Canadian election


The Women of the House

The bar was crowded last night—and it wasn’t because the Jays were playing. Instead, everyone was watching Peter Mansbridge count down the moments until the polls officially closed. The question on everyone’s mind: who would be the next Prime Minister of Canada?

The event I attended was hosted by Women in Toronto Politics, a non-partisan group that promotes inclusive political discourse. It was held at the Handlebar, a woman-owned bar near the Kensington Market in downtown Toronto. Over 100 women—and some men—spent their evening drinking party-designated beverages and discussing Canada’s political future. Was it a bright one? Should we be concerned?

By 9:45 p.m. the CBC had called a majority government for the Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau. There were a few cheers from the crowd, but mostly everyone was mesmerized by the local riding results skimming across the screen.

One thing was blatant by the end of the night: there were a fair number of women elected Monday night, but not quite enough.

Of the 338 seats in the House of Commons, 88 women will be representing the people of Canada.

Most consider this progress. Fourteen more women were elected this year compared to the previous federal election. At the same time, it only equates to about 26 per cent of the seats available. See the party breakdown below:

The event at Handlebar was called “Women are Watching” and was meant to act as a safe space for women and allies to discuss politics without fear of persecution. A lot of the women present had worked for their local MP, but wanted to be surrounded by like-minded people on election night. As the results rolled in, I could hear conversations bubbling about what this new government would mean for health care, child care, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Islamophobia. Many were disappointed that women’s issues such as pay equity and employment were hardly discussed during the extraordinarily long campaign.

I spoke with Abby Plener, Communications Co-Lead for Women in Toronto Politics, who explained the importance of diversity when it comes to Canada’s elected representatives.

“It’s important our diverse population feel represented by politics and its leadership – this applies not just to women, but LGBTQ folks, people of colour, and people of diverse faiths and cultural backgrounds. However, when we talk about diversity in politics, its important to discuss not only how diverse our representatives are, but also whether the policies our representatives put forth are serving diverse groups.”

Spirits were high at the end of the night as the Conservative Party was pushed out of office after nine years of power. But, no one was under the illusion that this new government would be a miracle worker. As one of the attendees said as she watched the Liberal seats pile up: “it could be worse.”

Pollenize: Your Guide To The 2015 Canadian Federal Election

The Federal Election is just two months away.  Do you know who you are voting for yet? Let’s face it, some of us simply lack significant knowledge about the political process. Others could care less about the tedious promises and scripted speeches by the candidates (who almost always all look the same!). But fear not! Now you don’t have to vote for someone just ”because everyone else is.” 

Pollenize is a website an mobile application ‘designed to provide voters with an organized, unbiased overview of each candidate’s platform.’ I spoke with the co-founders, Miguel Barbosa and Trevor Blades, to find out some more information about their unique organization. Here’s what they had to say: 

1) What inspired you to create Pollenize? 

Miguel: I was watching a Toronto Mayoral Election debate and one of the candidates didn’t give a concrete answer on how they were going to encourage youth to vote. The main issue to me was that candidate websites are poorly designed and crammed with political rhetoric.

2) What sparked your interest in politics? 

Trevor: When we first started Pollenize, I wasn’t particularly interested in politics. I understood the importance of becoming involved, and the whole team could see that we had an opportunity to make it easier for other people to get involved. Since we’ve been working on this project however, it’s become a little bit more interesting to me because the storylines that play out throughout an election can be dramatic and fun to follow along with (see the 2014 Toronto Mayoral Election).

3) How do you plan to increase voter turnout with this app? 

Trevor: Everybod5y has a values and opinions regarding how they’d like their country to be run. We believe that people want to vote and make a difference, but it’s difficult to understand exactly how the candidates competing in an election align with their values. Pollenize compiles information, cuts out all of the political jargon that scares people away, and presents it in a simple and friendly design.

4) What tips do you have on how to get young adults involved in politics?  

Trevor: Make election day a national holiday. We need to create an event out of this day and make voting feel like more of a privilege than a right.

5) How do you plan on getting people to use your app? 

Miguel: We all volunteer our time on this and don’t have any capital for advertising. We have lots of original content to release that is the total opposite of the traditional election media narrative. Staying active on social media and providing a strong product was the key to our success in Toronto and we are confident this will be amplified due to this election being on a national level.

6) What can we do to break the ”Canadian politics is boring” mentality? 

Miguel: Elections Canada and the Canadian government are in a perfect position to innovate their digital services. Every government website and online tool could use a more thoughtful design approach. How people interact with things is sometimes more important than the content itself.Trevor: What seems like “boring” to one person could be really exciting to another.

7) Did you see positive results with voter turnout after the Toronto 2014 election?

Miguel: GTA voter turnout is on a 3-election high. Voter turnout skyrocketed in Toronto to 980,000. 60% voter turnout. I don’t feel comfortable with saying Pollenize had a definitive affect on that. We just hope it added to the election experience and sparked more political conversations among people of all ages.

8) What are your predictions on who will win the federal election? 

Trevor: I can’t predict how the election will turn out, but I know that there are a number of issues that Canadians have their focus on and could really set the tone for this election. Canada’s economic status, privacy-related issues (namely bill C-51), and environmental issues such as the Alberta tar sands, pipeline construction, and national park preservation will all be on the minds of voters as the election unfolds.

9) What is the voter turnout rate you’re hoping to see? 

Miguel: Let’s get back to April, 1963 where the turnout was 79.2%. That’d be spectacular.

Agreed. Download the app in your app store for free now!  


Bio: Trevor Blades is a web developer and designer. He spends his days at Planet Labs working towards imaging the entire planet every day using a flock of tiny satellites. He also created and maintains the addicting word game, Knoword. Miguel Barbosa is a film director, editor and producer.  He creates music videos, documentaries and commercials. Together, they co-founded  Pollenize. Check out for Pollenize Canada for up-to-date information on the 2015 Federal Election- launching August 24th.