The Samara Centre Resources and Programming



Whether you're working to engage your community in the election or simply looking to educate yourself, the Samara Centre for Democracy recognizes the value of non-partisan, trustworthy information and ideas.

The tools and resources below will help you cut through the noise, learn about our electoral process, support a stronger democracy, and have healthier, more constructive political conversations.

What to Expect When You're Electing

What to Expect When You're Electing

Elections can be noisy, frustrating, and confusing. What should I be paying attention to? Where can I find trusted information? How does my vote influence Parliament?

Delivered in a clear, concise, and non-partisan manner, the Samara Centre's What to Expect When You're Electing explainer series helps you navigate Canada's federal election by busting common myths, answering frequently asked questions, and supporting healthy political conversations. Look out for a new explainer every Tuesday!

Field Guide to Online Political Conversations

Field Guide to Online Political Conversations

Social media is one of our most important public spaces, a place where Canadians come to talk politics. But with social media users encountering more anger and incivility online than off, something has gone wrong.

The Samara Centre’s Field Guide to Online Political Conversations brings together insights from the study of difficult conversations and social media, as well as new survey data, to examine what’s going wrong, why it matters, what government action we should expect, and how citizens can change the nature of online political conversations.

Stronger Democracy Platform

Stronger Democracy Platform

Canada's democracy needs strengthening. That is why, during this election, we are asking political parties and leaders to commit to immediate, concrete change to support our democracy.

The Samara Centre's Stronger Democracy Platform puts forward nine actions that are practical and simple, and can be accomplished within the first year of a new Parliament. Building on these ideas, we also equip Canadians with a non-partisan, printable door hanger with questions you can ask candidates who come knocking.

Read our primer on electoral reform here.

Let's Talk Digital

Let's Talk Digital

In partnership with The Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, this non-partisan initiative aims to lessen the impact of misinformation, polarization, and disengagement by engaging youth in digital citizenship workshops.

Let’s Talk Digital seeks to build young people’s critical thinking skills and capacity to critically assess online reporting and digital media, and equips them with skills to take action to avoid online manipulation and create a healthy information ecosystem.

Election Bites

Every week we bring you information and insight about the federal election in bite-size form!

Tuesday, October 22


If you’re reading this, you probably followed the election more closely than most, and likely also voted. But democracy still needs you! Are you planning on staying involved, or encouraging others to join you in advocacy now that election excitement has passed?

Political scientists have tried to shed light on what it takes to sustain political mobilization outside of election periods. Here are some proven ways that can encourage long-term citizen mobilization,* for both yourself and for those you’d like to take action with:

  1. Make mobilizing a social experience. Not only is it more fun, but there’s a greater chance you’ll act (and continue to be engaged) if you think other people expect it of you.
  2. Try to align your actions with personal skills and values. If the action (such as designing protest signs) matches your identity, or even the identity you’d like to have (like being an artist), then you are more likely to remain involved in the long run.
  3. Use the feeling of ‘winning’—it can be incredibly motivating. If there’s a cause that seems like it will get traction, or if you are lucky enough to be behind a party or social movement that has experienced recent political success, be sure to highlight it. (But keep in mind that causes that don’t enjoy the same public acknowledgment are still worthy of being supported. You also don’t have to be on the winning side—just find ways to communicate the progress you’re making).
  4. Pursue mobilization that feels good. Not surprisingly, you’re more likely to keep up a new political habit if you enjoy it. Keeping this in mind is also an effective way to avoid burnout.
*tips drawn from Brett Major’s How to Increase (and Sustain) Political Engagement in Behavioral Scientist (2018)

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Tuesday, October 15


If you’re reading this, you’re probably a voter—or you’re going to be. But that may not be true for your friends, family, colleagues, and neighbours. What can you do, as a citizen, to get more Canadians out to vote next week?

Peer social influence is a powerful force in bringing people to the polls. But is there a way for us to make voting more social, and exert that peer influence on others, while being respectful of individual choices?

There are lots of simple steps, from just talking about your plans to vote, to sharing photos of yourself outside a polling station on social media. You could think bigger, too.

We like the idea of election festivals: fun, open public gatherings on Election Day to celebrate active citizenship. Amazingly, there’s some early evidence to suggest that such gatherings may help increase voter turnout. American researchers experimented by organizing election festivals at some voting precincts—with food, music, activities, and open invitation to community members. They estimate that in those precincts, turnout was as much as 4 percentage points higher than it otherwise would’ve been, though much more research is needed to accurately capture the effects.

Election festivals are about changing how we experience elections—less as a solitary errand to run on your way home from work, like picking up the dry cleaning; more a national celebration and exercise in community accountability.

It’s not too late to book a public picnic table or fire pit, or think about firing up the barbecue. It’s time to remember that voting is something we do together.

Tuesday, October 8


Every election, most of the media coverage focuses on the party leaders. Local candidates only tend to get noticed if they’ve said or done something controversial. At a practical level, this makes sense, since it’s the leaders who take part in the national debates, announce their party’s platform, and have a chance of being Prime Minister.

But in our parliamentary system, we don’t vote for the Prime Minister, we vote for who we want to represent our constituencies as our local Member of Parliament (as we touched on in our first explainer). So can local candidates shape voters’ decisions separately from the party leader? The short answer is yes!

Research has repeatedly found that local candidates have a small impact on who Canadians vote for. A study based on a survey of more than 20,000 Canadians during the 2015 election found that the local candidate shaped how 4% of votes were cast. This may not sound like much, but considering that many races were really close, this 4% of votes determined the result in roughly one in 10 seats – more than enough to change the overall outcome of the election.

So in the 2019 election, don’t be surprised if you see that different parties have gone out of their way to find strong local candidates, especially in places where they expect a tight race, since someone with a good reputation in the riding can help attract more votes beyond what a party leader can deliver.

Tuesday, October 1


This week’s explainer focuses on the cognitive pitfalls that accompany political conversations. With the English national leaders’ debate coming up on October 7 and its French equivalent on October 10, it’s worth asking: what biases do we hold when watching such debates?

Some studies suggest that the way candidates look on TV influences some voters more than the content of the debates. Our preconceived notions of gender, race, age, and beauty influence the way we understand such debates. Watching the debates on a high-definition TV may also affect how candidates are perceived.

Most viewers use the debate as a way to confirm their pre-existing voting intentions. Plenty of studies show that debates mostly lead to partisan reinforcement.

It’s not even the debate itself that influences voters the most—it’s often the post-debate political conversations (like analyses in the press) that tend to shape what people think of the candidates. We’re easily manipulated to evaluate the debate based on what others think rather than our own assessment.

Leaders’ debates are an occasion for viewers to learn more about political issues and candidates, especially for those who are less knowledgeable about politics. However, most people who tune into the debate are already well-informed, casting doubt on how much voters can actually glean from the debate. The format of the debate, the issues discussed, and the timing of the debate during the election campaign also matter.

The way debates are portrayed as potential “game changers” and often compared to boxing make it seem like debates can determine the “winner.” But some scholars think that we tend to exaggerate the value of debates since we’re biased in thinking that it’s through rational deliberation that we make our decisions. (But as this week's explainerand the Samara Centre's Field Guide to Online Political Conversations show, we’re not).

Next week, challenge yourself to be a critical and independent thinker during the leaders’ debates (or at your local all-candidates meeting)! Try to identify what biases you hold beforehand, and in order to formulate your opinions free from social pressures, consider watching the debates without following the conversation on Twitter.

For more information on how and when you can watch the debates, click here.

Tuesday, September 24


The focus of this week’s explainer got the research team wondering: are elections educational? They should, in theory, provide a great opportunity for citizens to learn about their governments and the big issues of the day. There’s massive media attention, and leaders on TV and candidates at the door are talking (again, theoretically) about policy. 

So do we actually learn anything during elections? Happily, the short answer is yes: studies from around the democratic world have found that elections help citizens learn about issues and where the parties stand.

There are some caveats, though. Some of that learning disappears after the campaign is over.  And campaign-time learning isn’t enough to close the gaps between highly politically knowledgeable and less-engaged citizens. That’s important—research has found that if we as citizens knew more about issues, many of us would vote differentlyand we’d get different election results. 

So Canadians probably rely too much on election campaigns to catch us up on current events. That’s why there should be better opportunities for big, accessible public learning between elections.

Early this year, the Samara Centre published a call for more ongoing investment in civic literacy: the tools, skills, and knowledge necessary for active citizenship. There’s a responsibility—shared by governments, media, community groups, workplaces, and others—to make it easier for Canadians to continue deepening their political knowledge, after the voting’s done.

Tuesday, September 17


Election Day is October 21. If you're a Canadian citizen who will be at least 18 years old on October 21 then you are eligible to vote. But did you know that you can cast your ballot before Election Day, and in different ways?

As part of the Samara Centre's What to Expect When You're Electing series, on October 15 we will release our Getting to the Polls explainer with detailed information on how and where to vote. In the meantime, here's what you need to know to vote on or before Election Day, including key dates, ID requirements, and voting options:

1.  By mail (apply before October 15)
2.  On select campuses (October 5-9)
3.  At advance polls (October 11-14)
4.  At an Elections Canada office (until October 15)
5.  On Election day (October 21) – your last chance to vote!

To prove your identity (who you are) and residence (where you live):

  • You can show a piece of government photo ID with your address.
  • OR: Show two pieces of ID or documentation, with at least one showing your address. See the full list of accepted documents on Election Canada’s website.

  • OR: If you don’t have ID, you can still vote! You can “declare” your identity to the Elections Canada staff and have someone “vouch” that the information is correct. (They must know you, be assigned to the same polling station as you, and be able to prove their own identity and residence.

And remember, you do not need to be registered in advance to vote! As long as you have the required ID (or make a declaration and have someone vouch for you) you can be added to the register of voters when you go to vote. To check your registration, go to Elections Canada's website.

For more details and to download our voting calendar, head over to our What You Need to Know to Vote page!

Tuesday, September 10


Lately, you may’ve heard some talk about the writ drop. But what is a writ, and why does it drop?

Although Canada has a fixed election date, the campaign can’t start until the prime minister meets with the governor general and requests that she officially (1) dissolves the current Parliament, and (2) asks the Chief Electoral Officer to issue the "writs of election" for each constituency.

In Canada, this formal process for starting an election is often called "dropping the writ" —which is strange since there is actually one writ for each of the 338 constituencies, and since nothing actually "drops." No one knows for sure how the term developed, but there are some theories. (To be clear, the "writ drop" is a folk term, not a technical term, and there are some political scientists whose heads explode each time it’s used—we’re not among them.)

Until the last election, prime ministers could "drop the writ" whenever they chose so long as the campaign was at least 36 days long. Changes passed in 2018 kept that minimum, but now specify that elections can be at most 50 days long, allowing the prime minister to vary the length of the campaign by up to 14 days.

Since this year's election falls on October 21, the prime minister could have started the election as early as Sept. 1 and must call it by September 15. This means that the election will have definitely started by this time next week!

External Election Initiatives and Resources

Looking for more election resources in your community? Check out our partners in the Canadian Vote Coalition to find ways to run vote popups, community events, youth engagement, and more! 

Canadian Vote Coalition

Join the Canadian Vote Coalition. The coalition is recruiting organizations large and small as well as local leaders to engage their communities. Together, they are leading the largest non-partisan voter engagement campaign in Canadian history.

The Coalition was founded by:

The Democratic Engagement Exchange is committed to building a vibrant and inclusive democracy where everyone living in Canada can contribute.

The Democratic Engagement Exchange
Apathy is Boring is a non-partisan, charitable organization that supports and educates youth to be active and contributing citizens in Canada’s democracy.

Apathy is Boring

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