Preparing for an Election… Already?



February 13, 2024
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Every four years (and sometimes sooner), you get to vote in both federal and provincial elections for a candidate of your choice in your riding.

But did you know how much work goes into preparing for an election? And did you know that your MP might effectively be chosen before the election?

The Candidate Selection Process

Months and perhaps years before an election is held, political parties in every riding, through riding associations or electoral district associations, decide who will be their candidate in the next election.

The party with the existing MP, MLA, or MPP for the riding (the incumbent) has it easy. They usually just let that candidate run again if he or she wants to. But for all other parties, their electoral district association needs to pick a new candidate. Sometimes, there is only one person who is interested in running. In that case, that person is acclaimed as the candidate. But in many ridings, especially when a party has a good shot of winning the riding, several people want to become the party’s candidate in which case the riding association holds a nomination race.

These nomination races are critically important and provide a great opportunity for ordinary citizens to make an impact.

How? Here’s an example. A few years ago, the riding of Abbotsford-Mission, like many other ridings across British Columbia, was a relatively safe seat for the BC Liberal Party. The BC Liberal candidate had a streak of winning the riding, often by over 20 percentage points and by over 5000 votes (out of 25,000) in the general provincial election. In political terms, that was an enormous margin of victory. Each individual vote had little impact on which party won that riding. If you were one vote out of 25,000, you had 0.004% of the electoral power.

But before the general provincial election, the BC Liberal Party (and all other parties) had to nominate a candidate for that riding.  In the 2017 BC Liberal nomination race for Abbotsford-Mission, the winning candidate won by 13 votes. Less than 200 people voted meaning each voter held over 0.5% of the electoral power (about 125 times more than in the general election).

So, getting involved locally in a party, mobilizing supporters for a particular candidate, and voting in these nomination races is a huge political opportunity.

But is it really all that important to participate in choosing a party’s local candidate? Don’t most candidates within the same political party have similar views?

Not necessarily. Competitive political parties are typically “big-tent” or “brokerage” parties that try to appeal to different segments of the population. Individual candidates of the same party may have very different positions on important issues. Not all Conservative MPs, for example, are pro-life and not all NDP or Liberal candidates want to expand euthanasia.

These nomination races are great opportunities to ask your would-be local candidates where they stand on various political issues or persuade them to adopt a pro-life or pro-family stance. Sometimes, the local candidate of the party you usually vote for doesn’t reflect your values very well at all. In those cases, it might be worth looking for a candidate from another political party – perhaps a smaller political party – that better reflects your views.

ARPA Canada is non-partisan. We don’t endorse any particular party or candidate. But we certainly encourage you to be engaged in partisan activities. And we invite you to question those who want to represent you about their positions on various issues and then to support the good candidates and oppose the bad with your vote, time, and resources.

If you want to get involved but don’t know where to start, you can check out political parties’ websites. You can reach out and ask the party to connect you with the party’s local riding association. Or you can sign up to become a member of the party and get the local riding association’s updates of what is going on in the riding. Alternatively, you can visit Elections Canada and search for the contact information of your local riding association. The local riding association is in the best place to let you know who the candidate of the party in the next election will be or provide you with opportunities to get involved in nomination races.

Influencing a Party’s Election Platform

If you already have an MP, MLA, or MPP that you like who is running again in the next election, you can help prepare for an election in a different way: ask them to advocate within their caucus for certain policies to be part of their party’s election platform.

Election platforms are usually long and detailed and have a single aim in mind: to convince as many voters as possible to vote for the party. And the only way that a political party, its MPs, and its leaders know what voters want is for us to tell them the policies that are important to us. If we never mention to our MPs that stopping sex-selective abortion is really important to us and lots of other voters, parties have little reason to campaign on stopping sex-selective abortion. Or fixing Canada’s conversion therapy law. Or halting expansion of euthanasia. The list can go on.

For example, the 2021 Conservative election platform was 164 pages long, with most pages containing many policy recommendations. Because of the advocacy of everyday citizens like you and the passion of many MPs in the Conservative caucus, that platform included seven promises to limit euthanasia in Canada.

So, we need to meet with, call, or email our MPs and encourage them not only to introduce good laws now, but also to commit to running on good policies in the next election. Do you find the idea of meeting with your MP or local party candidate nerve-wracking? It’s often easier, and more impactful, to invite him or her to a meeting with a group, such as with your local ARPA chapter, or with a group of parents from your school or people from your church.

If parties publicly commit to a policy in the next election, we can remind them of their public promises once they get into power. For example, you can see how well Prime Minister Trudeau has kept his election promises at Polimeter.

So Take Action!

The next federal election is scheduled for 20 months away. But to make an impact, we need to take action now!

Get involved in your local nomination races and help nominate solid candidates for the next election. Meet with your local representative and implore them to advocate for biblical policies within their caucus and during the next election campaign.

Democracy is all about letting your voice be heard. So continue to find and use these ways to speak up!

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