Why you should vote for the party, not their leader

Understanding our electoral system may influence your final decision

Learning more about our political system is an integral part of being an educated voter.
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The federal election is nearing, and many Canadians are feeling the pressure of having to make a hard moral decision when they hit the polls on Oct. 21. 
 
Before you vote, it’s vital to fully understand our electoral system and the nature of party politics in Canada. Factoring this into your decision-making process may lessen the stress around voting, and make you focus more on which party, not which party leader, is best.   
 
After a campaign filled with scandal, personal jabs, and what some may consider an undignified Oct. 7 federal leaders’ debate, some voters are left feeling unhappy with their options. Some Canadians even feel apathetic, and might even go as far as to not vote for lack of a more appealing choice. 
 
Disdain for the personal shortcomings of our party leaders seems to be at the forefront of many people’s minds as they head to, or avoid, the polls. 
 
Although this election brings with it many hard decisions, I want to remind voters to put their issues concerning the party leaders aside and pay more attention to the substance of each party’s platform and policies. 
 
Party leaders, if elected prime minister, are our voice on the global stage and an integral part of national politics. They’re elected with trust and under the expectation that they will follow through on their promises. But at the end of the day, leaders are only a small part of their party. Leaders come and go, but when you elect a party into government, they’re there to stay. 
 
When voting, it’s important to understand our electoral system and its unique way of counting and applying our votes.
 
Canada currently has six federal parties: the Liberals, Conservatives, New Democratic Party (NDP), Greens, and the lesser-known Bloc Québécois and People’s Party of Canada.  
 
We have a first-past-the-post electoral system, which means our federal election is really 338 simultaneous elections happening all over the country. Canada is divided into 338 ridings, and each of these ridings has a seat in Parliament. The party that wins the most seats, or ridings, forms the government. 
 
This means that the number of votes a party gets doesn’t directly translate into the number of seats they get in Parliament. In fact, it’s possible for a candidate to win the majority of votes, known as the popular vote, but lose the election. 
 
Support for a party, if spread out, won’t always be reflected in their seats in Parliament. It takes concentrated support to win a riding. 
 
This flaw in our electoral system is important to note because it means voting for whichever leader or party you want might not be the most effective way to vote. 
 
If, for example, your first choice has little support in your riding, your local vote won't hold much weight in the grand scheme of the election—in fact, it likely won’t go past your riding. It might, instead, be more effective to vote for your second-most desirable option, if that has more local popular support. In this case, your second choice would have a fighting chance of winning your riding. 
 
This structure is why taking a more well-rounded approach to our election and learning more about our political institutions is an integral part of being an educated and civic-minded voter. 
 
Everyone going into an election has a different reason for voting. But it’s vital to not let your feelings about the leaders be your sole decision criterion when it comes to voting because, in the end, your local candidate is the one who represents your interests in the House of Commons. 
 
More importantly, don't let your disenchantment with the leaders deter you from voting at all. 
 

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