Federal Election: 2011

It sounds odd to my American colleagues that we are having our fourth federal election in 7 years. That averages out to having one election in less than two years over the better part of the last decade. I’m not sure if it’s a lot better, but the American system identifies set days for elections, and national voting happens every four years. (Thus while we’ve had four elections, they happen to have had only one.) In Canada, parliament can be dissolved at the whim of the Prime Minister (even though, for an election, the Governor General actually performs the act). Americans have to deal with election “fever” for a year or more every four years; Canadians have only a month of it, but it’s pretty intense and it happens more often.

Yesterday (Saturday, March 26th), the governor-general dissolved parliament in preparation for the 41st election. There was a “non-confidence vote” in parliament, which the ruling government either wins or there is an election. It has happened less than a half dozen times in our history, and all but one have been in my lifetime. Apparently this vote had to do with issues regarding the budget and with recent concerns about the current Prime Minister’s flaunting our democratic ideals. Some of the ministers were apparently willing to work with Mr. Harper if he would show some flexibility on the budget, but he refused to consider a change. So the Prime Minister brought this on himself, and I hope that we can have some kind of effective outcome from the voting process.

Now it happens that this year, I will not be in Canada on the day of the vote: it’s the day after the “Rodeo in the Rock” closes in Arkansas, and I have already arranged to be there for the week prior. So not only is this my second federal election in Canada, it’s my first to “vote by mail”. I still have to make some decisions about who to vote for, and I’ll write a bit about the events and thoughts that influence how I make that choice.

So I went to the “Elections Canada” website, where all thing election oriented are housed. At the top left of the site is a section titled: “Voters: Everything a Voter Should Know”. Sounds like a likely place to start. One click and I can see the section entitled “Voter Registration” with the subjection “Voting by Mail while Inside or Outside Canada”. This led me to a page which specified I had to apply by April 26th, and they needed to receive my mail-in ballot by the day before the election. I followed the instructions, and it was fairly easy to print out my application for a “special” ballot that I could mail in. The biggest difficulty was finding the “local” office where I should send it. (Local is in quotes because that is the word they used… but mine is in Ottawa.) Tomorrow I’ll photocopy the necessary documentation and send it all in. They made sure I know that once I send in my “special” ballot I can’t change my mind and vote at a regular polling place; but since I’ll be halfway from Little Rock to Toronto when that is happening, I doubt I’ll be tempted. I still look forward to hearing the results.

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