COSTA Rica may be in the midst of a presidential election campaign, but Canada will hold its own national elections next month, and they will come and go much less time.
True to form, election turnaround time is quick in Canada, creating some burden for its citizens living in Costa Rica who wish to vote. The 39th general election was called last week and will take place on Jan. 23, 2006. The Christmas-Boxing Day- New Year holidays that fall in the midst of the 55-day campaign don’t help matters either.
The Canadian Embassy in Costa Rica recommends that those interested in registering and voting in the election act now, but also has suggestions for speeding up the process. (See box: Voting in Canada … From Costa Rica.) Elections under Canada’s parliamentary democracy operate differently than in Costa Rica. (U.S. talk show host David Letterman once irreverently quipped to his Canadian-born band director Paul Shaffer: “Paul, I didn’t think you voted in Canada.
You have a queen.”) Federal elections must be held at least once every five years, but a no-confidence vote in Parliament on Nov. 29 brought down the left-center Liberal government of Prime Minister Paul Martin. The last general election was held in 2004.
Alleged Liberal corruption scandals spurred on the vote, according to Canada’s CBC, with the opposition right-wing Conservative, separatist Bloc Québécois and leftist New Democratic parties joining forces to topple the government.
All 308 seats in the lower house of Parliament will come up for election, with voters casting ballots only for candidates in their riding, or electoral district. The leader of the winning party will become prime minister.
Costa Rica’s expatriate U.S. community may have active and vocal chapters of the Democrats and Republicans Abroad, but nothing comparable exists among Canadian residents here.
“We’re really not political down here,” said Canadian Club President Vicky Kieke.
Alan Weeks, a member of the club’s board of directors, added, “It’s nice to be away from it all.”
The focus of the community here has traditionally been charity, outreach and social activities, rather than politicking, according to Weeks, but he says there is much interest in the January election.
“We’re not too thrilled about scandals,” he said, explaining that he fears the alleged corruption has tarnished Canada’s image.
Information about registration and voting procedures, as well as on individual candidates, can be found at the Web site of Elections Canada (www.electionscanada.ca), the independent authority charged with administering the vote. The page’s “Snowbirds: Voting While Away” link gives specific information on voting while living or traveling abroad.
“We strongly recommend that given limited time, your registration form be sent by fax,” explains Lilly Edgerton, the embassy’s Public Affairs Officer, regarding people whose names do not already appear on the National Register of Electors. The embassy can take care of several steps in the registration and voting process for those living here.