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ipodrulz's avatar

How does the Canadian Voting system work? (Government)

Asked by ipodrulz (76points) January 4th, 2008

I’m studying for my exams at the moment… and I’m very confused about how the Canadian government works. For anyone out there who is willing to take the challenge: could you explain from the levels of government, the branches of government, to what Mp’s MPPs and where they each belong in the parliament… I think the most confusing thing is when I get federal and provincial mixed up.

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2 Answers

paulc's avatar

Well in the most basic of ways, Canadians vote for a parliamentary representative (known as member of parliament or MP) for their geographical region (called a riding). MPs are elected by having the largest number of votes in an election and don’t need a majority.

MPs are all members of registered political parties and after all the MPs have been elected, the party with the greatest number of elected members is the governing party. The head of this party is then declared Prime Minister.

Of course, this doesn’t mean they have absolute power (though Stephen Harper might argue differently). When there is a situation where the governing party does not control more than 50% of the seats in parliament it is known as a minority government (like the current one under Harper). Minority governments cannot pass legislation on their own and must rely on other parties to vote along with them in order to have majority consensus.

I’d suggest reading up on the Wikipedia article on the Canadian Electoral System – it is probably much more in-depth that what I know.

artemisdivine's avatar

since i love links…oh AND ok i am biased but the canadian system makes WAY more sense than the american. that system is very complicated and really does not make a lot of sense to me. it is DEF not one man, one vote. dont even get me started on electoral colleges.

Ridings and Members of Parliament
Canada is divided into 308 electoral districts or ridings. Voters in each riding elect one member of parliament or MP to send to the House of Commons. The Senate in Canada is not an elected body.

Federal Political Parties
There are 16 registered federal political parties. Two other parties are eligible to register. Each party can nominate one candidate for each riding. During the Canadian federal election in 2006, representatives of only four federal political parties won seats in the House of Commons.

Forming the Government
The party that wins the most ridings in a general federal election is asked by the Governor General to form the government. The leader of that party becomes the Prime Minister of Canada. If the party wins in more than 154 ridings, it will have a majority government, which makes it much easier to get legislation passed in the House of Commons. If the winning party wins 154 seats or fewer, it will form a minority government. In order to get legislation through the House, a minority government usually has to adjust policies to get enough votes from MPs of other parties. A minority government must constantly work to maintain the confidence of the House of Commons in order to stay in power.

The Official Opposition
The political party that wins the second highest number of seats in the House of Commons becomes the Official Opposition.


Canada held its 39th general election on Monday, January 23, 2006 – three-and-a-half years early – after the Liberal Party minority government of Prime Minister Paul Martin was toppled in a parliamentary confidence motion on Monday, November 28, 2005. A description of the United Kingdom-style system used to elect members of the House of Commons – the lower house of Canada’s Parliament – as well as a review of the Law Commission of Canada’s report on electoral reform are presented here.


First past the post: Canada’s voting system
The First past the post electoral system is a voting system for single-member districts. The name first past the post (abbreviated FPTP or FPP) is an analogy to horse racing; the system is also variously called winner-take-all, plurality voting, or relative majority. In political science, it is known as Single-Member District Plurality or SMDP. When this system is in use at all levels of politics it may result in a two-party system, based on single seat district voting systems. However, the system of forming a government is also crucial. It is used in 43 of the 191 countries in the United Nations. Some believe the system results in stable government but it can elect a candidate who is opposed by a majority of voters.


Canada’s New Government Proposes Fixed Election Dates30 May 2006
Ottawa, Ontario

The Honourable Rob Nicholson, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform today introduced in the House of Commons a bill providing for fixed election dates every four years.

The bill also establishes Monday, October 19, 2009 as the date of the next general election. Once the general election is held, the following election would be set for the third Monday in October, four calendar years in the future
The political system

What is the foundation of Canada’s political system?
The basics

Canada’s political system is based on that of the United Kingdom. It is a constitutional monarchy, composed of the Queen of Canada, who is officially represented by the Governor General (or by a lieutenant-governor at the provincial and territorial levels), and Parliament.

Overcoming Canada’s geography
Canada’s electoral system has evolved in response to the country’s geography. Our population, though not large in global terms, is spread over an immense land mass spanning six time zones. As a result, some electoral districts are huge and sparsely populated. Nunavut, for example, sprawls over 2,093,190 square kilometres and serves 26,745 people. In sharp contrast, the smallest electoral district, Papineau in Quebec, occupies only 9 square kilometres, but serves a population of 103,942.


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