Canadians vote in general election today
After 78 days of intense campaigning Canada’s voters go to the polls today to elect a new parliament.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper of the centre-right Conservative Party of Canada has been in office since 2006 and is looking to secure a record third term with a win today. He called the election twelve weeks before polling day in the hope that the Conservatives would be able to outspend their centre-left rivals, the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Liberals.
At the start of the campaign the Conservatives and NDP were pretty much neck and neck with the Liberals trailing way behind. But in the last few weeks the Liberal campaign has come alive and in a poll published in the final days of the campaign Nanos Research has the Liberals way ahead on 39.1% with the Conservatives second on 30.5% and the NDP running out of steam on 19.7%.
However, this is a ‘first past the post’ election where local support and loyalties matter a lot and where national averages don’t always lead to local wins.
In 2011 the Conservatives won 166 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons with 39.62% of the vote. The NDP came second with 103 seats and 30.63% and the Liberals took 34 seats with 18.91%. Two other parties won representation, the Bloc Québécois with four seats and the Greens on one seat.
In this election there are 338 ridings (as the Canadians call their constituencies) so 170 seats are needed for a majority. There are 23 registered political parties and 1,796 candidates standing with 26.4 million eligible voters. Around 3.6 million voters chose to take an advance voting option this time which lasted from 9th to 12th October. Elections Canada says the number of people opting for advance voting was up 71% this year.
The 20,000 polling places will stagger their openings because of the size of the country covering six time zones. Polling stations will open for 12 hours with polling stations opening at 9.30 a.m. and closing at 9.30 p.m. Eastern Time and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pacific Time.
Elections Canada say that preliminary election results will start coming in from 7 p.m. Eastern time. You can get live results here.