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.
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