On the Ground

Voting 101

Everything you need to know about voting this October By Kate Cornell
  • Infographic by Lesley Bramhill

Yes, there is a federal election this fall on October 21. If the polls are any indication, it will prove to be a competitive campaign, and the results are not at all predictable. As the executive director of the Canadian Dance Assembly and co-chair of the Canadian Arts Coalition, it is literally my job to get the dance community to vote. 

Why should you vote?

The arts and culture sector has 671,100 workers[1]. Our voting block is sizable and significant. If every artist and arts worker voted, it would be influential! This year the Canadian Arts Coalition is launching a campaign to get out the vote called #VoteArts2019. We want to ensure that all of those 671,170 people vote with the arts in mind.

Your vote will directly affect the budget of the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA). The next federal government will decide whether to maintain the $35 million investment in the CCA proposed for Budget 2020. This investment represents the last portion of the implementation of the doubling of the CCA’s budget. So, if you receive CCA funding or, more significantly, if you wish you received CCA funding, voting in this election is critical.

Where do I vote?

Elections Canada is the source for information on voting in your riding. First, you need the name of your riding, which you can find at the Elections Canada website. Type in your postal code to find the name of your riding. From there, you can find the status of your voter registration. Elections Canada will send you a voter card once the election is officially launched. Your voter card will tell you where your local polling station is (usually a school or community centre). Now you’re almost set to vote; just don’t forget your identification.

Did you know that you don’t have to vote on October 21? You can vote in advanced polls (check out Elections Canada’s website for the dates and locations).

If you don’t get a voter card or don’t have time to register, you can still vote! Simply bring two pieces of Canadian identification with your address on them to a polling station on October 21 and you can still vote. Elections Canada’s website will list all the candidates for your riding, so be sure to go to their website, even if you are a registered voter who knows the drill.

Most importantly, voting usually takes about ten minutes. It’s a community affair. You’ll see your neighbours, and kids are most welcome at polling stations. Voting gives everyone a chance to see democracy in action.

I have never voted before. Who should I vote for?

Voting is your right as a citizen. All the national arts service organizations and the Canadian Arts Coalition remain non-partisan in order to be able to work with whichever party gets elected. In other words, I am not going to tell you who to vote for.

Voting can be daunting. There are usually at least five names or more on the ballot, and you will receive numerous pamphlets in the mail, plus phone calls and texts, and possibly campaigners at the door. Instead of being overwhelmed, just go to Vote Compass. Once the election has been called, they offer a ten-minute survey that will compare your opinions on the issues to each of the parties’ platforms. Once completed, the survey provides the name of the party you are most aligned with. Then look up the name of the candidate representing that party in your riding on Elections Canada’s website, and there is your answer. Ultimately, you should vote for the candidate and party that reflects your values and will work for you in Ottawa.  

How do I vote for prime minister?

You don’t. The Canadian electoral system is first-past-the-post. This means that the leader of the political party with the most seats becomes prime minister. There are 338 members of Parliament (MPs) who sit in the House of Commons in Ottawa. So, you only vote for who you think should be the MP of your riding. For example, my MP is Bill Blair. He is one of the Liberal party’s 177 MPs. Justin Trudeau is the leader of the Liberal party; therefore, he became Canada’s forty-second prime minister after the last federal election in 2015.

I want to be a policy wonk/politics nerd like Kate. What should I be reading, watching and listening to?

Elections are controversial and full of drama! I love following the spectacle. I read the parties’ platforms, watch speeches and debates and listen to podcasts. I will go to a town hall this election to ask a question of the candidates in my riding. The Canadian Arts Coalition is a valuable source of information about the parties’ positions on arts and culture. The coalition will also offer possible questions you can ask candidates at the door or at town halls. Follow our bilingual hashtag #VoteArts2019 on Twitter to read more from the Canadian Arts Coalition.

This federal election, there will be two official televised debates organized by the Debates Commissioner: October 7 in English and October 10 in French. Get your bowl of popcorn ready! The debates can often be decisive in moving the polls towards one party in the final two weeks of the campaign. This year, for the first time, the English-language debate will be moderated by five accomplished female journalists.

There’s a plethora of political commentary in this country during the election. I follow the CBC’s polling expert Éric Grenier daily during the election period. I listen to the following podcasts: CBC’s The Election Pollcast, Canadaland’s OPPO, CBC’s At Issue and CBC’s new podcast Party Lines. Yes, it is election coverage 24/7 in my house.

Lastly, talk to your friends, neighbours, family and colleagues about the election, especially if they work in the arts. The Canadian Arts Coalition needs all 671,170 arts workers to vote. Make your mark this October 21. 

Tell me all about it @cornell_kate and use the hashtag #VoteArts2019.

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