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.
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.