on the circumstances, someone whose citizenship was revoked may be removed from the country.

On voting, the Conservatives did change the eligibility to vote for Canadian expats living abroad. Generally they lose their right to vote after five years, which Donald Sutherland was not very happy about.

Chris asks: Did Tom Mulcair really say different things about repealing C51? #AskTheGlobe

The NDP has never supported Bill C-51, the Anti-Terror Act. The New Democrats voted against the bill, which was supported by the Conservatives and Liberals. However, in interviews earlier in the year, leader Thomas Mulcair did change his tone. In February, Mr. Mulcair said he wouldn’t commit to repealing the bill if elected, though his party would definitely change it. Weeks later, in March, Mr. Mulcair committed to repealing the entire law.

Myles asks: Harper says ours response has been generous- is that true compared to past refugee crises? #MunkDebate #asktheglobe #futurevoter

It depends on what past refugee crises we’re comparing it to. In terms of numbers and speed of access for refugees, it’s much lower than Vietnam (when Joe Clark raised the target to 60,000 refugees). Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau at the Munk Debate brought up comparisons with Vietnam to accuse Harper of being stingy. What sets Syria apart from Vietnam is the rules Stephen Harper introduced about refugees needing their status approved by UNHCR or a third country, a rule that didn’t exist for the Vietnamese (and which the Kurdi family blames for the events leading to Alan’s death off the Turkish coast). If we’re comparing Syria with the Second World War, though – when we famously turned away a boatload of Jewish refugees in 1939, and were pretty hostile to Jewish refugees even during the war – our current response looks more generous. (Doug Saunders and Sean Fine have done really good historical analyses of Vietnam, the Second World War and our response to the Hungarian refugee crisis in the 1950s).

Ask The Globe: What happens if two parties tie for the most seats?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Christopher Stasiuk asks: If two parties tie for first with the most seats in the federal election, who governs? Who is the PM? #asktheglobe

According to Wednesday’s Nanos numbers the Liberals and Conservatives are locked in a dead heat atop the polls. Which makes Christopher’s question a timely one.

Digital politics editor Chris Hannay explains the process.

The incumbent always gets first crack at forming government. (Usually, if the incumbent has not won the most seats after an election, they decline.) If the incumbent is one of the tied parties and they have a Speech from the Throne, and it gets defeated by the other parties, they have to go to Governor-General David Johnston and declare that they don’t have the confidence of the House.

The Governor-General can then decide whether to call an election or let another party have a chance at governing.

If an election has just happened, typically the Governor-General is expected to let another party have a chance to form the government so as not to waste voters’ times. (This happened in 1926)

If the second-place party, or the other party that was tied, can survive a confidence vote with other parties’ support, then they’re in government now.

This is essentially what happened in Ontario in 1985.

This is what students want to ask Harper, Mulcair, Trudeau and May

Would you allow more immigrants to come to Canada? How can we reduce the use of fossil fuels? How would Canada change under your leadership?

These are questions for federal party leaders, but no, they are not from the latest debate.

These queries come from elementary and secondary students across Canada.

The young Canadians are posing these questions to Stephen Harper, Thomas Mulcair, Justin Trudeau and Elizabeth May through Student Vote, a project of the nonpartisan Civix, which aims to engage youth in our democratic process.

Student Vote will be running a parallel election in more than 6,000 schools across Canada just before the real vote on Oct. 19. (Click here to register your school — there’s only a few days left before the deadline.)

Aside from the mock election, Student Vote also runs democracy bootcamps for teachers and provides educational materials. The Globe and Mail is a media partner with Student Vote. Here’s The Globe’s Jane Taber in a Civix video explaining how political advertising works:

Watch for the leaders’ responses in the coming weeks.

You Googled, we answered: Everything you want to know about democracy and voting

When many people have a question they don’t know the answer to, they turn to a search engine. And during an election, apparently voters have a lot of questions.

Here are 10 of the most-searched queries you have about voting and democracy, according to Google Canada.


1. What type of government does Canada have?

We are a constitutional monarchy. The Crown, currently embodied by Queen Elizabeth II (the Globe style book says I should refer to her simply as “the Queen”), is the head of all three branches of government: the executive (i.e., the prime minister), the legislative (the House of Commons and Senate), and the judicial (our courts). The Queen’s representative in Canada is the Governor-General, who is currently David Johnston, but that changes every five years or so. The Governor-General must sign off on all new laws, which in practice they always do. Those laws are generated in the House of Commons (the body whose members we elect every few years) and the Senate (whose members are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the prime minister).

2. Is Canada a democracy?


3. What is first past the post?

It is our electoral system. Canada is divided up into 338 geographical areas of roughly equal populations, which are called ridings. In each riding, people can stand for election to represent the people of that riding in the House of Commons in Ottawa, where federal laws are made. These people, called candidates, usually run as a member of a political party, so you have a general idea of what they stand for. “First past the post” means that whichever candidate in that riding gets the most votes wins the election, no matter if they got 99 per cent or 35 per cent. The actual percentage of the vote they got doesn’t matter, only that it’s more than any other candidate.

4. What is a minority government?

In our parliamentary style of government, whichever party wins a majority (more than half) of the seats in the House of Commons gets to govern pretty well how they like. A minority government occurs when no one party has more than half of the seats. In that case, the party with the most seats usually gets first crack at being in charge, but must make deals with other parties to support their legislative agenda. If other parties vote with them, the minority government usually gets to stick around a couple of years, but if the other parties vote against them on an important bill like a budget, another election usually follows (because the party in power can’t get anything done). There have been quite a few minority governments over the years: the federal elections of 2008, 2006, 2004, 1979 and 1972 resulted in them, just to name a few.

5. When did women get the right to vote?

Federally, most women didn’t get the right to vote until 1918. Some women got to vote in 1917 if a family member or husband was in the military, for various political reasons. Aboriginal women (and men) faced restrictions on voting until 1960.

6. How to vote?

I’ll let Elections Canada handle this one.

7. Who should I vote for?

I can’t tell you that! Only you know who you should vote for.

Or watch the debate we hosted with the major party leaders. Maybe that will help.

8. Where do I vote?

Again, Elections Canada.

9. Who can vote in Canada?

Anyone who is a Canadian citizen and 18 years of age or older on voting day.

Except for some expats. And this guy — he’s legally barred from voting.

10. Why should I vote?

Not serious: Because then you’re allowed to complain about the next prime minister.

Serious: As Elections Canada says: “The right to vote is a fundamental democratic right that is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is the cornerstone of democracy.”

Bonus question: When is the election?

Monday, Oct. 19th.

Ask The Globe: Globe Debate questions answered

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

During The Globe and Mail federal leaders’ debate, readers flooded us with questions about statements made by the candidates. Digital politics editor Chris Hannay answered some of the more popular requests.

1. Viet asked a question related to Stephen Harper’s jobs record:

Mr. Harper has the worst job creation record since the Second World War…” – Mr. Trudeau. Fact check please? #AskTheGlobe

Answer: The claim comes from a study done by Unifor this summer, which concluded that average annual growth in total employment was the lowest in the years during which Stephen Harper was prime minister. However, it depends on what measure you use: for instance, Canada’s current unemployment rate of 7 per cent is low compared to the figure during much of the 1980s and ‘90s, according to Statistics Canada.

You can also read this story by Gloria Galloway on the Conservative’s plan to create 1.3 million new jobs by 2020.

2. Elizabeth A. Roth wondered if an environmental claim about B.C. was true:

#AsktheGlobe BC has a world renowned carbon tax? Fact check please.

Answer: No less an international authority than the Economist has given a thumbs-up to British Columbia’s carbon tax, which began in 2008, for driving down emissions. The OECD and the World Bank have noted the same thing. Now, is it the only way to reduce emissions, or even the best way? That, of course, is up for debate. At the federal level, the Conservatives have favoured a regulatory approach, the NDP have said they prefer a cap-and-trade system and only the Liberals seem open to a form of carbon pricing.

3. James Medeiros was one of several readers who wondered if a claim about water exports was true:

#GlobeDebate #asktheglobe – is Mr. Trudeau’s claim true about bulk water exports and @ThomasMulcair?

Answer: Bulk water exports are currently banned federally and in most provinces. In 2004, as Quebec’s environment minister, Thomas Mulcair suggested the province could export and sell water, if the process was managed sustainably. In 2007, when Mr. Mulcair entered federal politics, he recanted those views.

4. Liane Balaban had a question about emissions under the Harper government:

Did greenhouses gases really go down under Harper? Was that because of the recession though? #AskTheGlobe

Answer: We’ve answered this on a previous #AskTheGlobe, but the short answer is yes and yes. Emissions are down between 2005 and 2013, and the drop came in 2008 and 2009, when the economy was going through a recession.

5. With the migrant crisis becoming a hot topic during the campaign, Mazen Ob had a question on immigration:

Is it true that the conservative govt have brought in around 250000 immigrants every year? #GlobeDebate #asktheglobe

Answer: Yes, Canada has brought in about 250,000 immigrants per year since 2005. You can view the federal government’s stats here, broken down by category and gender.

6. Tristan Nuyens also had a question about immigration:

Fact check this: did the Conservatives take away healthcare for refugees and immigrants? #AskTheGlobe #GlobeDebate

Answer: Sort of. Three years ago, the Conservatives began to deny health care to failed refugee claimants. A Federal Court later ruled the policy was a form of “cruel and unusual treatment.” 

7. A claim that the Conservatives have spent big on infrastructure puzzled Abidah Shamji:

Fact check #AsktheGlobe PC’s have the largest infrastructure spending ever?

Answer: It’s hard to say whether the Conservatives have spent the most money ever on infrastructure spending, but it’s certainly up there. According to a 2004 report from the Library of Parliament, federal infrastructure spending declined sharply from around the time Pierre Trudeau became prime minister in 1968, and into the 2000s. Infrastructure spending increased dramatically after the 2008-09 recession, with the Conservatives using the money as a form of stimulus for the economy.

8. Finally, Marjolaine Provost asked about minimum wage’s affect on the population:

#asktheglobe – is it true that the $15 minimum wage promise of the Ndp won’t affect 99% of Canadians as Trudeau claims?

Answer: Not quite 99 per cent, but the minimum wage of $15 an hour promised by the NDP would affect only the relatively small number of workers under federal jurisdiction. For the vast majority of workers across Canada, their minimum wage is set by provincial governments. The Alberta NDP is also pushing to hike their province’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018.

The Globe and Mail Leaders’ Debate

Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau face off on the big economic questions at our party leaders’ debate in Calgary tonight.

The debate, in partnership with Google Canada and CPAC, starts at 8 p.m. (ET), 6 p.m. (MT).

For background and play-by-play, head over to

Ask The Globe: Has Harper really increased spending on veterans?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Globe reader N. Miller asks: To what was Conservative Leader Stephen Harper referring when he said, during the first leaders’ debate of this federal  election, that his Conservative government has increased spending on veterans by 35 per cent? #asktheglobe

Reporter Gloria Galloway in Ottawa has the answer:

In response to accusations by Liberal leader Justin Trudeau that the Conservative government had been “nickel and diming” veterans and not giving them the services they need, Mr. Harper said: “This government has made record investments in veterans. We’re spending 35 per cent more on the average veteran today directly than we were when we came to office.”

Is this true? Yes. Technically.

The annual budget of Veterans Affairs Canada increased from $2.85-billion in 2005-06, the year before Mr. Harper’s Conservatives were first elected to power, to $3.55-billion in 2015-16. That is down slightly from 2014-15 when the budget was $3.58-billion.

Meanwhile, the number of clients served by the department dropped from 220,660 to 199,154 between 2005-06 and 2014-15, largely due to the declining numbers of aging veterans from the Second World War and Korea.

So, between 2005-06 and 2014-15, the average annual expenditure per client of the Veterans Affairs department increased from $12,930 to $17,960, a jump of 38 per cent – which might suggest that Mr. Harper was being modest with his 35 per cent figure.

And it would seem to discount the complaints of modern-day veterans who say they are not being fairly or adequately compensated for their service.

But the numbers need some explanation.

The modern-day vets are compensated under what is known as the New Veterans Charter which was introduced by the previous Liberal government, supported by all parties in the House of Commons, and brought into force by the Conservatives shortly after they took office in 2006.

It replaces a system of lifetime pensions for disabled veterans with one that relies largely on lump-sum payments.

When the Liberals proposed the New Veterans Charter in 2005, Albina Guarnieri, who was the minister of veterans affairs, promised there would be increased spending of a billion dollars over six years to help ease the transition from one program to the other. And, when the Conservatives took office, they followed through with that commitment in their first budget, increasing the money to Veterans Affairs by $349.7-million to $3.20-billion in 2006-07.

The department’s budget then went up incrementally, year after year, until 2013-2014 when it started to drop off.

According to the Royal Bank’s inflation calculator, $3.20-billion in 2006 would be worth $3.72-billion in 2015. So, given that this year’s Veterans Affairs budget is $3.55-billion, the increases have not kept pace with inflation.

Also, in the intervening years, there were large numbers of soldiers returning from Afghanistan with severe physical and mental injuries – some estimates suggest more than 2,000 Canadians were wounded during that mission. Their treatment has consumed a significant portion of the money allotted to the Veterans Affairs department.

Plus, the government was forced to admit last year that, since 2006 when the Conservatives came to power, the department has returned $1.13-billion in unspent funds to the federal treasury.

So, while Mr. Harper is correct that the average amount spent by the federal government per client of the Veterans Affairs department has gone up, it would be wrong to say the department is spending more money, in real terms, on the needs of veterans than it did before the Conservatives took office.