Election Day: A civic holiday and cultural tradition

Updated: Oct 30, 2020


Credit: London Free Press


Canada has a tradition, mandated in law, that elections be held on a Monday. Monday has no real significance, it is just the way things have been done. Yet since 2000, there has been significantly lower voter turnout than at any other time since Confederation. It is time to question why Monday? Why a day when people work? 


Time for a Rethink

A core principle of democratic elections is higher voter turnout. Without it, there is less legitimacy for the winners and more distrust from the losers. Federal election turnout now hovers around 64%, 10% lower than the later half of the 20th century. Provincial elections can drop below 50%


The day an election is held is an important factor for voter turnout. 22% of Canadians said they did not vote in the 2011 federal election because they were “too busy”. While you may think that one cannot be too busy to vote, there are millions of Canadians that cannot miss work because those missing hours would impact their quality of life.


We must consider how to provide the most time to allow Canadians to vote. For Our Future sees two options. Elections could be held on the weekend or there could be a civic holiday. While both would be better than the status quo, holding elections on weekends may lead some with religious affiliations to choose worship over voting. It is the latter, a civic holiday, that is the most effective tool at enabling the most Canadians to vote.


Changing the Process and the Culture

Election Day needs to be on a non-working day to allow everyone to vote. This enables those who cannot afford to take time from work to vote and for easier volunteering for poll workers. Moreover, this civic holiday should always be held on a Wednesday to avoid people using it as an extended weekend. If both of these recommendations are acted on all Canadians could execute their civic duty on a civic holiday.


There are additional incentives. This procedural change could invoke a more impassioned cultural tradition. Like Australia, creating a positive environment for voting that includes activities, and food and beverages would transform voting into a community event and not solely a civic duty. Local governments could incentive this cultural phenomenon by providing permits to local businesses to sell food and beverages and facilitate community activities.


A Civic Right, a Civic Holiday

Voting should not be suppressed by an inaccessible Election Day and it should not feel like a chore but a celebration of our democratic right that we should enjoy with our communities. More than half of Canadians already want it.


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