In Canada, federal elections typically happen every four years. However, they’re subject to being held ahead of schedule in what we call snap elections. The last federal election is a great example of this: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it two years early in 2021.
It’s smart to be prepared in case we have a new snap election—something we could have this year as the 2025 federal election is rumoured to be expedited. Because of this, there’s never been a better time for voters, first-time or returning, to better understand the Canadian voting system.
Here’s why this is important: snap elections, being so sudden, tend to have low voter turnouts. And of the eligible voters who don’t vote, youth make up a large proportion, possibly due to limited knowledge. (At the last election, those who were 18 to 24 years old had nearly 30% less turnout compared to seniors.)
With this in mind, I aim to provide you with the basic details on voting. This way, if the snap election does occur, you can be prepared to contribute to a great voter turnout.
How does the federal election work?
The purpose of this type of election is to determine which political party will lead the country. The five major parties are:
- Liberal Party of Canada (liberal.ca)
- Conservative Party of Canada (conservative.ca)
- Bloc Québécois (blocquebecois.org)
- New Democratic Party (ndp.ca)
- Green Party of Canada (greenparty.ca)
The leading party is the one whose representatives (members of Parliament or MPs) occupy the most seats in the House of Commons (a constituent of the Canadian Parliament), with its leader taking office as the country’s Prime Minister. This party forms a majority government when its representatives occupy more than half of the 338 seats. It’s a minority government otherwise.
The voter’s role in all this is to elect the MP they want to represent their riding (area). The voting process itself is pretty simple: options include mailing the vote or submitting it at a polling station. For a list of locations, visit the Elections BC website (elections.bc.ca).
Am I eligible to vote in this upcoming federal election?
You can check this by visiting the BC government website for relevant information. Generally, you should be eligible if you meet the requirements, which include:
- You’re at least 18 years old on the day a) you’re registering to vote or b) general voting starts,
- You’re a Canadian citizen and a BC resident for at least six months before registering to vote, and
- You’re a resident of the riding as of that registration date
But why should I vote?
You might think that voting doesn’t matter, that it doesn’t impact you, that your vote won’t count, or that it’s just a waste of your time. These are all common misconceptions.
The opportunity to vote is a benefit to being Canadian, and participating in a fair election is something not everyone has access to. Additionally, many people living in Canada face an abundance of societal challenges including climate change, housing costs, and funding for education—all issues that can be mitigated by politics.
Starting to involve yourself in elections is a proactive way to have your say about how Canada is governed. And as you participate more in politics, your voice can be heard more.
What if I don’t know which candidate to vote for?
It boils down to the beliefs that are important to you and the actions you think would be best for Canada. Once you have an idea of those, identifying the political party you prefer can be a lot easier. Make sure to do your research.
During election season, you can expect candidates to post signs and hand out flyers. This is a great time to look up a name or party. Reviewing the parties currently represented in the House of Commons can also be a good place to start, especially if you hope to vote for one with a high probability of winning.
If you’re interested in more information on Canada’s registered political parties, check the full list on elections.ca under Political Participants. Note, however, that this list may be a bit daunting and fluctuate from time to time.
What should I bring on voting day?
- You will need two pieces of identification: one must be government-issued, and the other must bear your signature. You will need to make sure one of those pieces displays your address.
- You should also bring your voter information card from Elections Canada. If you don’t receive one, there are options to get one at the polls after an officer verifies your information.
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