Bringing the Vital Signs Report to Student Vote classrooms across Toronto

February 26th, 2015 by Dan Allan

Rahul Bhardwaj, President & CEO of the Toronto Foundation, recently met with a group of “budding city councillors” at a Toronto high school. These students were a part of a joint initiative between the Toronto Foundation and CIVIX, to bring the Toronto’s Vital Signs® Report into Student Vote classrooms across the city.

Coinciding with official election periods, students learn about government and the electoral process, debate the issues, and participate in a parallel vote on the official local candidates.

In the fall of 2014, 1,640 schools registered and 133,202 ballots were cast as part of the Student Vote program for the Ontario municipal and school board elections. Toronto’s civic elections were particularly exciting, and more than 30,000 students from across the city cast their ballots for mayor, council and school board trustee.

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To increase engagement, CIVIX and the Toronto Foundation partnered to bring the Vital Signs® Report into nearly 300 Toronto schools.

One of 191 Community Foundations in Canada, the Toronto Foundation is an independent charitable foundation that connects philanthropy to community needs and opportunities across the city.

Published annually by the Toronto Foundation, the Report identifies the trends and issues affecting the quality of life in Toronto. It aims to inspire civic engagement and provide focus for public debate.

The Report and a specially developed classroom activity were distributed to registered Team Leaders in Toronto to accompany other Student Vote resources. Through the Vital Signs® Report, students learned about issues affecting their city in more detail, and encouraged discussion about how different candidates would address those questions.

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One participating teacher said the Toronto Vital Signs® Report, “fostered interest in municipal politics and inspired my students to advocate for issues affecting their community” and added that it “gave us a lot of knowledge about our city and also provided an important framework within which I was able to bring up issues that were a part of municipal politics.”

Teacher Alicia Roberge and her Grade 9 geography class at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute provided a great example of how Student Vote and the Report could work hand in hand to increase youth civic engagement.

Alicia’s students created a series of videos and presented their work to Toronto Foundation President & CEO Rahul Bhardwaj on November 27, 2014. You can watch a video recap of the visit here.

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“CIVIX was delighted to work with the Toronto Foundation last fall and have the opportunity to provide interesting research and statistics to participating schools in Toronto. We know it fostered great dialogue in classrooms about important issues facing our city. It was a valuable experience for all involved,” says Taylor Gunn, President and CEO of CIVIX Canada.

Overall, the partnership between CIVIX and the Toronto Foundation was successful in providing students with a greater understanding of the issues at hand in the municipal election. We look forward to working together again during the next Toronto election!

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Legislatures set to return for the fall session

August 28th, 2014 by Abhi Saini

Over the next few months, provincial legislatures and the House of Commons will return for their respective fall sessions. Here’s our recap of the dates when each legislature is expected to resume:

One legislature has not yet set a date for their fall return:

Stay tuned for the latest news!

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International Election Digest

August 14th, 2014 by Abhi Saini

Turkey, Sweden and Fiji are in the midst of elections! Here’s our breakdown of the latest news.

TURKEY

Turkey hosted their presidential election on August 10. After the first round of voting, current Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (representing the Justice and Development Party) won the election with 51.9 per cent of the vote. Opposition candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu secured 38.3 per cent of the vote.  There will not be a run-off due to the “huge margin” of victory.

During this election campaign, Erdogan said that if elected he will amend the constitution to transform the ceremonial post of president into a “US-style executive powerhouse.” Ihsanoglu expressed no interest in supporting an executive-style presidential system.

During the last presidential election in 2007, Abdullah Gül was indirectly elected as the president by the members of the Grand National Assembly. Constitutional amendments were made to allow the president to be elected directly to serve a five-year term.

SWEDEN

The Swedish general election will take place on September 14, 2014. As per the constitution, the election must take place every four years in September to allocate the 349 seats in the Riksdag (Sweden’s parliament). At the same time, elections will also be held for municipal assemblies and county councils. The Swedish electoral system uses proportional representation.

The last Swedish general election was held on September 19, 2010. After the official ballot count, the center-right “Alliance” – comprised of the Moderate Party, Centre Party, Liberal Party and Christian Democrats – secured 172 seats in parliament and won a second term. The “Red-Greens” – comprised of Social Democrats, the Left Party, and the Green Party – secured 157 seats in the parliament. Voter turnout was at 84.6 per cent and over 6 million voters participated in the election.

Presently, there are ten political parties participating in the fall election. According to opinion polls, the Social Democrats are leading with 30.8 per cent of voter support.

FIJI

Fiji will host its first general election since the 2006 military coup on September 17, 2014. The election writ was recently drawn up by acting Chief Justice Anthony Gates, confirming the election date.

Prior to the adoption of a new constitution in 2013, Fiji had a bicameral parliament comprised of a Senate and the House of Representatives. Fiji now has a parliamentary system comprised of 50 seats, with each member serving for a five-year term. Members of parliament will be elected by a “multi-member open list system” of proportional representation.

On March 5, 2014, Rear Admiral and interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama successfully handed over the Fiji military command to Commander Brigadier Mosese Tikoitoga and announced his plan to run in the election as a candidate. Later in April, Bainimarama announced Dr. Jiko Luveni as the first candidate to join his Fiji First Party (FFP). There are currently five political parties participating in this election.

To ensure a free and fair election, Fiji will set up a task force to monitor the way media outlets report on the campaign.

Stay tuned for more international election news and coverage!

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Leadership Race Update

August 7th, 2014 by Abhi Saini

Over the next few months, ten political organizations from across Canada will elect new leaders. Here is our breakdown of the latest news surrounding these leadership races.

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador leadership race began when Kathy Dunderdale announced her resignation as the premier and party leader on January 22, 2014. On January 24, 2014, Tom Marshall was sworn in as interim party leader and the province’s 11th premier.

Nominations for the position of party leader closed on July 7, 2014 and Paul Davis, Steve Kent and John Ottenheimer were announced as leadership candidates. The election will take place during the PC leadership convention on September 13, 2014.

Prince Edward Island

Olive Crane stepped down as the leader of PEI PC Party on January 31, 2013. On the same day, Steven Myers was appointed as the party’s interim leader. The PEI PC leadership convention was to be held this fall, but the convention date is being reconsidered now that the next provincial election will be held in 2016.

Nova Scotia

Darrell Dexter stepped down as the leader of the Nova Scotia NDP on November 23, 2013 and Maureen MacDonald was appointed as the party’s interim leader. The leadership election date is yet to be decided. Both Maureen Macdonald and Peter Stoffer have declined to run for the leadership position.

Québec

The Parti Québécois leadership race began with Pauline Marois stepping down as PQ leader after her election defeat on April 7, 2014. The PQ caucus chose Stéphane Bédard as the interim party leader. The leadership election date is yet to be decided and the campaigning isn’t expected to start before this fall. Prospective candidates include MNAs Pierre Karl Péladeau, Bernard Drainville and Jean-François Lisée.

Ontario

Tim Hudak stepped down as the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party on July 2, 2014. Following his resignation, the PC caucus elected Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson as the interim leader. Although no date has been decided for the leadership election, preparations have begun to seek a new leader. So far, Whitby-Oshawa MPP Christine Elliot has declared her candidacy and other possible candidates include MPPs Lisa MacLeod, Vic Fedeli and Monte McNaughton.

Manitoba

James Beddome resigned as the leader of the Green Party of Manitoba on November 16, 2013 and Alain Landry was appointed as the interim leader. The date for the leadership election has not yet been decided.

Alberta

The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta (PCAA) leadership race began when Alison Redford announced her resignation as the party leader and premier of Alberta on March 19, 2014. On March 20, 2014, caucus members elected Dave Hancock as interim leader and premier.

On June 2, 2014, the PCAA introduced Jim Prentice, Ric McIver and Thomas Lukaszuk as official leadership candidates. The leadership vote will be held on September 6, 2014 in a “two-round” voting system. If no candidate wins a clear majority, the two leading candidates will move to the second round of voting on September 20, 2014.

Alberta’s New Democratic Party leadership race began after Brian Mason announced his resignation as the party leader on April 29, 2014. The leadership election date is set for October 18 and 19, 2014. So far, Edmonton-Calder MLA David Eggen, Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley and former candidate Rod Loyola have declared their candidacy.

British Columbia

The Green Party of BC is still in the process of electing a new party leader.  Jane Sterk stepped down as the party leader on August 13, 2013 and Adam Olsen was appointed as the interim leader. No date has been finalized yet to formally elect the next party leader.

Assembly of First Nations (AFN)

Shawn Atleo resigned as the chief of Assembly of First Nations on May 2, 2014. During the 35th Annual AFN Conference in Halifax, native leaders voted to elect a new leader. Grand Chief David Harper of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak said “any of the candidates to replace Mr. Atleo will have to campaign on promises of reform.” The leadership vote will take place in Winnipeg this December.

Which leadership race are you most looking forward to?

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11 Things to Know about the 2014 Indian Election

April 22nd, 2014 by Abhi Saini

Over the course of next month, Indian voters will elect 543 members of the 16th Lok Sabha, the lower House of Parliament. Here are eleven key things you need to know about the 2014 Indian general election and the Indian political system:

  1. As many as 814 million eligible could cast their ballots in this year’s election. The last general election in India took place in 2009 with 713 million eligible voters. Due to the large number of voters, the election will be conducted in nine phases spread across five weeks. The election commenced on April 7th and will conclude on May 12th. The final results will be announced on May 16th.
  2. According to the Election Commission of India, 930,000 polling stations have been set up across the country to execute the electoral process. Polling stations have been equipped with 1.7 million EVMs (electronic voting machines).
  3. India’s government is structured as a federal system and is constituted as a sovereign, secular, socialist, democratic republic. Like Canada, the country’s government is divided into three branches: executive, legislative and judicial. Also similar to Canada, India uses the First-Past-The-Post electoral system where the candidate with the most votes wins.
  4. India has a bicameral legislature which is based upon the British Westminster system. There is an upper house (Rajya Sabha, or the Council of States) and a lower house (Lok Sabha, or the House of the People).
  5. The Lok Sabha is comprised of 545 seats, out of which 543 seats are directly elected and 2 are appointed by the country’s president. According to constitutional requirement, Lok Sabha elections must take place every five years.
  6. The executive leader – the prime minister – is appointed by the lower house. The party holding a majority in the lower house elects its leader as the prime minister. If no party holds a majority of seats, parties forms coalitions until they acquire the required number of seats to elect a prime minister.
  7. India has a multiparty system. There are two are major national parties and an additional 50 state or regional parties. According to the Association of Democratic Reforms, there are a total of 1,600 political parties in India. The majority of such parties register with the Election Commission of India but never participate in any election.
  8. Party coalition plays an important role in Indian politics and legislative policies. No political party has won a majority since 1989 and support from other parties is required to form a working government. The United Progressive Alliance coalition (UPA), led by the Indian National Congress, along with the opposition Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) has been in power for past 10 years.
  9. This year’s election will primarily be contested by three major political parties: the centre-left Indian National Congress party led by Rahul Gandhi, the right wing Bhartiya Janata Party led by Narendra Modi and the centre-left Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Arvind Kejriwal.
  10. Nepotism and criminality continue to undermine credibility of the candidates in the upcoming election. According to research, “nearly 30 per cent of current members of parliament are from political families; for parliamentary members younger than 40, the figure rises to two-thirds.” Furthermore, according to a recently published research, almost a “fifth of candidates in India’s upcoming elections are facing criminal charges.”
  11. Indian youth will play a key role in this year’s election. It is estimated that 150 million Indian youth between the ages of 18 to 23 years will cast their vote for the first time. 

It will be interesting to see how the election unfolds and if any of the major political parties will manage to secure a majority or once again rely on regional support to form a coalition.

You can also read Abhi’s blog on Republic Day of India and the Indian electoral system.

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New Staff Profile: Vicky Mochama

April 16th, 2014 by CIVIX

Hi, my name is Vicky Mochama. I am joining CIVIX as a Campaign Communications Assistant. I will be supporting communications for various Student Vote projects.

It was actually thanks to a civics teacher in my high school that I got involved in politics. I was invited to join the Model United Nations team in tenth grade and I loved everything about it from researching to making speeches to negotiating. Because of that experience, I believe that regardless of how old you are, everyone can have an opinion on political issues and has a right to have their opinions heard.

Vicky Mochame

At Carleton University, I studied communications and political science which let me combine my passion for politics with my love of popular culture. More than just watching MTV and writing about it (yes, yes, I did), I was also very involved on campus. I joined the Carleton Model UN Society – first as a delegate and then as president – and also helped organize Relay for Life.

In my spare time, I volunteer at the Revue Cinema in Roncesvalles as a volunteer coordinator. I like reading, watching movies and playing board games. I’m a sore winner at Scrabble and a delighted loser at Twister.

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Canadian legislatures head back to work

January 22nd, 2014 by Abhi Saini

*Updated on March 24, 2014

Most provincial and territorial legislatures, as well as the House of Commons, will head back to work over the next few weeks.

Here’s our breakdown of the dates each legislature is expected to return:

Experiencing a legislature in action can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Check out the website for your local legislative assembly to find out how to visit or schedule a tour.

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Prince Edward Island: “A beacon of engagement”

November 12th, 2013 by Dan Allan

The Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island reconvenes at Province House today to open the 4th Session of the 64th General Assembly.

PEI has been described as “a beacon of engagement” as “voting is a must for most in the province, not an afterthought.”

Voter turnout during the 2011 PEI provincial election was the “lowest in decades” (76.5 per cent of Islanders voted, compared to 83.8% in 2007), but PEI still consistently has the highest turnout in Canada, at both the provincial and federal level. Federal turnout in 2011 was only 61.1 per cent.

Troy Media columnist Andy Walker wrote last week about the great democratic tradition in PEI:

Tucked between Remembrance Day and Christmas is a highlight of the year for many Islanders – the fall sitting of the provincial legislature.

I have been told there are provinces where the visitor’s gallery at the legislature is virtually empty most of the time and where most people don’t know who their elected representative is. PEI is on the other end of the spectrum.

The visitor’s gallery is usually full and the first 10 to 15 minutes is usually taken up by MLA’s welcoming their constituents. Many Islanders go to the building where the Fathers of Confederation met 149 years ago each sitting day to watch the proceedings. Hundreds more watch on the local cable channel.

The best way to ensure electoral success is PEI is to be “a good constituency person.” Islanders expected their MLA to be at weddings, funerals, anniversaries and birthdays. Every high school graduate gets a letter from the premier. It is not uncommon for an elected politician to help a constituent fill in a job application or apply for a passport – especially if they are a senior and the application involves a computer.

This trend may not be as prevalent as it once was, but it is still too strong to ignore for any politician or would be politician. Watching their elected representatives in action is just a logical extension of that mentality.

The session that begins November 12 should prove to be one of the most interesting in recent memory. 

We’re proud to work with many great educators in Prince Edward Island. Nearly 5,000 PEI students took part in our 2011 provincial Student Vote program, and more than 6,500 PEI students cast ballots during the 2011 federal Student Vote program.

Are you following your MLA on Twitter? Check out our list

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Kim Campbell reflects on being Canada’s first woman prime minister

November 7th, 2013 by CIVIX

The Right Honourable Kim Campbell served as the Prime Minister of Canada from June 25 to November 4, 1993. This past Monday marked the 20th anniversary of the end of her time in office. Megan Beretta, a CIVIX volunteer and University of Ottawa student, attended a panel that included Campbell this week.

On Wednesday, November 6, the University of Ottawa played host to The Right Honourable Kim Campbell, the first female Prime Minister of Canada. The event was held due to a partnership between uOttawa’s Women in Leadership Speaker Series and the national political organization Equal Voice.

The former Prime Minister spoke about a variety of topics. She discussed the benefits of having women in management roles, and how equality in leadership is not about women being “better,” but about women making the organizations better, as they bring half of the world’s talents, perspectives, and skills to the table, when given the chance to contribute. Quoting statistics and research from the field, she proved that women make a difference in breaking up the norms in societal structures, and make a difference to the monotonous “group think” that occurs in organizations lacking diversity.

Kim Campbell

Alongside Campbell on the panel were other female politicians: Penny Collenette, former National Director of the Liberal Party of Canada and current uOttawa Professor of Law, as well as the 22-year-old Member of Parliament, Laurin Liu, of the riding of Rivière-de-Mille-Îles.

Campbell praised the feminist “movers and shakers,” like Liu, who continue to pursue equality, with the assistance of their teammates: male feminists. The struggle is not about women versus men, rather between men and women who “get it” versus the ones who don’t get it, she stated emphatically. She finished her speech with an anecdote: her colleague made her get specialized stationary that used the French female form of her title, proudly stating “La Premiere Ministre” on the letter head. “It’s in some box, likely over in Langevin Block,” she said, “and before it gets too old, too yellowed, it needs to be used again.” Thunderous applause erupted across the room to that call to action.

The panel that followed her moving speech included questions from Liu and Collenette who added anecdotes, and used their experiences to ask pointed questions. The prime minister discussed her legacy, which is often forgotten amongst the discussion of her short tenure, and the immense changes for her party that were occurring before, during, and after her time in office.

Many citizens may not realize her remarkable contributions, and thusly, her legacy in Canada. Besides from being Canada’s first, and so far only, female prime minister, Campbell was the very first female leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, the first female Minister of Defence and Minister of Justice, along with having held other significant portfolios throughout her time in Parliament. In her time as prime minister, she created important and enduring ministries, like the Department of Heritage and the Department of Public Security.

During Ms. Campbell’s tenure as Prime Minister in 1993, she had an approval rate of 51 per cent, which made her the most popular leader of the country in 30 years. Campbell spoke with great candour, humour, and resilience. She discussed the infamous negative ad campaigns, and what it feels like to lose everything for herself, and her party. The setbacks never got to her, not 20 years ago, and not today. Her perspective is admirable, as she proclaimed: “I don’t pretend I was the greatest Prime Minister. But I do have a legacy. I am the first woman Prime Minister, and that is a reflection of change in Canada.”

Posted in Famous Canadians in Democracy, Guest Blogs, News | 1 Comment »

New Staff Profile: Conor Holash

November 6th, 2013 by Conor Holash

Hey there! I’m Conor and I’m very excited to be starting with CIVIX. I’ve joined the team as a Communications Coordinator and have hit the ground running in more ways than one. After a few interviews with Taylor, our co-founder, I packed up my life in Ottawa and found myself in the CIVIX office the next day. Almost immediately, I started working with Taylor to expand our Rep Day initiative that puts Members of Parliament face to face with an incredibly important constituent demographic: high school students.

Politics and civic engagement have always been important topics in my family, and I’d have to say that my interest in them came from my parents. We’d have long discussions during long road trips to visit family members scattered around my home province of Saskatchewan. These conversations left me surprised when I got to high school and realized that not everyone gets exposed to these important topics in their youth.

Conor Holash

This is why the Rep Day initiative has been a passion project for me. Rep Day ensures that students are given the opportunity to talk politics and to put a face to their local representative.  It essentially gives them a reason to care. This hits especially close to home for me. If I hadn’t been interested in politics, I would have missed out on a lot of the opportunities that brought me to CIVIX.

After finishing high school, I moved to Ottawa to work as a Page in the House of Commons and have been hooked ever since. From that time I’ve worked a number of different jobs on Parliament Hill that have all focused on teaching other people about our country and how it’s governed. Once I looked up CIVIX and the Student Vote program, I knew right away that it’d be a good fit. I’m excited to see what comes next!

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