2015 Challenge Winners

We are pleased to announce the winners of the National Democracy Challenge 2015. Students from across the country submitted videos, images and pieces of writing on the theme "Show Canadians how to get ready to vote." Their submissions were evaluated by our panel of judges, who were impressed by the quality and diversity of the entries. We would like to thank everyone who participated in the Challenge. Your hard work, enthusiasm and passion are great examples of democracy in action.

Many thanks to our fantastic panel of judges: Ilona Dougherty, Rosanna Tomiuk, Teresa Edwards, Paula Waatainen and Dr. John Young.



Video

1st place

The winner is Alexandria Masse, 15, from Windsor, Ontario. Her video explains the voting process in simple steps to deliver a personal and effective message. Ms. Masse has won a trip to Ottawa to attend Encounters with Canada's "Democracy and Youth" week.

How to Get Ready to Vote

How to Get Ready to Vote

Transcript of video

2nd place

Elaine Wang, 17, from Toronto, Ontario, has won a GoPro Hero4 camera for her entry:

Ready to Vote!

Ready to Vote!

Transcript of video

3rd place

Elijah MacDonald, 16, from Ottawa, Ontario, has won a $200 Best Buy gift card for his entry:

How to Get Ready to Vote

How to Get Ready to Vote

Transcript of video

Image Category

1st place

The winner is Benjamin Chung, 14, from Vancouver, British Columbia. Benjamin added storytelling to artwork in his engaging comic strip. Mr. Chung has won a 64GB Apple iPhone 6.

Get Ready to Vote Enlarge image

Get Ready to Vote

"Get Ready to Vote" Image Description

2nd place

Abbie Paulson, 15, from Calgary, Alberta, has won a Kobo Aura H2O and $100 Indigo gift card for the following entry:

I'm Ready to Vote

I'm Ready to Vote

"I'm Ready to Vote" Image Description

3rd place

Muhammad Ahmad Pasha, 16, from Mississauga, Ontario, has won a $200 Best Buy gift card for his entry:

Voting Checklist

Voting Checklist

"Voting Checklist" Image Description

Writing

1st place

The winner is Tess Forman, 16, from Ottawa, Ontario. Ms. Forman's piece of writing explains the Canadian electoral system in the form of a letter to voters. She has won a trip to Winnipeg to participate in a human rights program at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Une lettre à un électeur (original in French)

Letter to an Elector

October 2015

Dear Mr. or Ms. Voter,

As I'm sure you're aware, October 19 is right around the corner. You may have heard about something called democracy, but hardly consider yourself an expert. Not to worry: yours is the generation of simplicity. With the range of tools that you have at your fingertips and some friendly advice from a fellow Canadian, you will be more than prepared to exercise your right to vote.

We are fortunate to live in a country that gives us the right to vote, so we should take full advantage of our good fortune by being as prepared as possible. To make the democratic decision that is best for you, you need to look at local and federal candidates. You need to compare the candidates and weigh their pros and cons. What is more important to you: your community or your nation? Your vote shouldn't be random or given to the person with the most interesting-sounding name. Some research is needed if our democracy is to operate properly.

You can find objective information in many places, including articles, news, and conversations with people with a range of different opinions. At the local level, an all-candidates debate is the perfect opportunity to get to know the candidates better. You can watch the debate on television or attend in person.

How will each candidate make a difference in your community? The federal debates are second to none when it comes to getting to know the candidates. Listen carefully to each party's plans and see how the party's leader behaves under pressure. Does your preferred candidate seem trustworthy? The debate can help you decide which party best represents your views. Sometimes, you may need to vote strategically. If you strongly disagree with a particular party's candidate, you have a number of options. If two other parties are close in the polls, one option is to vote for the one with the best chance of winning, in order to block the party you don't like.

The best way to get to know the candidates is to talk to them directly. After an all-candidates debate, you can reach them by telephone or e-mail. A single conversation is worth a thousand political ads: it will give you a clear picture of what the candidate stands for. You can also use a vote compass online to clarify your vote. This tool asks you questions about your opinions on the role government should play and tells you which party most closely aligns with your views. But don't let a vote compass decide how you'll vote: you have to decide for yourself, using the information you have acquired.

If you have completed the above steps, you should now have chosen the candidate you want. The next step is being physically ready to vote. You have to meet a few requirements before you go to the polling station. First, you must be a Canadian citizen and be 18 years of age or older. You must also reside in the electoral district where you will be voting. Finally, to be able to vote in Canada, you must provide proof of identity and address. You also need to make sure that your name is on the list of electors and that your information is correct.

If you received a voter information card, you are registered. If you aren't sure, you can register on the Elections Canada website at www.elections.ca or by telephone at 1-800-463-6868. If you are not registered or if your information has changed, you can print out a registration certificate or you can register at the polling station. To vote, you will need to bring some pieces of identification to the polling station. You can show your driver's licence or another government-issued card. Another option is to bring two pieces of ID, such as your Canadian passport and your health card. If your ID does not show your current address, you can swear an oath.

Once you've completed these steps, you should be ready to vote in a Canadian federal election. Now that you know how to decide which candidate to vote for and exactly how to go about voting, my work here is done. The power of democracy is now in your hands. In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, "Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a president and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country."

Yours sincerely,

Tess Forman

2nd place

Ghalia Aamer, 14, from Edmonton, Alberta, has won an Apple iPad Air 2 64GB for the following entry:

Every Vote Counts

This year, I participated in Student Vote with my school. I'd never heard of such a process, and I was really excited. Student Vote allowed us to experience what voting is like and even vote for the candidate we support in our school's riding. Because we are under the age of majority, our votes didn't count for the actual election, but they were tallied up along with all the other participating schools across Canada to analyze how youth feel about their country.

Before election day we got into groups and prepared presentations on different party platforms. The week before voting, we presented to the class, and it was amazing to hear all the different issues that impact Canadians and the variety of views that come with them. You can get ready to vote by understanding how important every single voice is, following an easy election process and being an informed citizen.

Unfortunately, I heard some students in my school saying that they didn't care about Student Vote because it doesn't count for the actual election. Others said that even when they grow up there is no point in voting, because their one voice in so many won't affect anything.

The truth is, every vote counts. After the 2015 federal election it was evident how every single vote matters. A candidate in one of the ridings won by only 80 votes. If those 80 people hadn't come out to vote, their voice wouldn't have been heard. Anyone can say that their voice doesn't count, but without citizens speaking out, Canada wouldn't be about the people. Voting is a very important part of our democracy and every voice matters.

Don't stop your voice from being heard because you think it's too complicated. In fact, voting is a very simple process. You are eligible to vote if you are a Canadian citizen, at least 18 years of age, and can prove your identity and address. If you are registered to vote, you should receive a voter information card in the mail, which says when and where you can vote.

Don't worry if you didn't get a voter card, though. You can register at your polling station on election day. Just make sure you take a couple of pieces of identification to confirm your identity and address. If you're not sure where your polling station is, you can find it on the Elections Canada website.

If you are busy or have to work on election day, there are many ways you can get your vote in otherwise. Employers are required to give employees at least three consecutive hours on election day to get out and vote. Every election also has a few days of advance polls. You can even register to vote by mail. Our democracy ensures that every citizen can find a way to get their voice heard.

Besides the technicalities, the most important part of voting is being an informed citizen. Knowledge and experience are key. Participate in your community. Volunteer. Go to local events. Tune in to the radio. You cannot imagine how much experience and knowledge you can gain just from getting involved. It is important to find your stance and the party that supports it before voting day. One of your main responsibilities as a Canadian citizen is to be informed about your country. Canada values differences of opinions, so let yours be heard. Don't fall into peer pressure. Make an informed decision based on what you think is best for your country. The easiest way to give back is to speak out. Everything from Student Vote to the federal election matters.

Voting is a simple process, and by keeping informed, you can make a difference. With knowledge and experience, Canadians can work together to improve Canada. Know the process, keep informed and get ready to vote. Remember, YOUR vote can be first step in the right direction for YOUR country.

3rd place

Lucy Guan, 15, from Vancouver, British Columbia, has won a $200 Best Buy gift card for her entry:

Ready to Vote?

We struggle to express ourselves daily. We're afraid of judgment and afraid of being wrong. Voting is a means of expressing ourselves and what we would like, in private and without judgment.

Many people have fought for us and the rights we have. Before the 1900s, only affluent men could vote in Canada, while women and specific ethnic or religious groups were denied this right. In the 1870s, women began to petition and campaign for suffrage, but they were not granted this right federally until 1918.

We must take advantage of these opportunities we are given. It is the responsibility of Canadians to vote in order to display the respect we have for our rights.

There are many steps involved in the preparation process of voting. During the preparation process, you can potentially gain a better understanding of who you are as a voter and citizen. Opinions, priorities and values are important factors in our decision making. What we believe and have been taught are what shapes our opinions and priorities. This means that each party will have different priorities and opinions, just like how one citizen's opinions and priorities may differ from another's.

For example, perhaps childcare benefits are the most important issue to you – or perhaps that is the least important to you, and the economy is what you prioritize. Find a party that closely or exactly mirrors your priorities.

Another thing to consider is your political ideology. Are you left or right on the political spectrum? If you are unsure, many tests are available that you can take that will inform you. All these steps will ensure you make an informed decision on election day.

In order to make an informed decision when voting, you must research beforehand. It's important to know the political parties and their platforms. There are many ways of doing so: you could watch and listen to debates between party leaders, or you could go to their websites where similar information can be located.

Get to know the leaders, because they could potentially become the prime minister of our country.

Research on the local candidates in your riding will also be necessary, because not only will you be voting for a party, but you'll also be voting for a candidate. This candidate will then be representing your riding or community. Therefore, it is important to consider what this candidate could do for you and your community. If you are unsure of who the local candidates in your riding are, you can find them by entering your postal code on the Elections Canada website.

However, knowledge isn't the only important component when voting. You must also be physically ready. Have you received your voter information card? If not, you must register online at the Elections Canada website, because it is mandatory to be registered if you wish to vote. If you are unable to register online, another way to register is filing information at your local Elections Canada office or completing a form and presenting required ID at the polling station on election day.

Specific pieces of ID must be presented on election day. There are a variety of ways to prove your identity and address. Option one is to bring government-issued ID that shows your name, photo and address. Option two would be to bring two pieces of ID that show your name, and one of them must include your address. If you are unable to bring a piece of ID that proves your address, you must have someone you know confirm your address.

Other than voting on the actual election day, there are several other methods of voting. For example, there are four days of advance voting, or you can vote at an Elections Canada office any day until the sixth day before election day.

Also, assuming you aren't in town or if you find that it's more convenient, you can vote by mail. If you choose to vote by mail, an application must be filled out before election day in order to receive a voting kit, which must be completed and mailed back to Elections Canada in Ottawa by election day.

In order to vote, you must know the location of your local polling place. There are many polling places in one riding. To locate the nearest polling place or if you would like to find an accessible one, you can find this information on the Elections Canada website. Typically there will be signs on or leading up to election day that will lead you to where the polling places are.

When you arrive at the polling place, you will be greeted by an election worker who will show you to the correct table. At this table, you must show proof of your address and identity. The election worker will then hand you a ballot that they have initialled. Then you will have to wait for a voting screen to become available, and behind this screen you will privately mark and refold your ballot. When you have made your decision, you may return your ballot to a worker and allow it to be verified as an official ballot. Finally, you will put your ballot into the box.

While you complete your research, the candidate you will be supporting will become clear. Knowing which candidate you'll be supporting and voting for is the most important part of voting. Make sure you could explain why you have selected this candidate over other candidates. If you are unable to explain your vote, you aren't sure or prepared. Secondly, it is important to remember to bring all the required pieces of ID to the polling place, because you may be turned away if you haven't. Lastly, remember that voting is a means of expressing yourself.

Don't hesitate! Take the opportunity given to you and make a change. So, are you ready to vote?

School Challenge

School Challenge Winner

École Okotoks Junior High School wins School Challenge Prize!

Forty-two students from École Okotoks Junior High School in Okotoks, Alberta, submitted eligible entries to the National Democracy Challenge 2015. Because this was the highest number of entries from one school, they won this year's School Challenge!

School Challenge Prize

The School Challenge prize is awarded to the school with the highest number of submissions. This year, one student from École Okotoks Junior High School has been awarded a bursary to attend a Forum for Young Canadians session in Ottawa. The bursary covers airfare, accommodations and activities for this week-long program.

Forum for Young Canadians

Elections Canada is proud to partner with Forum to offer this year's School Challenge prize. Forum offers high school and Cégep students from across Canada an unforgettable week-long experience in the heart of Canada's capital. Participating youth go behind the scenes of Canadian politics and current affairs and experience the workings of the national decision-making process. In a highly experiential format, Forum fosters leadership skills in young Canadians.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2015 National Democracy Challenge!

Link to Elections Canada