October 19, 2015 is Election Day in Canada. All ridings throughout the nation will be called to the polls to elect a Member of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons, thereby forming the 42nd parliamentary session since Confederation in 1867. The 41st parliamentary session was dissolved by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on August 2, resulting in an 11 week election campaign where political leaders and their affiliated parties will travel across the country promoting their platform on national issues in the hopes of securing the popular vote.
On Election Day, voters must decide which candidate best represents the needs and interests of their riding, thereby becoming that riding’s MP. While most candidates are affiliated with a political party, a candidate may run independently without any affiliation. The party that holds the most elected MPs in the House of Commons will form government, and the leader of that party will be named Canada’s Prime Minister.
Given Canada’s population growth since the previous 2011 election, the number of seats in the House of Commons has increased from 309 to 338. If at least 170 of these seats are won by one political party, that party will form a majority government. If that is not the case, a minority government will form. The major parties contending for power include the incumbent Conservative Party of Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada, and the New Democratic Party (NDP). Other political parties include the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party of Canada.
Surprisingly, among those who have chosen their preferred political party, the race is quite close throughout the country. An August poll revealed that 34% of Canadians prefer the NDP, 28% prefer the Conservatives and 27% prefer the Liberals. If these results hold, Canada may have its first ever NDP government. Opinions are bound to sway, however, and support towards the major political parties will not be truly solidified until Election Day.
As with previous election campaigns, most Ontarians appear to have little interest in the election. Besides those who are politically inclined or involved, it seems as though everything is “business as usual” in the province. It may even seem at times as though the American presidential election is more of a hot topic than what’s happening in our own backyard! Although the US is still at the stage of naming presidential candidates, contenders such as Donald Trump, Jed Bush and Hilary Clinton definitely make things interesting to observe. Throw in the fact that Kanye West will run for President in 2020 and that “Deez Nuts” is putting up a fight with reasonable policies despite being 15 years old, I can understand why some Canadians may be more intrigued by what’s happening down south.
In Québec, politics takes on a different appeal. The Orange Wave that swept the province under Jack Layton in 2011 continues to hold strong in Québec today . Layton’s successor, Tom Mulcair, is seen as representative of Québec’s values, and his stronghold still stands throughout the province. The Bloc Québécois lost their status as political party in the 2011 election because of this insurmountable support.While the Conservatives have tried to grow their base in Québec, their support is as much as that of the Bloc – little to none.
The real race in Québec is between the NDP and the Liberals who are neck and neck . To top it off, the ridings for the respective leaders for these parties (Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau) are Outremont and Papineau, both of which are in Montréal. Québec’s flair is also found in the political signs throughout the province which are both unique and distinct from anything else found in the rest of Canada. In Québec, politics is a very important issue, and the fanfare accompanying the municipal elections of 2013 and provincial elections of 2014 does not seem to have changed much in this federal election campaign.
In the 2011 federal election, the Tamil community witnessed its first ever MP elected into the House of Commons. Now, more Tamil contenders have thrown their hats into the ring. Rathika Sitsabaiesan is seeking re-election representing the NDP in the newly created Scarborough North riding. In the redrawn Scarborough Rouge-Park riding, Gary Anandasangaree is the candidate for the Liberal party while Rev. KM Shanthikumar represents the NDP. Additionally, Roshan Nallaratnam is the Conservative candidate for the Scarborough Southwest riding .
The Tamil community has made great strides in the political scene within a relatively short period of time. However, it is important that regardless of ethnic origin and religious affiliation, the elected MP should act as a liaison between the citizens of the riding he or she represents and the ministers in the House of Commons who have the power to address their issues. The MP must work in the best interests of the community he or she represents as a whole, and not favour one faction therein.
If an elected MP is of Tamil origin, that MP additionally gives exposure to the Tamil community, its values and what it has to offer Canada as a whole. Although it is amazing that we live in a time when individuals of Tamil origin are contributing to federal politics in a way that was unheard of several years ago, a ballot should be cast towards the candidate who best reflects the values you wish to see become reality for Canada’s political future. When your vote is cast, it should not be done because the candidate whom you favour has something that is trivially in common with you, such as ethnic origin, gender, or religious beliefs. Your vote should be cast for the candidate who best represents what you hope to see become of your community and your country. In turn, the MP should act in the best interests of their riding before anything else.
Election Day means different things to many Canadians. One’s knowledge about the political process can range from being well informed about the Canadian political scene to knowing absolutely nothing at all. Yet every Canadian who is able to vote should exercise their right to do so.My view is that only those who have voted have the right as well to compliment and criticize the government that comes to power, for these are active citizens. For those who are passive, use your ability to vote. Whether you believe it or not, your vote makes a difference.