News, Politics

Your Political Primer To The Canadian Election

ballot going into a boxNote: This article was published in 2011. While most of the ideas have remained the same since then (ie, what “left” and “right” mean) many of the facts (ie, who is currently in power or leading the parties) have changed since then. Please keep that in mind as you read this article.

There will be a federal election in Canada on May 2.

Every Canadian who is 18 years or older and is registered to vote – even people in prison or who are out of the country – may vote.

Although there are many people who are up for election, there are five main ones—one of whom will win.

Each person who is up for election is a member of a different “political party.”

A “political party” is a group of people who all think the same way about things. They think the same way about how a country should be run, how it should spend its money and what is most important.

Depending on how they look at things, they are said to be in the “centre,” or “left (of centre)” or “right (of centre).” Saying you are left, right or in the centre is a shorthand way of letting people know what your political views are.

For instance, in Canada the Liberals are in the centre, the New Democrats (NDP) are on the left, and the Conservatives are on the right.*

People on the “right” believe they can help the country best by strengthening its businesses. People on the left believe in helping individuals and families first. And people in the centre believe in a bit of both.

Of course, it’s not quite as black-and-white as that. For instance, just because the people on the right support businesses, it doesn’t mean they don’t think families are important. It’s just that they believe by spending money to help businesses they can also help families. After all, people work for businesses so if companies get money they will hire more people—so families will be supported.

And the people on the left want to help families, but that doesn’t mean they don’t think businesses are important. They understand that strong businesses create a strong economy, which is good for everyone. They just put more support into programs that are more direct in the way they support families.

And of course the party in the middle, the Liberals, believe there should be a balance between supporting individuals and supporting businesses.

“Families” and “business” is just one example of what the political parties believe in. Each party has a list of things they believe in and want to do for the country. That list is called a “platform,” and it can be found on the party’s website and in its flyers.

There are other political parties beside the Liberals, NDP and Conservatives. The next two biggest parties are the Bloc Quebecois (BQ) and the Green Party of Canada. The BQ supports Quebec and is interested in making Quebec its own, separate country. The Green Party is the most concerned with the environment.

Each party has a leader. Here are the leaders of the main parties (click on the party name for their website):

Conservatives: Stephen Harper (also Canada’s current prime minister)

Liberals: Michael Ignatieff

NDP: Jack Layton

BQ: Gilles Duceppe

Green: Elizabeth May

Since there will be an election soon, each of the party leaders is travelling around the country telling people why they should get their vote. Each leader is telling people about the great things their party will do if elected.

An election is a very exciting time. Every day your newspaper and radio and TV stations will have stories about the election and the leaders. Now that you know a bit about who everyone is, you may find it very interesting to follow the election in the news, right up until May 2!

Note: The first sentence in this article was changed from “Canadians will elect a new prime minister on May 2” to reflect the fact that we don’t directly vote for the leader in Canada. We will be publishing an article about the election process in the near future.

*Many people view the Canadian political parties in different ways. Make sure you have a conversation with a parent, teacher, or an adult you trust before making your opinion.


Writing/Discussion Prompt
Using what you know about the political parties of Canada, make a poster for one of the candidates who is running for Prime Minister. Make sure to include at least two important statements that will tell Canadians why they should vote for your candidate.

Bonus: The five political parties discussed in today’s article use colours in their advertisements to help Canadians identify their messages. Use the chart below to make sure you are using the correct colour for your candidate!

Conservatives – Stephen Harper (Blue)

Liberals – Michael Ignatieff (Red)

NDP – Jack Layton (Orange)

Bloc Quebecois – Gilles Duceppe (Purple)

Green Party – Elizabeth May (Green)

Reading Prompt
If you could vote in the May 2nd election, which party and candidate would you vote for? Why do you think they would do the best job? Use the information in the text to support your opinion.

Express personal opinions about ideas presented in texts (OME, Reading: 1.8).

Make judgements and draw conclusions about the ideas and information in texts and cite stated or implied evidence from the text to support their views (OME, Reading: 1.8).

Grammar Feature: it’s versus its

A common mistake that writers make is confusing the words “it’s” and “its.” As it turns out, that little apostrophe makes big difference. The word “it’s” means “it is,” while the word “its” means “it” (belonging to it – possessive). The following sentences from today’s stories show this important difference.

“Of course, it’s not quite as black-and-white as that.”

“That list is called a “platform,” and it can be found on the party’s website and in its flyers.”

On the lines below, write the correct word: its or it’s.

____________ cold outside.                  ____________ fur is white. ____________ smile is beautiful.         ____________ too hard to see. ____________ door is broken.              ____________ zipper is broken.