The 42nd general election is now behind us, and one can almost feel the land reverberate with our collective sigh of relief. The CUSJ championed many election-related actions on this site, and here we will review the success of each.
Proportional representation campaign: huge strides
CUSJ supported the Fair Vote Canada “Make Every Vote Count” Campaign to urge all the parties to support a move to a voting system where every vote contributes to electing a representative. The Fair Vote Campaign was a monumental grass-roots effort, in which hundreds of volunteers across Canada contacted their local candidates and lobbied them to provide a personal statement about proportional representation. The parties obliged–sort of:
- The Conservative Party of Canada flogged the dead-horse FPTP electoral model and refused to engage in any dialog whatsoever on the issue of PR.
- The Liberal Party issued an ambiguous statement that promised to study “electoral reform measures – such as ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting”. The problem with this statement is that it lumps PR in the company of strange bedfellows such as ranked ballots (decidedly NOT proportional)…. Further, the statement is phrased to suggest that mandatory voting and/or online voting are alternatives to PR, rather than complementary reforms.
- The NDP championed PR, and more precisely the MMP model. Sadly, Craig Scott, the MP for Toronto-Danforth and Official Opposition for Democratic and Parliamentary Reform, was a victim of the Liberal sweep.
- The Green Party remained unwavering in its traditional support of PR.
- The Bloc remained unclear on the concept, stating that the issue of PR was, for them, subordinate to the cause of sovereignty.
Many MPs remained loyal to their respective party lines on PR, but a few did break rank to make statements in favor of a proportional system.
This effort was, I think, unprecedented in the history of our country and the results were impressive: voters, politicians and grassroots groups all learned and proselytized the merits of a PR system.
CUSJ Press Release: 2015 05 18 Unanimous vote to work for proportional representation at AGM.
Vote together: an ambiguous result
Many are wondering whether LeadNow’s Vote together campaign succeeded. The campaign strategy was to target ridings that favored the Conservatives, in order to pool support behind the party of the second-place candidate in hopes of defeating the Conservatives. One pitfall of such a strategy is that some voters may have voted for a Liberal candidate in the misguided assumption that the Liberals would have the better chance of defeating the Conservatives… If the Conservatives were running in third place in a riding, such negative voting tactics were not only unnecessary, they gave a huge boost to the Liberals vote count. According to Fair Vote Canada executive member Wilf Day, the LeadNow campaign was “… based only on local polling in 80 ridings over the month before the election. It had little effect. The whole country swung behind the Liberals in the last few days of the campaign, in a collective impulse to end the Harper government. Recommendations by LeadNow to vote for 31 NDP candidates were successful in 13 cases, but failed in 18 others.”
Aboriginals rocked the vote
The Rock the Vote campaign aimed to get members of Canada’s First Nations community to vote. Aboriginal turnout is traditionally low compared to the general population.
Some aboriginals believe that voting in a Canadian election would somehow recognize Canada as their country–a gesture that they see as an abdication of their status as a distinct culture and a distinct nation. Nonetheless, the Rock the Vote campaign seemed to appeal to young Aboriginals, and it was deemed a success. Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, added his voice to the movement, and set the example, casting a ballot for the first time in a federal election on Oct. 19 2015 in Ottawa.
The aboriginal vote is not counted separately, so it is difficult to quantify and analyze. However, on October 19, 2015, accounts emerged of polling stations in First Nations communities running out of ballots. If we take each of the five First Nations mentioned in the APTN article, we can compare the voter turnout and the results in the light of the phenomenally high voter turnout in these five ridings with a strong First Nations presence. In 2011, the Conservatives took three of these ridings; after the dust settled in 2015, they had only one–the other two were Liberal and NDP, respectively. The NDP incumbents were able to hold on to their two 2011 seats and pick up another in Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River. (Surely the 70% voter turnout there had something to do with this!)
|Province||Turnout 2015||Turnout 2011||First Nation Polling station||Riding||Party elected in 2011||Party elected on Oct. 19 2015||Comments|
|Ontario||72.15%||60.38%.||Onigaming First Nation||Kenora||Conservative||Liberal Robert Nault, a former federal Liberal Aboriginal Affairs minister.||APTN reported that the Onigaming First Nation community polling station temporarily ran out of ballots, as did Shoal Lake 40, as a result of the high number of unregistered voters who showed up.|
|Manitoba||61.5%||56.5%||Moose Cree First Nation||Timmins-James Bay||NDP Charlie Angus||NDP Charlie Angus|
|63.7%||45.35%||Split Lake First Nation||Churchill—Keewatinook Aski||NDP Niki Ashton||NDP Niki Ashton||Ballots ran out. The Churchill riding has the highest percentage of North American Indians (61.1%) in Canada. It has elected NDP reps since 1979.|
|Saskatchewan||70.01%||52.43%||Big River First Nation||Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River||Conservative Rob Clarke||NDP Georgina Jolibois (by 70 votes)||Demographics: 70.9 per cent of people identified as Aboriginal in the 2011 census—by far the highest number in Saskatchewan, and the third highest in all of Canada.|
|Alberta||66.42%||52.2% (Medicine Hat)||Siksika First Nation||Bow River||Conservatives Gordon Taylor; Kevin Sorenson (as Crowfoot riding); Lavar Payne (as Medicine Hat); John Barlow, (MacLeod)||Conservative Martin Shield||Bow River is a new riding composed of the former ridings of Crowfoot, Medicine Hat, and MacLeod, all Conservative strongholds. Ballots ran out on the reserves and there was difficulty voting.|