What Happens When You’re MP-less?

September 20th, 2013 by Katie Reidel

It has been two months since my MP, Bob Rae, stepped down from his position as the representative from Toronto Centre to the House of Commons. Since then, there has been a lot of chatter about who his successor will be, as individuals clamour to get their names known by voters and the support of their respective political parties. Eventually one of these individuals will be my new Member of Parliament, but in the interim I am officially MP-less.

Toronto Centre

This is actually quite concerning to me. The House is currently prorogued, but right now I have no one responsible for speaking on my behalf in parliament. I feel a bit lost, as a Canadian without a representative. I have never been in this position before, so I was unsure about what happens to ridings without MPs.

A couple weeks ago I received a piece of mail from the House of Commons. A very official looking letter had been sent to me as a resident of Toronto Centre, explaining that although my seat was vacant I would be taken care of. The letter stated:

The House of Commons of Canada provides for the continuation of services to the constituents of a Member of Parliament whose seat has become vacant. The party Whip supervises the staff retained under these circumstances.

Following the resignation of the Member of Parliament for the Constituency of Toronto Centre, the Hon. Bob Rae, P.C., the constituency office will continue to provide services to constituents.

Click here to see a copy of the letter.

Constituency offices provide services to help their constituents interact with the government. They can help you with Employment Insurance or the Canada Pension Plan, with visa applications or immigration issues, or any other service provided by the Federal government. So at very least these services will continue to be offered to the constituents of Toronto Centre while we wait for a by-election to elect our next Member of Parliament.

If you’re living in a riding that is about to face a by-election, check out our tips on ‘Getting Ready for a By-Election.’

If you want to follow in-depth reporting on the Toronto Centre and other federal by-elections, including the nomination of candidates from the major political parties, please tune in to Pundits Guide.

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Canada’s Democracy Week: “Connect with Democracy”

September 16th, 2013 by Dan Allan

For the third year in a row, Elections Canada is organizing Canada’s Democracy Week, a civic education initiative to promote the importance of democratic involvement and voting. This year’s Democracy Week runs from September 16th to 23rd.

The theme for this year is “Connect with Democracy.” Democracy Week is about “connecting with people, places and information that help broaden your understanding of why democracy and voting are so important.”

We’re proud to be taking part in another Democracy Week! On September 23, CIVIX President Taylor Gunn will be in Ottawa to take part in a discussion on civic education titled “Breaking Down Stereotypes and Hang-Ups: Democracy and Citizen Engagement in Your Classroom.” It’s open to the public.

We’ve also been coordinating multiple “Rep Day” visits in schools across the country during Democracy Week, and throughout the fall. Rep Day is a nationwide civic education initiative that allows high school students to connect with their democracy by meeting elected representatives for a dialogue on current political issues.  

Rep Day

Rep Day aims to break down the stereotypes that young people have of politicians and the political process, and develop a better understanding of and a sense of trust in the people and institutions within our democracy. We’ll be sharing more details throughout Democracy Week and the weeks ahead.

Click here for a full list of Canada’s Democracy Week events.

Posted in News, Special Events | 2 Comments »

Weekly Round-Up: August 30

August 30th, 2013 by Dan Allan

Each Friday, CIVIX provides a digest of the major events in Canadian and international politics. For ongoing updates, follow us on Twitter at @CIVIX_Canada.

An “Unofficial” Nova Scotia Leaders’ Debate

Three of Nova Scotia’s party leaders met this week for a “moderated chat,” despite the fact that the provincial election has not yet been called. NDP Premier Darrell Dexter, Liberal leader Stephen McNeil and Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie met at an event hosted by the Halifax Chamber of Commerce to discuss likely campaign issues like the economy, government spending, taxes, education and immigration.

The Senate saga continues

Ontario Senator Mac Harb resigned this week. Harb was under investigation for inappropriate living and travel expense claims. Harb dropped his legal action and agreed to repay the remaining money he owed. Harb was appointed to the Senate in 2003 by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, and previously served as the Liberal MP for Ottawa Centre from 1988 to 2003.

Despite six Senate vacancies, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the he had “no immediate plans” to appoint new Senators.

Nominations and Appointments

Toronto deputy mayor Doug Holyday stepped down as the councillor for ward 3 to run in the Etobicoke-Lakeshore provincial by-election. Holyday won, and Toronto council decided this week that council would appoint his replacement rather than holding a potentially costly by-election.

Windsor councillor Percy Hatfield was also elected to the Ontario Legislature, and council will also be appointing his replacement. Someone posted a satirical “help wanted” ad on Kijiji that called for applicants to put their names forward for the ward 7 seat. “Why waste time with silly elections when we can just pick someone,” writes the anonymous poster.

Adam Olsen was appointed interim leader of the British Columbia Green Party this week. Jane Sterk resigned as party leader earlier this month. Olsen was defeated in Saanich North and Islands during the provincial election this spring, but won his seat in the Student Vote.

Former Prince Edward Island NDP leader Larry Duchesne will be running in the upcoming Nova Scotia provincial election in the riding of Cumberland South. Duchesne served as PEI NDP leader from 1991 to 1995.

Do you remember Tuxedo Stan? Despite being a cat, Stan ran a valiant campaign during last fall’s Halifax mayoral election. Stan is now battling cancer, but his brother Earl Grey plans to run in the Nova Scotia provincial election. Feline voter turnout is expected to increase dramatically, while mice will likely stay home on election day.

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Is Egypt on the Brink of Civil War?

August 27th, 2013 by Abhi Saini

Civil unrest continues to grow in Egypt following the removal of President Mohamed Morsi by the military last month. Increasing tension between Morsi supporters and the interim government has placed Egypt on the brink of political uncertainty and chaos.

Peace talks between government security forces and protesters have failed, and violent public clashes have been the result. In response, the government has cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood supporters and leaders in Cairo. The government has made it clear that the violence will continue.

These attacks have left hundreds dead and many injured. Human Rights Watch called the violence the “most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history.” World leaders and prominent organizations, like the United Nations, have condemned the violence.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird released a statement noting that “Canada firmly believes that implementing a transparent democratic system that respects the voices of all Egyptians, including members of civil society and religious minorities, is the best way to restore calm and give all Egyptians a stake in the future stability and prosperity of their country.”

Acting Egyptian vice-president Mohamed ElBaradei resigned in the aftermath of the violence. Security forces also arrested the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader Mohammed Badie in an effort to break down the party while it is “struggling to keep up its street protests against the authorities.”

In response, the Muslim Brotherhood appointed Mahmoud Ezzat as its temporary leader. The party released a statement noting that the arrest of Badie “will change nothing” and that the party will continue to protest against the “coup.”

In other Egyptian news, former President Hosni Mubarak (who was removed from office in 2011) was released from prison last week. He has been placed under house arrest “as part of the emergency measures” imposed this month after violence escalated in the country following the crackdown.

Despite his release, Mubarak still faces trial for allowing the killings of protesters during the 2011 uprising against his regime. If the court finds him guilty, he could be sent back to prison.

Judging from the current political climate in Egypt, it is clear that the interim government has failed to unite a deeply divided country. If the violence continues to persist, it could lead Egypt towards a deadly civil war. Peace talks must resume between the two parties to find a political solution addressing the conflict.

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Weekly Round-Up: August 23

August 23rd, 2013 by Dan Allan

Each Friday, CIVIX provides a digest of the major events in Canadian and international politics. For ongoing updates, follow us on Twitter at @CIVIX_Canada.

House of Commons prorogued until Thanksgiving

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on Monday that the House of Commons would be prorogued and would not resume until after Thanksgiving. The House was originally scheduled to resume on September 16, but the prorogation will allow the government to present a Speech from the Throne and begin a new session of parliament.

Fiscal update adds to election speculation

Former Nova Scotia Finance Minister Graham Steele released the first quarter fiscal update for the 2013-2014 provincial budget on Monday. There has been a lot of pre-election chatter and preparations in the province lately (which we summarized in this week’s Student Vote blog), and it’s only a matter of time until an election is called.

New electoral maps in QC, BC and SK

Do you live in Quebec, British Columbia or Saskatchewan? If so, your province now has new federal electoral maps. Electoral districts are reviewed and revised every 10 years, after the census, to ensure the boundaries reflect population movement and growth. The changes don’t go into effect until the 2015 election, but you can check out the new maps now.

New MPPs welcomed to Queen’s Park

Ontario voters went to the polls earlier this month for five provincial by-elections. The winners were sworn in this week, and are now officially Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs). The new MPPs are Liberal Mitzie Hunter (Scarborough-Guildwood), Liberal John Fraser (Ottawa South), New Democrat Percy Hatfield (Windsor-Tecumseh), New Democrat Peggy Sattler (London West) and Progressive Conservative Doug Holyday (Etobicoke-Lakeshore).

“Jack’s Got Your Back”

New MPPs weren’t the only things unveiled in Toronto this week.  A “life-size bronze sculpture” of former NDP leader and Leader of the Opposition Jack Layton was officially installed at the Toronto ferry terminal that now bears his name. Thursday marked the sec0nd anniversary of the former MP’s death.


What’s the most important news story of the week? The answer is simple: CIVIX is hiring a Communications Coordinator. Apply now, and tell your friends!

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Communications Coordinator

August 21st, 2013 by CIVIX

CIVIX is seeking a motivated and enthusiastic individual to join its team and assume the role of Communications Coordinator.


CIVIX is a national charity that aims to build the capacity and commitment of young Canadians to participate in their democracy.  CIVIX provides experiential learning opportunities to help young Canadians practice their rights and responsibilities as citizens.

CIVIX’s flagship program is Student Vote – a parallel election for students under the voting age, coinciding with official election periods.  The program combines in-class learning, family dialogue, media consumption and an authentic voting experience.

Following 10 years of success with the Student Vote program, CIVIX is at a pivotal place to expand its new programming streams and increase its reach and effectiveness during and between elections.

CIVIX is looking for a Communications Coordinator to assist with outreach, communications, marketing, media relations and event planning.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Implement communication strategies in both official languages for a variety of CIVIX programs, including Student Vote, Rep Day, Student Budget Consultations and Democracy Bootcamps.
  • Draft and/or translate (to French) written communications for key target audiences.
  • Build relationships with stakeholders in the francophone education system.
  • Conduct outreach to French schools to encourage participation in CIVIX programs.
  • Communicate with French and English teachers via phone and email and support them in program implementation.
  • Coordinate the translation of program resources, including lesson plans and online tools.
  • Assist in the development and production of creative multi-media promotional and program related tools and resources.
  • Coordinate logistics for CIVIX events and conferences.
  • Assist with office administration.
  • Other duties as assigned.


  • Demonstrated experience in the education or communications field.
  • Superior communication and facilitation skills.
  • Excellent organizational skills with demonstrated ability to execute projects on time.
  • Strong understanding of Canada’s electoral process and government structure.
  • Proven ability to work in a small team setting.
  • Flexible, creative and willing to take initiative.
  • Good computer skills, proficient with MS Office applications.
  • A degree in communications, journalism or political science is preferred.
  • Written and spoken fluency in French is required.
  • Must not be affiliated with any political party/politician at the federal, provincial or municipal level.


One year contract position, with opportunity for renewal. Hourly wage is $18-$22, depending on experience and credentials.

Some evening and weekend work may be required.

Deadline to apply: Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the position is filled.

Cover letter and resume to be submitted as one Word or PDF e-mail attachment to hello@civix.ca with Communications Coordinator in the subject line. No phone calls about the position can be accepted. We thank all applicants for their interest, but only those selected for an interview will be contacted.

You can read the complete job posting here.

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Weekly Round-Up: August 16

August 16th, 2013 by Dan Allan

Each Friday, CIVIX provides a digest of the major events in Canadian politics. For ongoing updates, follow us on Twitter at @CIVIX_Canada.

Will there be fall elections in Nova Scotia and Quebec?

Last week, we wrote about how a Nova Scotia provincial election seemed “imminent.” There still hasn’t been an election call by Premier Darrell Dexter, but the Chronicle Herald reports that MLAs are “sticking close to home” as an election call “looms.” A number of spending announcements from the governing NDP have only added to this “election speculation,” and next week’s fiscal update could be the last hurdle before Dexter drops the writ.

Quebec could also see a provincial election in the “weeks and months to come,” according to Liberal leader Phillippe Couillard. Quebec has had minority government after last September’s election, and Couillard seems poised to topple PQ Premier Pauline Marois. Couillard, who does not have a seat, has announced that he will run in the Roberval riding.

The importance of municipal politics

Yesterday, Preston Manning wrote about the importance of municipal politics and how a greater interest and engagement in local government will strengthen our democracy as a whole. It can be easy to view municipal politics in a negative light at times (like when the City of Detroit put the wrong election date on a billboard), but we noticed two encouraging stories this week, both from Manning’s home province of Alberta (which heads to the polls for municipal elections in October):

In Calgary, Mayor Naheed Nenshi is launching an online campaign to increase voter turnout for the municipal election – including council and trustee races. The website will remind you to vote, provide information on where to vote, and provide tips for how to inspire friends and family to vote.

In Edmonton, potential city council and school board candidates took part in an information session that went over tips and rules for campaigning. Candidates aren’t officially in the race until September 23, but attendees will be better informed on campaign signs, donations and the voting process.

More resignations

Conservative MP Merv Tweed announced that he will resign his Brandon-Souris seat at the end of the month to take on a new job as president of OmniTRAX Canada. Tweed has represented the riding since 2004, and previously served as an MLA in the Manitoba legislature and as a municipal councillor and deputy reeve in the rural municipality of Brenda. There are now four vacancies in the House of Commons.

BC Green Party leader Jane Sterk also announced her retirement this week.  Sterk has led the party since 2007, but does not have a seat in the provincial legislature. Andrew Weaver, who became the first Green Party MLA in BC after the May election, has announced that he will not pursue the interim leadership role but may one day run to be the permanent leader.

Leadership races in full swing

Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal leader Kevin Aylward resigned last January. The first debate in the leadership race to replace him takes place next Thursday in Gander. There are five candidates, but CBC News reports that it will come down to three main contenders: Dwight Ball, Cathy Bennett and Paul Antle. The leadership convention is being held in November. Eddie Joyce currently serves as interim party leader.

In Alberta, two candidates have announced that they will run for the leadership of the Alberta Party. Troy Millington and Greg Clark, both from Calgary, are running to replace Glenn Taylor, who resigned last fall. The new leader will be chosen on September 21.

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An Update on Online Voting (Part Four)

August 15th, 2013 by Katie Reidel

Here’s the latest news on jurisdictions across Canada that are discussing internet voting for future elections:

NO to Online Voting

Newfoundland and Labrador

Residents of Newfoundland and Labrador will be heading to the polls this fall for a municipal election, but they won’t be voting online. Minister of Municipal Affairs Kevin O’Brien thinks it is better to have 30 per cent of the community turn out who have a true interest in their city than large numbers of uninformed voters who vote online just because they can.

East Gwillimbury, Ontario

Councillors in East Gwillimbury voted against implementing online voting for the 2014 municipal election. Some councillors who voted against the proposal were disappointed that it only planned for online voting in advanced polls, not on election day. A paperless election may still be in East Gwillimbury’s future.

Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ontario

Online voting is not recommended by Stouffville council, who are instead opting to go with optical scan tabulators. These machines can identify if a voter has over- or under-voted, and give them the opportunity to amend their ballot. These machines were used in 2010 and their familiarity to the public is one of the key points in keeping them for 2014.


YES to Online Voting

Kingsville, Ontario

The town of Kingsville is considering using online voting for the next municipal election in 2014. CBC reports that Mayor Nelson Santos and council are considering moving to online voting or voting by telephone. “By looking at internet voting [and] voting by telephone from home, we’re looking to see if there are any concerns or hurdles that our residents would have, or any reservations about going to that type of process,” Santos said.

Springwater, Ontario

According to Bayshore Broadcasting, voters in Springwater will be able to vote either in person, by telephone or on the Internet in the municipal election in October of 2014. This article also points out that online voting extends to tablets, smartphones, and even gaming devices such as the Xbox and Wii!

Central Huron, Ontario

Huron News Now reports that Central Huron residents will have the option of voting by internet or telephone in the 2014 municipal election, following a decision by council in July. The municipalities deputy reeve Dave Jewitt lamented that this might be the downfall of the traditional style polling station, but that the town won’t know online voting’s possibilities or successes unless they try it. Central Huron is trying to boost a dismal turnout in the last election of 37.78 per cent.

Guelph, Ontario

The community that was hardest hit by the robo-calls of 2011 has committed to online voting for the 2014 municipal election. Guelph council passed an initiative that will allow for online voting during advance polling in 2014, the success of which will determine if it becomes full-scale in 2018.

West Perth, Ontario

Voters in West Perth will only be able to vote online or by phone in the 2014 municipal election, as the paper ballot disappears from the municipality completely. Clerk Florence Stalenhoef believes that if the municipality doesn’t voluntarily take this project on in 2014, they will be forced to do so in 2018.

Leamington, Ontario

Leamington is considering online voting for the 2014 municipal election. As other municipalities have already tested this process before Leamington, Clerk Brian Sweet believes that many of the problems with the process have been worked out, according to Blackburn News. The process is expected to be cheaper than paper ballots, and online stations will be set-up for the public to use.


Is online voting being considered where you live? Let us know!


Check out the earlier articles in this series:

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Weekly Round-Up: August 9

August 9th, 2013 by Dan Allan

Each Friday, CIVIX provides a digest of the major events in Canadian and international politics. For ongoing updates, follow us on Twitter at @CIVIX_Canada.

Is a Nova Scotia election imminent?

We must confess that a lot of time in the CIVIX office has been spent monitoring the #nspoli hashtag on Twitter lately. With good reason, of course: we’re busy preparing for a Nova Scotia Student Vote program, which educators can register for online.

The Chronicle Herald reported this week that politicians are in “full election mode.” There have been many events and announcements by party leaders, and campaign videos have begun to be released. Many candidates have already been nominated, with many nomination meetings scheduled for the weeks ahead.

An election call by Premier Darrell Dexter would interrupt many summer vacations, but it could also delay proposed regulations that would make it mandatory for all MLA offices in the province to be fully accessible.


Elections Canada formally received the Notice of Vacancy for the Toronto Centre riding this week. MP Bob Rae announced he would step down back in June and made it official on July 31. Last week we wrote about some potential candidates who intend to run to replace him.

There are now three vacant seats in the House of Commons, and it’s likely that all three by-elections will be held at the same time. The earliest these by-elections could be held would be September 23, with the writs dropping on August 17. The writ for the Bourassa by-election must be dropped before November 30.

Senator Rod Zimmer also stepped down this week due to health reasons. Zimmer was appointed to the Senate in 2005 by Prime Minister Paul Martin.

What’s on TV? Territorial politics!

Are you a fan of territorial politics? You’re in luck! It just got a whole lot easier for you to follow along with the legislative proceedings in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

This week, the CRTC ordered all direct-to-home satellite TV providers in the two territories to carry the legislative assembly channels as part of all subscription packages. Residents will now be able to tune into legislative debates, and keep track of their local representatives.

Mayors of all ages

John Hamlyn is the mayor of Crow Head, Newfoundland and Labrador. He is 81, and has been mayor since 1963. That’s 50 years! Mississauga, Ontario Mayor Hazel McCallion is 92, but has only been in office for 34 years.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Robert “Bobby” Tufts has been elected to a second term as the honourary mayor of Dorset, Minnesota. Tufts is only four years old, and was three when first elected last year. Each “vote” costs $1, and proceeds go to pay for a local festival.

Posted in News, Weekly Round-Up | 1 Comment »

Voting in Iran

August 7th, 2013 by CIVIX

Hassan Rouhani was elected as President of Iran on June 14, 2013, receiving 18.6 million votes and 50.7 per cent of popular vote. Rouhani was inaugurated on August 3, replacing Mahmooud Ahmadinejad as Iran’s political leader, subordinate only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

The 2013 election was the 11th presidential election since the 1979 Islamic revolution, where Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew a Western-backed monarchy and introduced some democratic reforms.

With the adoption of democratic ideals comes a learning curve for both politicians and citizens, and, in 1979, citizens grappled with the concept as they began to interpret its viability to greater Iranian society. However, as opposing factions within Iran debated the institutions and values that would govern future leaders, external forces would impede any meaningful progress in this realm.

Iran’s first president was impeached in the summer of 1981, and his replacement assassinated only six weeks later. Not until autumn of 1981, nearly three years after the Shah fled the country, was a stable office of the presidency established with the electoral victory of Ali Khamenei, who served as president until 1989.

Since the end of the Iraq War, elections in Iran attracted much fanfare and were seen as a viable instrument for change. Between 1989 and 2005, Iranians voters elected four successive moderate governments led by Presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami.


Iranian elections continue to garner some of the highest voter turnouts in the Middle East, proof that democracy in Iran is active and generally participatory. Even in 2009, when post-election unrest led to some political disorder, the value of elections to the Iranian people was evident. The latest presidential election drew 72 per cent voter turnout, compared to 85 per cent in 2009, 59 per cent in 2005, and 68 per cent in 2001.

Comparatively, similar sized countries with a developed sense of democracy do not seem as successful at drawing voters to participate in elections. Voter turnout for parliamentary elections in the United Kingdom and Germany has hovered around 60 per cent since the turn of the century, and only Turkey, with laws that punish those who do not vote, boasts higher voter turnout rates than Iran. Comparatively, Canadian federal elections have drawn an average of 61 per cent turnout since 2000.

Since its infancy, the subject of democracy in Iran has been sensitive, partly because it was taken away in 1953. When recaptured in 1979 after nearly thirty more years of autocratic rule, democracy presented something different. For decades, decisions for the Iranian people were made in foreign capitals, whether it be Moscow, London, or Washington. In 1979, democracy offered the prospect of local government operated by Iranian political thought, and three decades later, this process continues to unfold.


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