After the Conservative government was found to be in contempt of Parliament, the government fell and Canadians were plunged into election mode. We are now about two weeks into a whirlwind six week election campaign that will end with the vote on May 2, 2011.
Whether you are a new voter, a seasoned pundit looking for more tools to play with, or a non-Canadian who wants to learn more about Canadian politics, this article is designed to introduce you to some online tools to help you navigate the election.
Elections Canada is the independent, non-partisan agency that is responsible for conducting federal elections and referendums in Canada. The site has comprehensive information for voters who want to find out when, where and how to vote. It also has information on the basics of the electoral system in Canada for those who want to learn more about our first-past-the-post system of directly electing 308 members of the House of Commons.
Canada’s national broadcaster, the CBC, has developed a Vote Compass to help voters understand how their opinions on issues correspond with the platforms of Canada’s major political parties. The use of the tool has been extremely high, but it also has its critics — mainly people saying that the way the questions are expressed doesn’t give people room to give an answer that is truly representative of their views (or those of the political parties themselves).
This website, developed and maintained by Alice Funke, is heaven-on-the-Web for pundit geeks like me. The site has tons of data, but the section I am using most often is the Regions section, where users can look up their own region and specific riding to find out who the candidates are, how people voted in the past, financial information on campaign spending and more.
This website is in French only, but is incredibly fascinating and you only need minimal French to be able to navigate through it. Basically, you select your riding from the drop down box above the map (“choissisez une circonscription”) and you can then get polling station by polling station data for your riding, which gives you very detailed information on exactly how the people who live closest to you voted.
This website runs an ongoing prediction of the results of the election, identifying on a riding-by-riding basis which parties are expected to win. It also lists “too close” ridings that cannot yet be predicted because the race is too close. Those are the areas to watch in the election. If you are in one of those ridings (80 of them are listed as “too close” right now), you have a good chance of helping to determine the outcome of the election.
The Vote Pair service, which uses the tagline “6 million votes shouldn’t be wasted,” allows Canadians to swap votes with someone in a different riding. If your preferred party has no chance of winning, you can swap votes with someone in a riding where your party does have a chance of winning and theirs doesn’t. This system (and other similar ones) was used by thousands of people in the last election (mostly in an attempt to shut out the Conservatives wherever possible) and may have potentially altered the results in two ridings.
Political Party Websites and Social Media Presence
All of the major political parties have websites and they are also making extensive use of twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube and more to get their message out to Canadians.
The websites of the major political parties are:
The NDP has even created an iphone app, which appears to be quite popular.
A lot of people are calling this the twitter election. Not only are the political parties and the party leaders online, but individual candidates, staffers, journalists, pundits and politically active Canadians are using twitter as a way to share their opinions and ask questions about the election. The general hash tag used to discuss Canadian politics on twitter is #cndpoli and the hash tag being used for this election in particular is #elxn41 (41st Election).
People are also using the acronym of individual political parties as hash tags when discussing their platform and campaigns (e.g. #NDP). I have also created a Canadian politics twitter list that follows the major political parties, their leaders and some journalists and pundits that are following the campaign closely.
What other online resources do you use to follow the campaign, to learn about the issues, and to decide how to vote?
Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.
Image credit: D'Arcy Norman on flickr