Politics is a Language Game

By: Juliann Garisto

Before this election, I never took politics too seriously and simply voted for the sake of voting, without much care as to what the consequences would be. I blame myself for this, for never taking the initiative to do research that was so readily available and literally at my fingertips. But I also believe our educational systems should be held accountable, for failing to give sufficient attention to how politics operates. In school, the topic was brought up in a way that assumed everyone had a prior understanding. Terms and expressions such as “bill”, “law”, or “cabinet” were never thoroughly explained. I had no clue what they meant in the context of government, so I steadily backed away. Im now beginning to understand how fundamental politics is, while simultaneously realizing how frustrating it can seem at times. Nonetheless, it is the way our world functions, and in Canada we are granted the privilege of having a say in how we think things should run.

Lately, Ive had an excessive amount of free-time on my hands, so Ive dedicated a great deal of it to researching Canadian politics, as well as political culture in North America. I still dont know the half of it, and frankly the desire to spend my free time reading about our government system didnt come naturally, but was something I conditioned myself to do. Politics can be repetitive and tedious in its routine, as we hear politicians constantly repeating their talking points. Although this is probably necessary in order to establish each politician’s character, it’s not always engaging. Somehow though, I was able to push past this and look at the facts in better detail. I read about the Bill C-51 anti-terrorism legislation and noted which politicians supported it. I read about the proposed “Barbaric Cultural Practices” tip-line and thought about what that would mean for our society.

What really got me interested in politics was social media. On an impulse, I decided to create a Twitter account, and soon after started following The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, The Huffington Post, New York Times, Vice and a few other news publications. In doing so, I would challenge myself to read article upon article of coverage on the upcoming federal election and the long, winding campaign cycle. I would read these articles over and over and sometimes write about them afterwards. This became my early morning routine, and I began to love educating myself in this way.

However, once I started to better understand the political sphere, I reflected more upon why I was only educating myself now, and why I was so intimidated in the first place. The 20th century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, Speaking a language is part of an activity, or of a form of life.Politics exemplifies this as it utilizes a form of language specific to it and nothing else. In other words, there would be no political systems or anything really if there was no language to shape and mold it. We manipulate language, giving words relative meanings and combining them to create phrases and expressions that are limited in their application. This applies to the language of politics; it is a language in and of itself which can be difficult to understand. Two years ago, if you asked me to listen to and make meaning of a political debate, and I would be utterly and completely lost hell, even now Im lost because its almost like trying to decipher a foreign language, and this is what needs to change. The language of politics can be exclusive in that its only really accessible to people who have an exceptional grasp of it, and moreover access to resources that allow them to gain insight into the world of government.

But its important that everyone be given the opportunity to learn this language, because politics shapes our world. We need to start educating children at a young age, on how the world functions on a political axis and why it is important. We need to make the political sphere, and its language, much more inclusive.

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#elxn42: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

By: Krista Robinson

If you weren’t one of the 3.6 million to cast your ballot in the advance polls (yay! civic engagement!), on Monday you will need to decide who you want to run this country. Among the myriad of issues circulating your mind – from childcare to immigration, the economy to the environment -. the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls should be a key issue in #elxn42.

By now, most Canadians are aware of the gap that exists and persists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of Canada. According to a 2015 UN report, Indigenous women and girls face the risk of a violent death at a rate five times higher than their non-Indigenous counterparts. Between 1980-2012 there have been 1,200 documented cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women. These statistics do not include cases which are undocumented, which may be a significant number. According to last year’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, “…the police have failed to adequately prevent and protect indigenous women and girls from killings and disappearances, extreme forms of violence, and have failed to diligently and promptly investigate these acts.” As of November 2013, 105 women remain missing under suspicious circumstances.

A national inquiry has yet to be filed under Canada’s current Conservative government. Moreover, a recent report revealed that many indigenous communities don’t have access to clean water.

Daily VICE sat down with two of our federal party leaders this month for town hall-style interviews at Toronto’s Great Hall. First Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, followed by the Official Opposition leader of the NDP, Tom Mulcair. The issue of MMIW came up multiple times. Host Patrick McGuire, head of content at VICE Canada told the audience that Harper had formally declined their request to participate in an interview. Just today, a last-minute interview with Green Party leader Elizabeth May was posted, albeit it quite a bit shorter than the other two.

Here’s an overview of what all your federal parties have to say about Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and other promises they’ve discussed on Aboriginal issues.

CONSERVATIVE: Stephen Harper

Incumbent PM Stephen Harper opposes a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. However, the Conservative government has allocated $248.5 million over five years to fund the Indigenous labour market, and has pledged $170 million over the next four years for the reconstruction of housing in reserves. If re-elected, an additional $500 million would be used to fund the renovation of Indigenous schools.

In a recent interview with CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, Prime Minister Harper said, “… it isn’t really high on our radar, to be honest,” when asked about a public inquiry into MMIW.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Harper defended his government’s record on Indigenous affairs in the House of Commons.

LIBERAL: Justin Trudeau

The Liberals have pledged to immediately implement all 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), along with launching a national, public inquiry. They would remove the 2 per cent funding cap on Indigenous programs and invest $2.6 billion in funding for education.

In his interview with VICE, Liberal Party leader Trudeau said, “We need a national, public inquiry into the tragedy that are the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. We need to get justice for the victims, we need healing for the families, and we need to ensure that as a society, as a country, that we stop this on-going tragedy. The fact is, you’ll hear from people who say, ‘Well, we already know what the problem is, we don’t need an inquiry to figure that out.’ Well, that’s almost worse. If people think they already know what the problem is, then why haven’t they fixed it? Maybe we need an inquiry to give the political will to people to follow up on.”

NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Tom Mulcair

Within the first 100 days of forming government, the NDP has pledged to launch a national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women. They would consider implementing the 94 recommendations from the TRC.

In Mulcair’s interview with VICE, he stated, “There’s no issue on which I’ve held more meetings, or spent more time, since becoming leader of the official opposition than those involving our First peoples, our First Nations, Inuit and Metis. The core of the NDP approach is to have a new era in our relations with our First peoples, creating a nation-to-nation approach. That is something we’re going to do at the cabinet level, making sure that every decision of our government respects treaty rights, inherent rights and Canada’s international obligations. It’s unbelievable that in the country in the world with the greatest quantity of fresh, renewable water, our First peoples still don’t have access to clean drinking water.”

Mulcair admitted that despite immediate action, the entire process of equipping all Indigenous communities with clean drinking water and raising the standard of living would take a “maximum of 7-8 years.”

GREEN: Elizabeth May

The Green Party would launch inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women immediately. Leader Elizabeth May would also restore the Kelowna Accord, in turn committing $5.1 billion to Canada’s Indigenous peoples. According to May, the residential school system represents “an attempt at cultural genocide” against our Indigenous peoples that is unacceptable. The Green Party would commit to a “true nation-to-nation dialogue” to prioritize First Nations, Inuit and Metis language and culture.

In an interview with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network earlier this week, May commented on the national inquiry she would implement, “We don’t want to make this an inquiry into the people we’ve lost, we need to stop the violence now and encourage the protection of all women and girls in this country. There’s no greater scandal than the persistent, inadequate conditions of housing, of water, of healthcare, of education of First Nations, Inuit and Metis Canadians.”

Lyndsay Macdonald on Child Care & #elxn42

By: Krista Robinson

The Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada advocates for a national child care system, supported and funded by both the provincial/territorial and federal governments. Earlier this year, with the support of many Canadian organizations, they started the Vote Child Care 2015 campaign to call on the next federal government to make high-quality, affordable childcare a priority, and accessible to all. Following up on last week’s post on #elxn42 and child care, we spoke to Lyndsay Macdonald, National Coordinator for the CCAAC, about what our next federal leader needs to do to implement an effective child care system.

Q: What was your role in beginning the Vote Child Care 2015 campaign?

A: Planning for the VCC 2015 campaign began last November during the Child Care 2020 conference in Winnipeg where over 600 delegates gathered to discuss the current state of early childhood education and child care (ECEC) in Canada. A focus of that conference was a move from research to action, in which we brainstormed what we wanted in a national campaign and how the various “players” would collaborate and contribute to an election campaign for child care. My primary duties were to organize a steering committee to work closely on the campaign, to form a larger reference group with the broader ECEC sector and to hire a campaign organizer to help us pull it off. The VCC campaign works with just about anyone who wants to get involved and our local organizers across Canada have reached out to school board trustees, city councillors and other stakeholders/community leaders to join us in our call for a national child care program.

Q: What is the biggest problem with Canada’s child care system? And how does this impact Canadians of all backgrounds, beliefs and socio-economic levels?

A: Carolyn Ferns and Jane Beach discuss how “a deeply entrenched neoliberal approach to social policy at the federal level and in many provinces has left child care twisting in the wind. And we have seen the total absence of the federal government from child care.” Perhaps the first step to correcting this major issue is for the federal and provincial/territorial governments to recognize ECEC as a public good and to fund it and plan for it accordingly – this requires a serious commitment from all levels of government in Canada. In 2004/05 the federal government introduced plans to develop a national child care program. The federal government and provincial and territorial governments worked to sign bilateral agreements which included substantial public funding, policy commitments and common principles such as quality, universally inclusive, accessible and child care programs that are developmentally focused (known as the QUAD principles). In 2006, Harper announced that the government would abandon those agreements and that it would instead introduce the Universal Child Care Benefit of $100 dollars a month per child 0-6 years of age (recently expanded to $160/month for children 0-6 and $60/month for children 7-17). I personally believe that it comes down to political will and also how Canadians value care work and the essential role that it plays in our society. The current patchwork of early childhood education and child care services impacts all Canadians – whether or not we have children of our own. Of course the lack of affordable quality child care impacts some groups more, parents of children with disabilities or special needs can face immense hardships in trying to find suitable child care to meet their child’s needs. Indigenous communities have limited access to early childhood education and family resource programs that support the cultural teachings and practices of the community with programs that foster the physical, social, intellectual and spiritual development of children.

Q: What do the federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal levels of government need to do, cooperatively, to implement ECEC by 2020?

A: If we look at the provinces and territories across Canada we can observe that many have taken significant steps towards improving the ECEC sector. To us in the child care movement we believe that this is the most opportune time to have the federal government come to the table ready to work with provincial and territorial governments to support a comprehensive national program. The federal government needs to make a commitment to Canada’s children and families to build a national child care program anchored by a comprehensive policy framework, long-term sustained funding, benchmarks, and evaluation. This needs to happen in cooperation with provincial/territorial levels of government who then need to work out comprehensive provincial policy to support local levels of government to grow and sustain child care systems. It requires careful policy planning that pulls in experts in the field including researchers, academics, parents and early childhood educators who have real on the ground experience of the essential elements that make quality child care programs work. What we have seen is that 3 of the 4 major political parties have released child care platforms this election, each one with promises to support Canadian families with better child care. We are optimistic and we believe that the VCC2015 campaign has been successful in keeping child care on the political agenda and on the minds of voters.

Standing up for the country we want

Illustration by Terra Loire Gillespie

Illustration by Terra Loire Gillespie

Election season is an important time to ask yourself, “What kind of country do I want?” Amid increasingly dangerous rhetoric and policy restricting Muslim women’s right to wear the niqab, and other Islamophobic legislation such as Bill C-51 and Bill S-7, Women in Toronto Politics feels clearer than ever about the country we want.

The country we want celebrates freedom of choice about how we adorn our bodies and express our faith.

The country we want sees clearly that coercion is coercion, whether we are coercing women into or out of certain items of clothing.

The country we want recognizes that patriarchy has been part of the Canadian story for centuries and is not the exclusive province of “new stock” Canadians. The white settlers of Turtle Island used (and still use) violence against Indigenous women as a key tool in the project of colonization – regardless of whether this fact is “on the radar” of our political leaders.

The country we want values and supports the leadership of Muslim women like Zunera Ishaq in the Canadian intersectional feminist movement.

The country we want has party leaders who all vehemently, unequivocally reject Islamophobic, racist, and otherwise bigoted statements and policies.

The country we want eschews racist vote-pandering that cynically claims to be in women’s best interest. The country we want actually centres women’s voices, safety and freedom in policy-making.

The country we want offers affordable child-care and housing for all, welcomes refugees, listens to the call for action to halt the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, puts an end to violence against racialized women inflicted by police and border services, stops selling guns to men who have a history of violence against women, understands the role of accurate and comprehensive census data in formulating inclusive social policy, and champions free (and shame-free) access to physical and mental health care for people of all genders.

The country we want believes that women know what is best for them and listens when they tell us what that is.

The country we want is within reach. It burns brightly within our hearts and yours. It grows whenever we listen with an open mind to those with life experiences different from ours, and make a genuine effort to understand. It flourishes when we share what we have learned with our family, co-workers, friends and other loved ones – whether it’s on social media or over the dinner table. Join the conversation on Twitter to help build the #countrywewant.

#elxn42 on CHILD CARE

By: Krista Robinson

The last time the federal party leaders debated on “women’s issues” it was 1984, when PC leader Brian Mulroney and NDP leader Ed Broadbent were vying for Prime Minister John Turner’s post. Mulroney fielded the final question of the debate, asked by the female moderator, “On behalf of millions of Canadian women, why should we trust you now?”

“We realize the collective failure of this country, vis-a-vis women, and all I can tell you is I’m earnestly and genuinely committed to its correction,” said Mulroney, who went on to win a majority government.

Four years later, Mulroney’s government passed the National Child Care Act. But, when an election was called later that year, and the Act was dismissed by the Senate. Even after Mulroney’s reelection, the legislation was never reintroduced.  

In 2015, Canadians are still looking for affordable, high-quality child care. As it stands now, only 22.5 per cent of children under six have access to licensed child care. Mothers are choosing to leave the workforce to care for their children, subsidy waitlists continue to grow, and child care workers are making a median of $16.50 per hour.

According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Torontonians are paying the most in Canada for child care at an average of $49 per day, eight dollars more than parents in Vancouver and essentially incomparable to those in Quebec, where the average parent spends $7 per day, province-wide, for subsidized child care. Outside of Quebec, parents are paying $2000 on-average per month for, that’s often non-licenced.

After Up For Debate, the modern-yet-unconventional women’s issues debate, where all but one of the party leaders discussed issues ranging from economic inequality to missing and murdered indigenous women over video feed, the issue of child care remained unaddressed. At WiTOpoli, we believe it should be a top election priority, so we’ve put together some key child care policies your federal party leaders have committed to over the election campaign.

CONSERVATIVE: Stephen Harper

This past July, the Harper Government sent out $3-billion worth of child benefit cheques to parents across the country, increasing their previous child care funding from $100 per month to $160. Some called the move the “unofficial start to the election campaign.” If re-elected this October, the Conservatives would continue to implement the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) which provides families with $1,920 per year for each child under six years old, and $720 for each child age 6-17.

LIBERAL: Justin Trudeau

If the Liberals are elected, Trudeau would scrap the Conservative’s UCCB and implement a Universal Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) program, which would base benefit funding on household income. For instance, greater, tax-free cheques would be sent to families with a household income of less than $150,000, and cheques would decrease slightly for families with greater income. Trudeau has stated that families, including his and Mr. Harper’s – who don’t need financial assistance – won’t receive ECEC benefit cheques. To calculate your allotted funding click here.

NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Tom Mulcair

The NDP has pledged to create one million new child care spaces across the country and legislate no more than $15 per day daycare. The NDP would keep the Conservative’s UCCB, and would provide funding to the provinces and territories for high-quality child care. Mulcair is attempting to model Quebec’s system, which invested $2.2-billion into child care, implemented subsidized $7-per-day daycare and saw 70,000 mothers return to the workforce.

GREEN: Elizabeth May

The Green Party would bring in a National Child Care Commissioner to better work with the provinces and territories on child care issues. May would “restore and revamp” the 2005 agreement to achieve universal access to child care, with an emphasis on creating workplace child care spaces. The Party is pledging to provide a tax credit per child, per year, of $1500 to incent employers to create these new spaces.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper implemented the Universal Child Care Benefit earlier this year, which sent all parents a cheque to help cover the cost of child care, regardless of household income. But the question remains: should government-issued cheques – intended for child care – be sent to parents to use as they see fit, or should public money fund the creation of child care spaces? Three out of four party leaders (the NDP, Liberals and Greens) agree that there needs to be a national child care program. Martha Friendly, Canada’s “child care champion,” who has dedicated her career to researching child care policy, echos this sentiment. Friendly has been blogging about the issues for for the upcoming election that you can read more about here.

#elxn42: Let’s talk HOUSING

By: Krista Robinson

In 1998, Toronto’s then-mayor, Mel Lastman declared homelessness a national disaster in our city. He called on federal and provincial governments to take action and support those experiencing homelessness. This was a direct result of the nation-wide affordable housing crisis that began in the 1970s when new building permits became difficult to obtain and zoning laws disrupted the potential supply of new housing. Fast-forward to 2015, where there are over 5,000 people experiencing homelessness in Toronto on any given night. An exact estimate is difficult to produce because there are not only those living on the streets or in shelters, but the “hidden-homeless,” those who live out-of-sight, for example on a friend or relative’s couch.

This past winter alone, three homeless men died in Toronto due to frigid temperatures. Recently, incumbent mayor John Tory said he feels “embarrassed” by the number of people sleeping on the streets but says that at the municipal level, there is little he can do. He has called on help from the provincial and federal government to address this ever-growing problem.

Unfortunately, housing has not been a hot-topic in this year’s federal election, being trumped by the economy, energy and immigration. But at WiTOpoli, we feel it’s an issue that deserves as much attention as any other. We sat down with social activist, Cathy Crowe, to talk about our city’s struggles with affordable housing, and to name a few solutions. Crowe’s current project is a petition for a new national housing strategy that will hopefully entice city hall to prioritize the funding of social housing in Toronto.

“It’s been really hard, historically, to have affordable housing and homelessness in an election platform,” said Crowe. Shelter closures and housing shortages rarely make front page news, especially during an election campaign, however, the closing of many long-standing homeless shelters in Toronto has been covered in the media as of late after vocal criticism and public outcry from advocates.

Some of these shelters include Beatrice House, a transitional house for women and children, that closed at the end of August after the land was bought by developer Urbancorp. Second Base is a youth shelter that has been in operation since 1993, and is the city’s second largest and only youth shelter east of the Don River. It is set to close in October, due to lack of funds. The 50-bed men’s shelter, Cornerstone, closed its St. Clair Ave. W. location, but has plans to relocate to the Oakwood Village area despite community backlash and the opposition of local councillor Josh Colle. The Red Door Family Shelter, that has been running since 1982 on Queen St. E, faced the possibility of closure last year due to a private property deal, however, through the loyalty of the community and the efforts of activists, they were able to persuade the developer rebuild the shelter as part of a new condo project. These are only a few examples of the hardships local shelters have faced in recent months.

Studies have shown that it’s cheaper to take steps to eliminate homelessness than it is to ignore it. On April 1, 2014, the Conservative Government initiated the Housing First approach, to come into effect over the following two years, as a cornerstone of the Government’s renewed Homelessness Partnering Strategy. A Canadian Government press release stated that the method has proven to be a “sound investment,” by way of saving the government $21.72 for every $10 invested in those who more often sought emergency and social services. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, “participants in the Housing First group spent an average of 73 percent of their time in stable housing, compared to 32 percent for the group receiving usual care.”

Crowe, who has worked as a street nurse for over two decades, remains critical of the Housing First approach because she believes it benefits homeless men first, often leaving behind women and children.

“When Housing First became national policy, it meant housing the most visible,” which in turn meant benefitting those living permanently on the streets, the majority being men.

“This means it’s not housing first for women and children, it’s not housing first for seniors, and it’s not housing first for someone with a severe disability or palliative need,” she said. “It’s just being used to clear the streets.”

Keeping shelters open and services available is needed to support those experiencing homelessness in Toronto. Crowe believes that pressure needs to be put on city hall, the principle funder of shelters, in order to keep these services afloat. The city, in turn, will need the support and assistance of the provincial and federal government.

Though the issue has not been given sufficient attention on the campaign trail, here’s a breakdown on what the parties have to say on housing.

CONSERVATIVE: Stephen Harper

In last week’s federal debate, Harper said he believes “the housing story is a very positive story in this country.” He points to homeownership growth as a result of lower interest rates and the home renovation tax credit.

According the Harper’s platform, over the next four years, the Conservative government will commit $2.3 billion per year to give Canadians access to affordable housing. In addition, his Home Buyer’s Plan will “allow aspiring homeowners to make tax-free withdrawals from their Registered Retirement Savings Plans to finance the purchase or construction of their first home.” The Conservatives would increase the allowable RRSP withdrawal from $25,000 to $35,000.

Over the next five years, Harper has committed over $86,000,000 in funding to the City of Toronto for projects in the community that prevent and reduce homelessness.

LIBERAL: Justin Trudeau

Earlier this month at Alexandra Park Community Centre in Toronto, Trudeau said, “Investing in social housing is much more than putting a roof over people’s heads. It also creates stable, well-paid jobs that families can rely on.” The Liberal leader continued on to say, “We know that access to affordable and safe housing is part of the solution to many social issues, such as child poverty, student debt and our ability to help people with serious mental health issues and addiction.”

If the Liberals are elected on Oct. 19, Trudeau has pledged to commit $20 billion over 10 years to “social infrastructure.” Despite his party having cancelled the country’s National Housing Strategy last time they were in power, the Liberal Party wants to create a national housing action plan that would theoretically provide affordable housing for Canadians at all income levels. His party has committed to providing “$125 million per year in tax incentives for developers and landlords to build and renovate rental units.”

Trudeau would relax some regulations on accessing RRSPs to put a downpayment on a house, however, unlike Harper, he would keep the withdrawal limit at $25,000.

NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Tom Mulcair

If elected, Mulcair has promised to make affordable housing a national priority. He notes that “the last time the Liberal Party was in power, they cancelled Canada’s National Housing Strategy. It’s also worth noting there are 35,000 homeless people in Canada right now,” said Mulcair during last week’s leaders’ debate. “We would put more money in people’s pockets with quality, affordable child care and to the hundred thousand people that we would give a raise with a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour. Somebody who works full-time shouldn’t be living in poverty.”

Mulcair plans to build 10,000 affordable housing units across the country and maintain and strengthen social housing.

GREEN PARTY: Elizabeth May

In August, Green Party leader Elizabeth May laid out her plan to end homelessness.

“It’s no longer acceptable for Canadians, that any of us, should live without adequate housing. Housing is a human right, and in Canada, as a wealthy country, we simply have no more excuses for our failure to ensure housing,” said May at a press conference. It may be important to note that May was the only candidate to hold a press conference on the issue of housing.

To eliminate homelessness, May stressed that we need to recognize that there’s the issue of homelessness and social housing, as well as the separate issue of affordable housing within the marketplace. She blames foreign investment for skewing housing prices and leaving younger Canadians without many options.

Her national housing strategy would “ensure every Canadian has access to affordable, safe, and secure housing. A Green government will increase social housing transfers to provincial, territorial, and municipal governments through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). They would also call for the appointment of a Minister of Housing to oversee the development and implementation of the the affordable housing strategy, which would see 20,000 new and 10,000 rehabilitated affordable housing units built each year for the next decade.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

Housing should be a top priority in this federal election because it affects the wellbeing of all Canadians. Despite this, the federal candidates have simply voiced their support for the Housing First approach, which despite its benefits, may exclude certain homeless populations. A National Housing Strategy needs to be expanded in order to provide support to renters, buyers and all those in need – including women and children, seniors, people with disabilities and Aboriginals – if any progress is going to be made in solving the nation’s housing crisis.
For a comprehensive look at where the #canpoli parties stand on housing and homelessness, check out The Homeless Hub, where you can research even more in-depth comparisons and get informed!

WiTOpoli’s Guide to Voting

On October 19, Canadians will cast their vote in Canada’s 42nd federal election. No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, WiTOpoli is here to help you get informed by highlighting issues that matter. Over the next month, we’ll be providing information on where the major parties stand on issues like housing, transportation, childcare and employment. But first, here’s the WiTOpoli Guide to Voting:

STEP 1: REGISTER

Check out the Elections Canada website to see if you are already registered to vote. If not, register now! It’s not essential to register in advance, because you can also register at the polls when you vote, but registering beforehand speeds up the process. It ensures that you are on the official voter’s list and that you’ll receive a Voter Information Card in the mail, telling you the location of your polling station, as well as advance polling stations. Advance polling stations will be open October 9-12 from 12-8 PM. If you are or will be abroad on election day, you must apply to vote by mail. In addition to the regular polling stations in your riding, you can vote at any Elections Canada office up until October 13.

STEP 2: PREPARE YOUR DOCUMENTS

To vote in a Canadian election, you must prove your identity and current address. There are three different methods of doing this. You do not need your Voter Information Card on-hand to vote, but bringing it with you to the polling station speeds up the process. However, this card does not qualify as a form of ID.

  1. provide one of the following: driver’s licence, province/territories identification card, or any government issued identification with your name, picture and current address
  2. provide any two pieces of ID (one must show your current address)
  3. provide two pieces of ID (without address) and bring someone who can take an oath on your behalf of your residence

ABORIGINAL VOTERS: More information here.

STUDENT VOTERS: Do you live in two different ridings while attending post-secondary? Pick the one you consider home and register there. There will also be advance polling stations at many postsecondary institutions from Oct. 5-8. For the full list check here.

ACCESSIBLE VOTING: Need accommodation on voting day? Elections Canada has put together a list of tools to assist you.

INCARCERATED VOTERS: If you are serving a sentence in a correctional facility on Election Day, you can still exercise your right to vote. See instructions here.

HOMELESS VOTERS: If you have no fixed address, you can find more information here on how to vote.

LONG-TERM CARE: If you are residing in a hospital or long-term care facility, Elections Canada will be offering mobile polling stations at many locations. For more information ask the administrator or contact Elections Canada directly at 1-800-463-6868.

STEP 3: KNOW YOUR RIDING

Riding boundaries have changed since the last federal election. Find your riding and a list of confirmed candidates here.

STEP 4: DO YOUR RESEARCH

At WiTOpoli, we’d like to provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision on Election Day, so check back soon for information on where the major parties stand on issues like housing, transportation, childcare and employment. Until then, be sure to browse your local candidates’ websites, along with their affiliated parties. The five major parties and their leaders are listed below.

Elizabeth May, Green Party

Stephen Harper, Conservative

Justin Trudeau, Liberal

Tom Mulcair, New Democratic Party

Gilles Duceppe, Bloc Quebecois

In addition, make sure to check out websites like Pollenize.org and iCanParty.ca for user-friendly, up-to-date and non-partisan information on all the candidates. The CBC has also come out with a Vote Compass to help you better understand where you fit on the political spectrum.

STEP 5: SAVE THE DATE

Mark your calendars and go vote on election day, Oct. 19, or on the Advance Poll days. Don’t forget: your employer is required by law to allow you three hours of paid leave to vote.

Keep your eyes peeled for more #elxn42 coverage from WiTOpoli in the coming weeks!