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Write a report on election and political campaigns by canadian political parties.

Discussion

The aim of the essay is to shed light on the elections and political parties of Canada and analyze whether the current system is suitable or not. Political campaigns have been an important part of elections in the democracies of the world including Canada. These are the organized efforts made by the people looking for public office to secure nomination. However, in the recent past, some commentators have questioned the need for such campaigns. Pollsters have also been critical about the importance of polling in times of elections. General or regular elections are considered by the proponents of democracy to be the best way to make sure that representatives are doing their job well. Voting is the vital part of the general elections that decides the fate of the representatives. However, considering Canada’s single-member plurality (SMP) electoral system, general elections, voting and even polling often becomes futile (Singer 2013). The main reason is that the SMP system largely neglects the smaller parties, women and other minority groups who deserve a fair chance to run the country.  It is important for a strong democracy thus, to have an electoral system that takes into account the popular majority and give equal opportunity to every social class. Majority electoral system is an alternative that Canada should consider as an effective system that gives fair chance to all the candidates and parties.

Political campaigns, as discussed in the introduction, are efforts by the political parties and individual candidates to secure a position at the public office. Political campaigns allow the candidates to pitch for their political party and in the process; they tend to demean other contesting parties and candidates. Daignault et al. (2013) further brings in another interesting part of the political campaigns, which is the growing scientific interest in political advertisements. Physiological and cognitive methods are used to record the responses of the voters regarding the political advertisements they view during campaigns. This helps generate a more “nuanced and precise evaluation of the effects of negative advertising on viewers”.

In Canada, political campaigning has evolved progressively over just about two centuries. The campaigns are mostly adapted from the campaign practices of Britain and the United States. The political campaigns take place not only at the federal level but also at the provincial, territorial and municipal levels. The recent developments in the field of technology like the air transport, television and internet “have dramatically influenced campaign practices in recent times”. The Canadian political parties find political campaigns as the excellent opportunity to attract their voters and boast their strengths and achievements. In particular, as Pastine and Pastine (2012) notice, largely the big parties who have control over the majority of funds utilize political campaigns. Many however contrast this view stating that with the availability of free platforms like the social media especially Facebook and Twitter, smaller parties and candidates can now effectively campaign during elections. In democratic politics therefore, political campaigns are necessary despite criticism and opposition because these campaigns allow the minority candidates to have a fair chance.

The Role of Political Campaigns

According to experts, the electoral database used during the 2012 presidential election in the US for Barack Obama started a new era of political campaigning that had only helped strengthen democracy. The experts further elaborate that the present political scenario in the world is market-oriented where voters are treated as customers and political campaigning as marketing. There is nothing wrong in this perception of political campaigning because although democracy is an age-old system, the trends have changed and political campaigns are an important part of this trend. In any democracy including Canada, political campaigns give both the ruling party and the opposition a platform to engage in healthy debates thus presenting a clearer picture for the voters.

Another significant part of elections in the democracies is the use of polling. Polling in elections refers to the polls conducted by several political parties with the help of different agencies to predict election outcomes. Polling like opinion polling and exit polling provide a rough picture of the election results and these are further utilized by the political parties for post vote campaigning. Nevertheless, the results derived from these are ambiguous as the results are sometimes spot on while on other times, opposite to the actual results. As Barber et al. (2014) point out correctly, opinions expressed by the people are bound to differ because one issue that is important to one part of the country might not important to other part of the country. “The way in which one deals with information gleaned through public opinion polls must be conditionalized through a sensitivity to the limitations of the information which is being measured”, state the authors. They further add that a pollster’s activities must be seen as a “combination of science and art”. In their views, polling used in elections in Canada has proved advantageous because unlike other democracies like the US, India, UK, very few inaccuracies have been registered in Canada.

Budurushi, Jöris and Volkamer (2014) contradict this view stating that although the inaccuracies in results have been few, polling undermines the popular sentiment of the nation. The reason is that polling includes only a specific part of the population that might not represent sentiments of the whole nation. The authors give examples of the 1980 US presidential election where most pollsters had predicted a close contest but actual results indicated a landslide victory for Ronald Reagan. In the Canadian election scenario, polling exerts similar effects as it does in the US, which is influencing the voters. Brown et al. (2006) note, that although Canadian politics and elections have no record of exit polling, these are useful in collecting data as opposed to the more conventional designs. The authors refer to an experiment conducted by the research team at Wilfrid Laurier University in 2003 in Ontario where exit polling yielded great results regarding numerous issues. The experiment’s success also reflected the benefits of using polling during elections.

The Use of Polling in Elections

Elections are the integral part of any democracy. Elections provide the citizens with an opportunity to choose their most preferable candidate as their representative. It is one of the most important features of a democratic system. In the views of Papadopoulos (2014), democracy cannot be achieved fully without elections as it gives the participants of democracy the fair and free chance to express their political views. When elections take place at frequent intervals like in every four or five years, it creates a sense of responsibility and urgency in the representatives. They become aware that if they do not carry out their duties properly, they might not be able to win majority the next time. Smart, Michael and Sturm (2013) further carry this view forward by highlighting the power elections give to the voters. According to the authors, “periodic elections are the main instrument through which voters can hold politicians accountable”. The authors however oppose the term limits stating that it restricts the ability of the voters to re-elect their favorite representatives. It is thus clear from their view that elections are integral and vital to democracy as it ensures representative accountability and yields positive outcomes. Nonetheless, it is also important to consider other methods that could ensure that representatives feel accountable and responsible.

In contrast to this view, many experts have questioned the importance and credibility of elections. The most prominent example of elections backfiring is the Brexit result, as per them. Reybrouck (2018) states, Brexit is a turning point in the history of western democracy as never before has such a drastic decision been taken through so primitive a procedure – a one-round referendum based on a simple majority”. The author refers to the World Values Survey showing that the last decade has seen an increase in the demand for a stronger leadership; a leadership that does not have to worry about elections or parliament. In Canada too, observe Pammett and LeDuc (2003) the relevance of regular elections are diminishing. In their study, they found that the voter turnout in the 2000 Federal Elections in Canada was merely 64 percent as compared to 67 percent in 1997 and 69.6 percent in 1993. Although the turnout increased marginally in 2015 with 68.5 percent, the bigger picture is worrying for the fate of regular elections. These figures are worrying because it makes the representatives feel laid back and ignore their responsibilities.

Importance of Periodic Elections in Democracy

Voting is the chief part of any election in the democratic system. It has however been seen that in most of the democracies, voting is not mandatory and people are free to choose whether they want to vote or not (Santhanam 2018). Canada is one of the democracies where voting is not mandatory. The registered electors are allowed to skip the Election Day if they do not wish to vote for their preferred representative. It must be noted that a major part of the Canadian population does not have complete access to voting. This is largely due to racial and social biasness prevalent in Canada. Those who find it difficult to vote are the ones whose interests are also the most underrepresented. These include mainly the Indigenous people, the poor and homeless, the underemployed and unemployed, the youth and new citizens. This then results in the possession of political power in the hands of the richer, older and white population. Therefore, voting is extremely crucial for making sure that the citizens have their chosen representative exercise the powers for their benefit.

Debates however arise whether to make voting a mandatory law in Canada or not. However, it did not receive as much significance in the last federal elections as it should have. The voter turnout, as previously mentioned, was better in 2015 but still not a great one. Hence, the issue whether to make voting mandatory or not should be a mandatory topic of debate at least in the political gallows of the country. Lijphart and Grofman (1984) opposes mandatory voting claiming that it makes voting as an enforced responsibility rather than a right “enshrined and protected in the Charter” that is enjoyed by the people.  Many believe that Canada should take lessons from Australia and make voting mandatory for all who are eligible. It needs mentioning that in Australia, those who do not cast their vote are fined AU$20 for failing. Similar laws must be introduced in Canada to ensure credible and strong election of representatives. Those against the proposition argue that fining someone for failing to or not wanting to vote is too harsh and should not be implemented. In counter argument, Robert Asselin, the former senior policy adviser for Justin Trudeau, suggests that the most important thing is to let each Canadian engage in the political process.

Canada has, as discussed in the above sections, a single-member plurality electoral system. The system is most commonly known as the ‘first past the post’ system, which means that the candidates who receive even a relative majority of votes win the election. In the recent few decades, countries with this electoral system have begun to consider other forms of electoral system. In Canada, the significance of the topic is fathomed from the fact that it was one of the chief agenda of 2015 elections. Justin Tradue, in the 2015 elections had promised that it would be the last election that would be done under the SMP system.

Questioning the Importance and Credibility of Elections

The SMP system has both benefits and disadvantages. One of the key advantages of the system is that it largely produces stable governments with strong opposition. In addition, the system allows voters to vote in favor of a local candidate who stands for the specific geographical area of the voters. The disadvantages include over-rewarding of majority parties while the smaller parties receive fewer seats in spite of receiving higher share of popular votes. Further, the SMP system discourages the voters who support smaller parties and it then results into lower voters’ turnout. It is therefore important for Canada to rethink its electoral system and implement the ‘majority electoral system’ as the new alternative. Under the majority system, a candidate must receive a majority of votes, which is 50 percent plus 1 vote to win the election. Bormann and Golder (2013), while supporting the majority system states that the system has all the merits of the plurality system minus its demerits. The author further states that the majority system enables each representative to have the support of majority of her or his constituents.

Canada should implement this system as the SMP system is increasingly becoming outdated and unsuitable for the rapidly changing era. The two-round system of election ensures election of best of the best candidate. Under the system, in cases where the candidate fails to win absolute majority, second round is held where he or she has to contest against the second highest receiver of votes. The system thus ensures that people’s selection is valued and acknowledged.

Conclusion

Hence from the above analysis it is to be concluded that major part of the Canadian population does not have complete access to voting due to racial and social biasness. This has resulted in the possession of political power in the hands of the population who are superior there. Voting is the chief part of any election in the democratic system but Canada is one of the democracies where voting is not mandatory. This has resulted in the possession of political power in the hands of the population who are superior there. However, fair voting system could ensure that the citizens of China have their chosen representative exercising the power for their benefits and it needs to become a mandatory system for all the eligible candidates. The SMP electoral system in Canada, although have a positive role to play in stabilizing the government with strong opposition, but neglects the smaller parties of the country, the women as well as the other minority groups who deserve equal opportunity to run and rule their nation. Having a majority electoral system is hence the most suitable alternative for Canada. This is the system that gives fair chance to every candidates and parties.

References:

Barber, Michael J., Christopher B. Mann, J. Quin Monson, and Kelly D. Patterson. "Online polls and registration-based sampling: a new method for pre-election polling." Political Analysis 22, no. 3 (2014): 321-335.

Bormann, Nils-Christian, and Matt Golder. "Democratic electoral systems around the world, 1946–2011." Electoral Studies 32, no. 2 (2013): 360-369.

Brown, Steven D., David Docherty, Ailsa Henderson, Barry Kay, and Kimberly Ellis-Hale. "Exit polling in Canada: An experiment." Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique 39, no. 4 (2006): 919-933.

Budurushi, Jurlind, Roman Jöris, and Melanie Volkamer. "Implementing and evaluating a software-independent voting system for polling station elections." Journal of Information Security and Applications 19, no. 2 (2014): 105-114.

Daignault, Pénélope, Stuart Soroka, and Thierry Giasson. "The perception of political advertising during an election campaign: A measure of cognitive and emotional effects." Canadian Journal of Communication 38, no. 2 (2013).

Lijphart, Arend, and Bernard Grofman. "Choosing an electoral system." Choosing an electoral system: Issues and alternatives (1984): 3-12.

Pammett, Jon H., and Lawrence LeDuc. Explaining the turnout decline in Canadian federal elections: A new survey of non-voters. Ottawa: Elections Canada, 2003.

Papadopoulos, Yannis. "Accountability and multi-level governance: more accountability, less democracy?." In Accountability and European Governance, pp. 112-131. Routledge, 2014.

Pastine, Ivan, and Tuvana Pastine. "Incumbency advantage and political campaign spending limits." Journal of Public Economics 96, no. 1-2 (2012): 20-32.

Reybrouck, David. 2018. "Why Elections Are Bad For Democracy | David Van Reybrouck". The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/29/why-elections-are-bad-for-democracy

Santhanam, Laura. 2018. "22 Countries Where Voting Is Mandatory". PBS Newshour. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/22-countries-voting-mandatory

Singer, Matthew M. "Was Duverger correct? Single-member district election outcomes in fifty-three countries." British Journal of Political Science 43, no. 1 (2013): 201-220.

Smart, Michael, and Daniel M. Sturm. "Term limits and electoral accountability." Journal of public economics 107 (2013): 93-102.

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