An Update on Online Voting (Part Two)

April 30th, 2013 by Dan Allan

We have previously written about the debate over online voting in municipalities across Canada. Cities like Sudbury and Cambridge will be able to vote online during their next municipal elections. Edmonton and St. Albert have rejected online voting. Waterloo is still investigating how online voting could be implemented.

Here’s a rundown of some recent online voting news:

East Gwillimbury, ON

East Gwillimbury, Ontario is exploring whether online voting could help improve their voter turnout. City council is currently investigating whether phone and internet voting should be added in time for next year’s municipal election. Only 37 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2010 election.

Wasaga Beach, ON

Wasaga Beach, Ontario is also considering whether to implement internet and phone voting for the next municipal election. Online and phone voting would replace the touch screen voting terminals used in the last two elections, if approved by council. Only 27 per cent of voters cast ballots in 2010. 31 per cent of voters cast ballots in 2006.

Wasaga Beach had problems with long lines at polling stations on election day in 2010, and town clerk Twlya Nicholson believes that internet voting could help solve these issues in the future. Voters would be mailed a pin number they would use to cast their ballot online. Traditional voting stations would still be made available.

Vaughan, ON

The city council in Vaughan, Ontario is currently debating whether online voting could be considered for future elections. Online voting would be used in next year’s elections, and there are concern over the cost of implementing an online voting system and whether it would crash if a large number of electors tried to access the system at one time. Alternatively, council has also discussed spreading election day over multiple days, to ease congestion at polling stations and making voting more convenient.

Huntsville, ON

Huntsville, Ontario has decided to “scrap” the electronic voting system used during the 2010 municipal election due to concerns over hacking. During the last election, the server used by the voting system was “overburdened,” preventing some voters from casting ballots. Huntsville will return to using traditional paper ballots.

Calgary, AB

Calgary, Alberta won’t be voting online this October, but the idea is receiving “growing attention” at city hall. There are still concerns over voter fraud and coercion, but returning officer Barb Clifford thinks that “the technology and the security has taken some major leaps forward.”


The government of Alberta has withdrawn its support from the idea of online voting. Edmonton, St. Albert, Airdrie and Strathcona County had been considering online voting, but Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths announced that they would not financially support online voting. Griffiths is unsure about the reliability of the voting technology.

Strathcona County is still considering a mock election this fall where high school students will test the system.


Postmedia News reported that budget cuts at Elections Canada have “pushed a pilot project on Internet voting off the agenda indefinitely.” According to the article, Elections Canada had hoped to introduce online voting for by-elections beginning in 2013 in an attempt to see if it would increase turnout.

Federal Liberal Leadership

Justin Trudeau was selected as the leader of the federal Liberal party on April 14. The leadership vote took place online and by phone between April 7 and April 14 using a preferential ballot. 104,552 ballots were cast from all 308 federal electoral districts. The process was initially complicated by more than 1,000 voters who could not get the system to accept their date of birth.


Not directly related to online voting, but still worth noting:

A Latvian website has been created that allows citizens to provide input on the legislation considered by their Parliament.  ManaBalss, which translates to “My Voice,” allows citizens to propose initiatives and submit petitions. Any initiative that gathers 10,000 signatures must be taken up by Parliament.

The website allows signatures to be gathered online, where they are verified using similar technology to online banking. Two ideas proposed on the site have already become law, and two are currently being debated.

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


Posted in News, Online Voting | 11 Comments »

Visit 5 of Canada’s Most Beautiful Political Landmarks (Without Leaving Your Couch)

April 19th, 2013 by Kate Fane



On April 9th, Google Canada brought its special panoramic camera to Parliament Hill, promising a virtual tour of the historic buildings for viewers around the world. While the results haven’t been uploaded yet, it won’t be long before online visitors have access to the House of Commons, the Senate, the Library of Parliament, the Hall of Honour and even Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office.

In honour of this exciting development, we’ve put together a list of five other important Canadian political sites you can tour with a simple click of the mouse. 

British Columbia Parliament Buildings. Victoria, BC


If you ever need a push to start your next project, just think of Francis Rattenbury: soon after immigrating to Canada from England, he won a contest to design the British Columbia Parliament Buildings when he was just 25 years old. Originally budgeted at $500,000, the final bill for construction was $923,000, a pretty serious amount of money back in 1898. It was well worth the cost though, as the Parliament Buildings were recently listed as one of the 11 most beautiful government buildings in the world.

Hôtel du Parlement. Quebec City, Quebec


Just outside the walls of Old Quebec sits the beautiful home of the home of the province’s parliament. Designed by architect Eugène-Étienne Taché, the building took seven years from 1877 to 1886 to be fully completed and features a 171-foot tall tower. When taking your Google tour, be sure to look closely at the building’s façade: it features an intricate pantheon representing significant events and people of the history of Quebec. In 1985, the complex of parliamentary building was declared a Site historique national (“National Historic Site of Quebec”). To date this is the only such site in Quebec.

Province House. Halifax, NS


Halifax’s Province House has got some serious history. It’s so old that even Charles Dickens himself paid a visit, proclaiming it a “a gem of Georgian architecture.” The Nova Scotia Legislature calls this building home, and has met every year since 1819, making it the longest serving legislative building in Canada. Province House is also Canada’s oldest house of government, as well as a National Historic Site. If you’re able to ever make it down in person, free guided tours of the building are offered, and they’re chock full of interesting tidbits. And for more information about Province House, check out CIVIX team member Katie’s post about her recent visit. 

Manning Centre. Calgary, AB


In January of this year, former Reform Party leader Preston Manning launched the new Manning Centre in Calgary as a training facility for those who subscribe to conservative values. Manning initially started the project in 2005 to provide assistance and education to anyone involved in a Canadian Conservative campaign, including candidates, volunteers, campaign managers and staff. Manning has admitted that he’d love for the swanky new space to become a tourist attraction in the city, and thus, he’s allowed Google Street View the full insider tour already.

Hôtel de Ville de Montréal. Montreal, Quebec


Montreal’s City Hall has had a rocky history: built in 1878, the building was completely gutted by a fire in March of 1922, leaving only the outer wall and destroying many of the city’s historic records. A complete remodel was required, as well as a new copper roof.

In 1967, City Hall was the site of Charles de Gaulle’s infamous Vive le Québec libre! (“Long live free Quebec!”) speech during Expo 67. Considered a serious breach of diplomacy, de Gaulle’s speech had major repercussions in Canadian and French politics. 

 And last, but not least, the CIVIX office on 639  Queen Street. 


It won’t be long before Google Street View catches the team doing our daily push-up regime.

By Kate Fane

Posted in News | 4 Comments »

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Institute on Parliamentary Democracy

April 14th, 2013 by CIVIX

I love waking up in Saskatchewan.

My first memory upon waking was sitting with the Speaker of the Legislature and six teachers for two hours last night speaking of everything from the founding of the Saskatchewan Party (of which Mr. D’Autremont was one of the original eight) to the purchase power of Ontario’s LCBO.

It’s not like I cruise into Regina and call up Mr. Speaker and invite him for drinks.  At least not yet. I’m here because I was invited to be a part of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Institute on Parliamentary Democracy (SSTI) and I am loving every minute of it.

These things are not new to me, but the difference here is that I am attending the whole Institute rather than just popping in for a 45 minute session. It is so awesome.

My team will appreciate how difficult it is for me to sit through anything, let alone something that is so similar to school. But it is not like school at all. At least not for me. And that is because everything we are learning and studying and debating is all about our politics, our democracy and how we educate and engage young people to be committed citizens, which is the most interesting stuff in this world.

If we want better politics, a stronger and more robust democracy and I will happily and firmly argue a better future, then we need our young people and in turn all citizens engaged. I think we do that through knowledge (yes, it is that simple to me) and we do that by creating engaged teachers that engage their students.

The SSTI is doing that effectively. Yesterday, Day 1, brought a group of 21 teachers from all over the province to get started on an agenda that will take up five days and surely leave everyone completely exhausted and totally inspired.

Day 1 offered our first introduction to the Saskatchewan legislature with a tour by the legislative staff and eventually a chance to sit in the seats used by the MLAs and engage in a private meeting with The Speaker. I have to say that the poor opposition here must feel somewhat lonely on the other side of the house with only nine seats. The legislature itself rivals any other legislative building in Canada and I would suggest may be more beautiful than our House of Commons. That’s just my opinion and much of that has to do with its setting.

Following our session we returned to our hotel to review the curriculum through a presentation by the Ministry of Education. Most interesting is that their ROVER curriculum system is now available to all teachers and students in the province on the web and accessible from anywhere. This is a new change that only came in December.

We then returned to the legislature again, this time for a special catered dinner in the rotunda hosted by the Speaker and with special guests, the Ombudsman and Children and Youth Advocate and others.

So what is my favourite part so far? The people.

I love meeting people from different parts of our country. I won’t try to explain it through words as it would ruin the attempt, but there is something that makes us all Canadian no matter whether we are from Kelvington or Christie and St. Clair. It’s like we reek of Canadian-ness. I love it so much.

A couple of shout outs: thank you, Cori for inviting me to be a part of this. I sincerely appreciate it. Brent, thanks for being a long-time friend and confidante to me and this work. Mr. Speaker, thank you for a wonderful conversation last night. I’m keen to see you tomorrow night at the LG’s party.

And personally important: thank you Shae at Crossfit Regina for letting me drop in yesterday for an absolute grilling through wall balls, handstand push ups and power cleans. That was the BEST way to start this trip.                        


Posted in News | 2 Comments »

Student Budget Consultation Results

March 19th, 2013 by Dan Allan

For the very first time, high school students had the opportunity to advise Canada’s Minister of Finance, on the federal budget through the Student Budget Consultation.  More than 4,000 students took part from across the country.

Last Thursday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was briefed on the Student Budget Consultation results at at his office in Ottawa.  Flaherty expressed his thanks to CIVIX for conducting a “terrific consultation,” and noted the “very interesting results.”

Minister Flaherty meeting with students.

“One of the primary concerns is balancing budgets, reducing deficits and so on, which is dear to my heart,” said Flaherty. Flaherty expects that this will be a project that will “continue from year to year.”

At the event, Minister Flaherty announced that the 2013-2014 federal budget would be tabled on March 21st. It will be interesting to see how recommendations from the students will be incorporated.

Minister Flaherty receiving the Student Budget Consultation report.

You can watch the entire press conference here.


Global News has created the Grading the Budget page to share results from the Student Budget Consultation. Nine articles have been published so far, and segments appeared on Global National and other local newscasts on Monday evening.

Grading the Budget

The articles discuss many of the Student Budget Consultation findings, including:

You can view the complete results here. Click here for an infographic of the results highlights.


Posted in News | 1 Comment »

International Women’s Day

March 8th, 2013 by Dan Allan

March 8 is International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day is a day to show respect and appreciation for the economic, political and social achievements of women across the world. 

International Women's Day

Women’s Day was first observed in 1909 in the United States. International Woman’s Day was first held in Europe in 1911, and more than 1 million people took part in protests and demonstrations. Participants demanded equal rights for women, including full suffrage (the right to vote in elections).

The suffrage movement had been taking place in many countries, including Canada, since the mid-19th century. Canadian women received the right to vote in 1918.

In the beginning, International Women’s Day was predominantly celebrated in communist and socialist countries. In fact, International Women’s Day protests in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1917 helped spark the Russian Revolution. Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin later made Women’s Day an official holiday in the USSR.

International Women’s Day became an international event when the United Nations declared March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace in 1977.

Learn more by visiting the International Women’s Day website.

Posted in News, Special Events | Leave Comments »

An update on online voting across Canada

February 6th, 2013 by Dan Allan

Several Canadian municipalities are considering the implementation of online voting. Here’s an update:

Edmonton and St. Albert, AB

A new report recommends that Edmonton should implement online voting for their fall municipal election. St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse believes that his city could also bring in the new technology.

Edmonton conducted an online voting experiment last fall where residents were asked to vote for their favourite jelly bean flavour. More than 1,000 people registered, and the system proved to be secure in the face of several planned and unplanned hacking attempts.

In an exit survey, 77 per cent of participants said they had high to very high confidence in the system’s security. 91 per cent said they would be likely to vote online in a real election.

However, an Edmonton council committee heard from a number of citizens with concerns about the safety of online voting on January 28. Edmonton council voted against the use of online voting on February 6. St. Albert also announced that they would no longer pursue online voting.

Airdrie, AB

Airdrie city council was presented with information about the possible use of the same online voting system currently being piloted in Edmonton and St. Albert for their 2013 municipal elections.

56 per cent of Airdrie’s 2012 census results were completed online, so manager of legislative services Sharon Pollyck believes online voting is an avenue worth pursuing to increase turnout.

Council members had questions about issues of security, voter fraud, spoiled ballots, the costs of online voting and the possible exclusion of some voters.

Some aldermen saw the “value” of online voting, but others “lamented the possible loss of traditional voting.” Council decided to table the proposal until more information related to their concerns was available.

On February 4, Airdrie council approved the use of online voting in the October 21 municipal elections.

Sudbury, ON

Voters in Sudbury voters will be able to vote online during next year’s municipal elections. However, the online vote will be restricted to advanced polls.

Under the proposed change, voters would receive a PIN in the mail. One activated online, it can only be used once.

Councilor Frances Caldarelli is “extremely excited” about the plan, noting that she sees it “as a way to increase the number of young people voting.”

Cambridge, ON

Cambridge approved two new voting methods for the 2014 municipal elections. Residents will now be able to vote by phone and online.

Noting the success in Halifax, City Clerk Alex Mitchell notes that online voting, “would result in no spoiled ballots, reduce the need for neighbourhood polling stations, staffing and the need for scrutineers.”

Mitchell also noted that online voting would not increase voter turnout, “it will only make it more convenient for existing voters.”

Kitchener, ON

Kitchener will not hold an online vote for the 2014 municipal election after councilors received an extremely critical report on online voting.

After 18 months of study, councilors were told that online voting does not increase participation in elections. However, online voting increases costs, reduces transparency and is vulnerable to coercion and fraud.

In particular, concern was expressed regarding how one member of a family could vote on everyone’s behalf and how no “paper trail” was left behind in case a recount was required.

Kitchener will explore other ways to increase engagement. Only 25 per cent of eligible Kitchener voters cast a ballot in 2010.

Waterloo, ON

Waterloo is investigating the use of telephone and online voting for their 2014 municipal elections and is seeking proposals from online voting companies.

Councilor Jeff Henry grew up in Markham, a city that has used online voting for several years. He is skeptical of the safety involved in an online vote.

Alternatively, Councilor Karen Scian argued in favour of the online vote, noting that it had the potential to engage more citizens by making it easier to vote.

Further Reading

  • The University of Western Ontario used online voting for their University Students’ Council (USC) presidential election last February. The system was hacked, and the results were declared null and void.
  • The NDP used online voting for their leadership convention last March. A “cyber attack” slowed down the voting system and delayed voting for several hours.
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia used online voting during their municipal election last October. 22 per cent of voters cast their ballots online, and there were no reports or allegations of online voting malfunction or fraud.
  • British Columbia had been considering online voting for future provincial and municipal elections.
  • The city of Markham, Ontario has successfully used online voting to improve their voter turnout.


Posted in News, Online Voting | 2 Comments »

Black History Month

February 1st, 2013 by Dan Allan

February is Black History Month in Canada. Black History Month was created to “honour the legacy of black Canadians, past and present.”

Black History Month began in 1926 as “Negro History Week” in the United States. The week became more popular over time and was formally acknowledged by the U.S. federal government with the creation of Black History Month in 1976.

Canada began officially observing Black History Month in 1995. Notably, the motion to implement Black History Month in Canada was introduced by MP Jean Augustine, the first black woman elected to the House of Commons.

In 2008, the Senate of Canada unanimously approved a motion to officially recognize Black History Month. The motion was introduced by Senator Donald Oliver, Canada’s first black man appointed to the Senate. Canada’s first black woman senator was Anne Cools.

Visit here for more information on Black History Month in Canada.

Posted in News, Special Events | 1 Comment »

Republic Day of India

January 30th, 2013 by Abhi Saini

The Canadian Prime Minister is the leader of the political party with the most seats in the House of Commons.

India, one of the world’s largest growing democracies, uses a completely different system to choose their leader.

The Indian republic is led by a President chosen by other elected officials from across the country.


This past Saturday marked the 64th Republic Day of India.

The Indian Constitution came into effect on January 26th, 1950 and, as a result, India became a republic.

India had removed itself from British rule in 1947 with the Indian Independence Act, but the country did not yet have a permanent constitution.


Abhi, our Research and Program Development Intern, summarizes how government and the electoral system work in India:

On July 19, 2012 India’s legislature elected Pranab Mukherjee as the country’s 13th president, replacing  incumbent President Pratibha Devisingh Patil at the end of her 5 year term in the country’s highest elected office.

According to India’s Constitution of 1949, Article 324 vests powers in Election Commission of India to exercise its constitutional responsibility to “supervise, direct and control” the presidential election and to ensure that the elections are “free and fair.”

India, being a republic, is led by a president.  This leader is elected by representative lawmakers from Vidhan Sabha (Lower House at the provincial level), the Electoral College comprised of elected MPs from Lok Sabha (House of People or Lower House, elected directly by citizens), Rajya Sabha (Council of States or Upper House comprised of 250 members; out of which 12 are appointed by the president and rest are elected by the state and territorial legislature), and lastly by the legislatures representing India’s Union and Territories.

As outlined in Article 53 of the Constitution, executive powers are exercised through the president in accordance to the constitution. In addition, part 5 of the constitution notes that the president holds “supreme command” of armed forces regulated by law and plays a provisional role in the Legislative and Judicial Brach of the government. Further, the president is seen as the nation’s first citizen and represents the “Indian nation and does not, therefore, belong to any particular political party.”

Posted in News, Special Events | 1 Comment »

Sir John A. Macdonald Day

January 11th, 2013 by Dan Allan

Happy birthday, Sir John A. Macdonald!

January 11th is Sir John A. Macdonald Day. Macdonald was Canada’s first Prime Minister and played an instrumental role in Canada’s confederation in 1867.

Impress your friends (and your teachers) with these interesting John A. Macdonald facts:

  • John Alexander Macdonald was born on January 11th, 1815, in Glasgow, Scotland. The Macdonald family moved to Kingston, Ontario in 1820.
  • In 1856, Macdonald became the Premier of Canada West (which later became the provinces of Ontario and Quebec).
  • The 1864 Charlottetown Conference, which led to confederation, was originally designed to discuss only a union of Maritime provinces. MacDonald, and the other delegates from the Province of Canada, requested that the agenda be expanded to discuss a union of all provinces.
  • Macdonald was elected as Canada’s first Prime Minister in 1867, representing the Liberal-Conservative Party.
  • Macdonald was our second-longest serving Prime Minister (after William Lyon Mackenzie King). Macdonald led the country for a total of 19 years: from 1867 to 1873, and again from 1878 to 1891.
  • Canada added several new provinces and territories to confederation under Macdonald’s watch: the Northwest Territories in 1869, Manitoba in 1870, British Columbia in 1871, and Prince Edward Island in 1873.
  • The North-West Mounted Police were created under Macdonald’s watch in 1873. Today, we know our national police force as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
  • The Canadian Pacific Railway was completed with Macdonald as Prime Minister in 1885, linking Canada from coast to coast.
  • After winning re-election in 1891, Macdonald passed away at the age of 76. He remains the only Prime Minister to lie in state in the Senate chamber.

Posted in Famous Canadians in Democracy, News, Special Events | 3 Comments »

Municipal Politicians Leading by Example

December 11th, 2012 by Dan Allan

Last week we wrote about several Canadian mayors who had been in the news for the wrong reasons. These missteps include conflicts of interest, allegations of fraud, resignations, and the possibility of being removed from office.

Today’s blog provides several cases from the opposite end of the spectrum. Here are some instances of Canadian municipal politicians setting the right examples for their colleagues:

Kingston, ON

Mark Gerretson became the mayor of Kingston in 2010 after serving as a city councillor for four years. As part of Local Government Week in October, Gerretson “challenged” local grade 10 students to show what they would do to improve the city over the next 25 years through essays, videos, songs, or poems. Gerretson’s goal was to spark the students’ creativity while letting them learn some of the responsibilities he has as mayor.

North Dundas, ON

Eric Duncan became the mayor of North Dundas in 2010 at the age of 22. Previously, Duncan had been elected to city council at the age of 19 and served in that role while studying political science at Ottawa’s Carleton University. In addition, Duncan currently works as the Executive Assistant to Conservative MP Guy Lauzon. Duncan tries to actively involve youth in his township by visiting schools and engaging in social media.

Fredericton, NB

Dan Keenan has been a Fredericton city councillor since 2004. Despite winning his seat by acclamation in last May’s election, Keenan spoke out in an effort to increase voter turnout on Election Day. According to Keenan, “people should never assume a certain outcome will occur. It’s important to have your own say.”

Vancouver, BC

Gregor Robertson has been the mayor of Vancouver since 2008. Previously, he had served as an MLA in the BC Legislature from 2005 to 2008. Recently, Robertson joined the “Chinese Twitter” website Weibo to better communicate with his city’s large Chinese community. Robertson was already an active Twitter user in English.

Saskatoon, SK

Saskatoon mayor Don Atchison was first elected in 2003. During his 2012 re-election campaign, Atchison joined Twitter to engage voters in the October election. It worked, and Atchison was re-elected and is now serving his fourth term as mayor.

Montreal, QC

Michael Applebaum became the mayor of Montreal last month after the resignation of Gérard Tremblay. Last week, Applebaum announced that executive committee meetings would now be available live online for the general public to watch. Previously, these meeting had been private. This change could help restore trust in Quebec municipal politics after several resignations.


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