Ah, British Columbia. It’s a name that sounds more becoming for a Caribbean island range than what it is, a wet rain forest territory north of Washington State; it’s also a name so long that we shamelessly abbreviate it at every opportunity.

For my US (and international) readers, as you might already know, BC is the most westerly Province in Canada, home to Vancouver (population, 2.5 million) as well as attractions like Blackcomb, Grouse Mountain, and Whistler (you may vaguely remember these locales from television broadcasts in 2010, as we held the Winter Olympics here seven years ago). Vancouver Island is also part of the territory, anchored just offshore and home to tourist trap Victoria (population 300,000, and my home) and surfing capital, Tofino.

Why the lesson in geography? It’s election time, of course! We do it here every four years, just like most democracies, only we’re voting to select our version of a state governor, what we call a provincial premier. Seeking reelection is Christy Clark (the first female minister to win the province’s highest post in the 2013 election on behalf of the Liberal Party) as well as two new contenders for the job — John Horgan of the New Democrats, and Andrew Weaver of the Green Party.

I dread elections as I never feel I know enough about the candidates to make a responsible choice, or worse yet, none of them seem to align with my ideals. It’s almost like I take the responsibility of voting too seriously, which is why I’ve regrettably not voted sometimes in the past — a mistake I don’t intend to make this time.

Democracies are kind of like businesses; they’re only as credible as the people you select to staff them with. Choose wisely.

Something I cannot stress enough for first-time voters to use to their advantage, is the Vote Compass. Although its overall concept — an online, non-partisan questionnaire that ranks your idealism with that of the electable parties — is not new (they were pioneered to some extent in Europe, I believe), the Vote Compass continues to gain popularity with every provincial and federal election. It’s also worth noting that the version I’m referring to (initiated by University of Toronto doctoral candidate Clifton van der Linden, and hosted by our state media provider, CBC), has been licensed for use here in Canada, in Australia, and also in the US, during the 2012 presidential election.

Voting advice applications, the generic term for such a website or program, can’t tell you everything about a party or candidate, and certainly don’t replace the responsibility of actually doing a little homework yourself on whom to vote for, but they can streamline the process greatly. At the very least, you’ll probably know your candidate better than purely by their party slogan, campaign colour, or worse yet, their appearance.

In my opinion, democracies are kind of like businesses; they’re only as credible as the people you select to staff them with. Choose wisely.

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