Canada Goes to the Polls

Canada Goes to the Polls

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Election Day in Canada, like that in Great Britain bears no resemblance to the chaotic quadrennial circus which occurs when the United States holds general elections.  Canada’s election yesterday and Britain’s last year were no less important in those countries than the election to be held in the U. S. in November 2016, but they are grossly different both in form and style. They are also extraordinarily cheap and short (78 days in Canada) compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the candidates and the years in the U.S.  

The two parliamentary democracies also are excellent proponents of their systems, but the public energy and engagement is totally different from that in the U.S.  The Canadian election created very little excitement or passion despite some testy confrontations. It is rather remarkable how orderly they go about their electoral business despite the seriousness of the vote. Presumably Canadians and English do care about election results, but they are visibly detached from the action.

This is attributable in no small part to the fact that the only citizens actually voting for the individual(s) competing to be the head of the new Government (Prime Minister)—who is already the head of the party are the citizens in one particular district (riding).  The Members of Parliament (MP’s) throughout the country who will join together to form a Government or the opposition, are only there because the citizens in their districts, who barely know them, elected them indicating individual preferences for the leader of the party and not for the candidate running.  It is also interesting to note that the Canadian election contest had been expected to be very close especially as Justin Trudeau was considered a political novice; so it was surprising how large an actual majority Trudeau received. Given the nature of the voting system in Canada, national polling as well is not nearly as meaningful as it usually is in the States and it was difficult to test for a politcal outsider.

For the approximately 325,000 Jews, approximately 1% of the national population, this election saw them return home to the Liberal Party according to early analyses of the votes in key Jewish Districts. Jews gradually had moved to the Conservative Party as Stephen Harper had appeared to many Jews to be more strongly supportive of Israel than the Liberal Party. Now it appears that there was a considerable swing back to the Liberal Party, despite some questions raised about the incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s commitment to support Israel. It seems that the social-economic agenda advanced by the Conservatives was more important to Jewish voters.

This election suggests two interesting considerations for America's 2016 contests. First, whether U.S. voters will continue to be enchanted by political outsiders or novices. Second, after a tense time for many Jews in the States over the Iran Agreement, how will Jewish voting in the States evolve in the primaries and general election contests, seeking to support or punish either side for their preferences on that issue.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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