Reflections From A First-Time Canadian Voter

By Cara McCaskill

As a (new) adult, I was recently given the right to participate in the Canadian electoral process. This, to me, was the best and most exciting thing about becoming an adult. It meant that I finally was going to get the chance to voice my political stance and throw my vote behind the candidate I thought represented the most capable political party. Voting is an extremely important aspect of being a citizen of any democratic country. This election, I found that there was such an incredible mass of information available so people could make an informed voting decision. The entire election process was really well organized and made easily accessible, and I found that young voters in particular were passionate about voting and getting involved in this election, which is encouraging.

Being Canadian, our electoral system works a bit differently than the American system; the party with the most candidates elected is the party that gets elected to office, and their leader becomes the new Prime Minister. The party with the second most votes becomes the official opposition, and the party with the third most votes gets a participation ribbon. Not really, but their influence is very limited. The aim, of course, for any political party is to obtain a majority government, which is when one political party holds 50 percent of the seats, plus one. So, in the most recent election on Oct. 19, the Liberal party won a majority government because of the 338 seats available, they won more than 170 (the minimum for majority).

Being a comparatively young voter, it was quite common for people older than me to just brush off my views purely on the basis of my age. This is ridiculous. In many ways, my generation, the millennials, represent the new political age in Canada. We are the future of this country and I strongly believe we have a responsibility to take advantage of the plethora of information at our fingertips (thank you, Internet), make an informed decision, and vote.

We have, arguably, more access to information regarding politics and politicians today than any previous generation. Between various news sources, political party websites, (legitimate and informed) commentary on social media platforms, and personal experiences with either other people or different political parties and candidates themselves. There is no conceivable reason why millennials should be viewed as knowing less than anyone else about the political landscape of Canada. We are incredibly in tune with what is important to us as both individuals and as a generation, and are ready and willing to elect the party that best fits with our views.

There were a lot of key issues this election that people got passionate about and were fairly vocal about, which was great. Between the niqab issue (there was a great deal of debate concerning whether or not Muslim women should be allowed to wear their traditional niqab during their citizenship ceremony), bill C-51, tax cuts for the middle class, and many more, there was something that everyone could identify with, and identify they did. Seeing people take up an issue and advocate for it is incredibly inspiring. Younger voters especially, I noticed, became active in voicing their political views and opinions. That’s the whole point of a democracy anyways, isn’t it? Different people sharing their different views and priorities, and then acting on those views and priorities by voting.

Most people my age I’ve heard talking about the election are intent on voting, except for the few that claim there isn’t enough time in the day to make it to the polling station. One of the great things about Canada though, is that time is an issue no more. All employers are required by law to give you three hours off of work with no financial penalty for you to vote, if you would be otherwise unable to make it to the polling station during the set voting hours. Some universities were also running the same kind of program—if your class schedule did not allow you adequate time to vote, you were permitted to have a form signed by your professor and you were allowed to miss that class without any academic penalty. There were also four advanced polling dates for people who either wanted to beat the rush on election day, or were unable to make it on election day itself.

As a result, I found that this election was incredibly accessible. For those who couldn’t drive, there were shuttle buses running on all voting days to polling stations, or in some cases if you phoned your preferred candidates office, a volunteer would pick you up at your house and drive you to the polling station, free of charge.

There were voter registration venues set up all over the place before election day, and you didn’t necessarily have to go to the one in your home constituency to get registered. This was great for someone like me, who lives in a rural constituency, and it was much more efficient for me to be able to go to a registration venue in the city, where I spend most of my time, rather than having to make a special trip out into the virtual middle-of-nowhere.

I was also extremely impressed with all of the hype that was going around prior to the election itself. People went around at my university to many of the classes and made sure people knew all of the things they needed to do in order to vote. Out of the three classes I had during one particular day, we had one of these special presentations in two of them. While I was studying during my free period, two different people came and asked me if I planned on voting, and if I knew where my polling station was. Someone had even decorated a hot dog stand with posters containing voter information and wheeled it around the campus all day advertising voting and polling station information.

There were so many people around my age (18-25) who were talking about politics and the election that I was genuinely not surprised when it was announced that the voter turnout was nearly 69 percent. That’s an amazing turnout for a federal election. In Canada, we haven’t had that high of a voter turnout since 1993.

I was, and still am, pleased that more people are getting involved in the Canadian political landscape. There are so many ways to do it, and I think a steadily increasing number of people are realizing that. You could volunteer for Elections Canada; which helps register voters and runs the polling stations on advanced polling and election days. You could volunteer for either a political party or for a particular candidate, as they always need help during the political campaign stuffing envelopes, putting up signs, phoning constituents, and going door to door (which is also something you can put on a resume/CV), and of course, the easiest way to get involved is to actually vote.

So, for the next election, whether it be federal, provincial, or municipal; Canadian, American, or otherwise; get out there and make your voice heard. No matter what anyone tells you, your voice does matter. Every person’s vote means something. Your vote is symbolic not only of your political views, but also of your eagerness to be a part of change. By exercising your right to vote you are sharing in the collective political heartbeat of whatever country you happen to be voting in. Get out there and voice those wonderful opinions of yours.

IMG_0342Cara is a history-loving, tea-drinking, book-reading, “Seinfeld”-watching, Canadian university student with an interest in world issues and politics. In her spare time she can be found reading the news, browsing the internet aimlessly, playing with her two cats, and baking in hopes to avoid her responsibilities.

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