Facts about Canada's election system

Voters will elect 338 members of the House of Commons, the same number as in the last ballot. PHOTO: REUTERS

OTTAWA (AFP) - Canadian voters go to the polls on October 21 after a 40-day campaign triggered by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's advice to the governor general to dissolve parliament.

Here are some facts about Canada's 43rd general election:

Seats up for grabs

Voters will elect 338 members of the House of Commons, the same number as in the last ballot. Members of Parliament are elected for four-year terms.

Turnout in the last election was 68.3 per cent, compared to 61.1 per cent in 2011. The number of registered voters has risen by more than 10 per cent to 27.4 million.

Preliminary figures showed voter turnout during advanced polling was up from 2015.

Rivals for power

The Liberal Party has been in power since 2015 in a landslide victory against the Tories, who had ruled for nine years.

This campaign has again pitted the Liberals against the Conservatives, led by Andrew Scheer, along with the smaller New Democratic Party (NDP) led by Jagmeet Singh, Elizabeth May and the Green Party, and Yves-Francois Blanchet's Bloc Quebecois.

After losing a Tory leadership race in 2017, former foreign minister Maxime Bernier formed the People's Party, and an NDP MP kicked out of his party over harassment allegations last year revived its predecessor, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), defunct since 1961.

At parliament's dissolution on September 11, after counting defections, firings, retirements and deaths, the Liberals held 177 seats, the Conservatives 95, the NDP 39, the Bloc 10, the Green Party two, the People's Party one, and the CCF one.

There were also eight independent MPs - including two former Liberal ministers - and five vacant seats.

New election rules

A 2015 Liberal pledge to reform Canada's electoral system, eliminating first-past-the-post voting in favor of proportional representation, was abandoned due to a lack of a clear consensus for a new system.

However, most eligibility criteria for special ballots were repealed, making it easier for Canadians living abroad to vote in this election.

New restrictions have been placed on third-party advertisers during the campaign, including a ban on the use of foreign funds. And web firms such as Facebook and Google have been required to maintain a public registry of election advertising on their platforms.

Constitutional monarchy

A constitutional monarchy rooted in its past as part of the British Empire, Canada's official head of state is the Queen of England. But it is also a parliamentary democracy, in which the prime minister is the head of government and chief executive.

In line with British tradition, the head of the party that wins a majority of seats in the House of Commons becomes prime minister.

If no party garners an absolute majority, the party with the largest representation in parliament is usually called on to form the government. But this is not automatic, and there are no written rules.

The government must win the confidence of the House. Specifically, if it does not have an absolute majority, a party must secure the support of one or more of the other parties to win confidence votes, as they arise one by one, or by forming a coalition.

As such, Trudeau could still hold on to power even if Scheer's Tories win more seats.

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