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A student guide to the federal election

By in 2011 Federal Election/News

DAVID PROCTOR
The Peak (Simon Fraser University)

Ballot
BURNABY, B.C. (CUP) — With Canadians heading to the polls again for the third time in five years, here’s a run-down of everything a student needs to know before voting day on May 2.

Can I vote?

Any Canadian citizen that is 18 or older on election day and who has registered to vote may do so in a federal election. Many eligible voters will already be on the National Register of Electors — also known as the “voters list” — they will receive a voter information card in the mail between April 8 and 13.

If you are unsure whether you are registered to vote, or if you would like to register, you can do so by contacting Elections Canada in a variety of ways, including visiting their web site atelections.ca or by phoning 1-800-463-6868. New Canadians and Canadians living abroad are entitled to vote.

How does the election work?

Canada is divided into regions called “ridings” that are each represented by a single member of Parliament in the House of Commons. The candidate in a riding that receives the greatest total number of votes is elected to represent that riding. MPs are usually members of political parties; in general, the party that wins the greatest number of ridings will form the government, and the leader of that party will become prime minister.

How do I vote?

First, you must determine what riding you live in, which you can do at elections.ca. You are only entitled to vote in the riding that includes your permanent address. Students are eligible to choose whether their permanent address is their address while at school or where they live while they are not at school.

On election day, or on one of the designated pre-voting days, you must come to an official polling place — locations of polling places are listed online and on your voter information card. In order to vote, you must show proof of your identity and address — this could include an original piece of government ID with your photo, name and address, or two pieces of authorized identification that include your name and address. If you forget your identification, you can swear an oath and have an elector who did bring identification vouch for you.

If you will be away from your riding on election day, you can vote by special ballot. Contact Elections Canada for information about this option.

What if I’m working on election day?

All employers are required by law to give their employees the opportunity to vote without docking their pay. Aside from some employers in the transportation industry, all employees are entitled up to three hours to vote.

How should I decide who to vote for?

The platforms and campaign highlights of each party can be found on their respective web sites: the major parties can be studied at conservative.ca, liberal.ca, and ndp.ca.

There will additionally be at least two televised leaders’ debates between Stephen Harper of the Conservatives, Michael Ignatieff of the Liberals, Jack Layton of the NDP, and Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Québécois. The English debate will take place on April 12, and the French one will happen two days later.

Which party will do the most for me?

You can visit Canadian University Press’ election page for up-to-date announcements from each of the major political parties about what they’re promising students. Check back often as announcements happen throughout the campaign.

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image: D’Arcy Norman/Flickr

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