Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I didn't vote today

As I'm sure everyone knows, it's election day in the US.There are a lot of similarities between Canada and the U.S., but every American election cycle reminds me of how far apart we are politically.

Not necessarily our political beliefs - although it's kind of weird to think that one of the most privileged countries in the world has a large percentage of people who believe medical care for their fellow citizens is optional but assault rifles are not - but in the political system itself.

For starters, my understanding is that when you register to vote in the US, you have to pick a party. That's ... kind of weird. I can register to vote when I fill out my income tax - and failing that, I can show up on election night with some ID and vote on the spot. No party affiliation required.

One of my American colleagues asked whether I'm a member of a political party. I'm not - and in fact, very few Canadians are. (One estimate I found online was that 2% of Canadians are a member of a political party.)

American politics are incredibly partisan - ridiculously so, from an outsider's perspective. Canadians, on the other hand, have more political parties but seem to be less devoted to a particular party.  (Last election, for example, I could have voted for the Pirate Party. I don't remember what their platform is, but I assume it has something to do with gold doubloons.) Canadians tend to vote against a party rather than for another party.

Unlike Americans - who vote for their president directly - we vote for our Member of Parliament. The only people who vote directly for the Prime Minister are those who live in his/her riding. The party who has the most MPs elected (usually) becomes the government.

And about that - the Prime Minister only stays the PM as long as he has the confidence of the House of Commons - so losing an important vote can bring down the government and force an election. Unless he prorogues the house to avoid losing a vote and having a coalition of the delusional take over. (I didn't say our way was better, just different.)  Obviously, we don't have fixed election days. And we certainly don't have a year or more of campaigning before an election. Well, not officially.

As for voting itself, CNN (which was on while I was at the gym) was saying that people were waiting 2.5 hours to vote.  If I wait 2.5 minutes, I'm tapping my foot and looking at my watch.

Well, OK, I don't wear a watch, but I'm looking meaningfully at my cell phone.

It's interesting seeing how different things are for our neighbours.

And I look forward to Twitter telling me who wins in the morning.

Assuming they've finished counting the votes by then, that is.


  1. Colette, we do have fixed election days, just not in the same way they do.

  2. Unless they've changed things since I registered to vote in the 1970s you don't have to declare a party, but if you want to work at a polling place you do.

  3. Kathy, that's interesting - I hear people talking about changing their registration, and the whole concept seems odd to me. It makes more sense that you wouldn't have to.

    Connie, we officially have fixed election days, but they've never been used, and my understanding is that the PM can still call an election whenever he wants, so there's no guarantee they ever will be used. Let me know if I'm wrong on that.