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Politics In Plain English

A textbook with a person in a wheelchair on the cover

Electoral and political words are often explained in overly complicated ways and can be confusing people trying to understand politics and formulate views about political candidates. The result can be an intimidating and inaccessible

Here are some of the most common electoral and political terms in plain English, with pictures for added description.


Election words

Ballot Box A box where you put the ballot paper after you have voted

Ballot A paper given at the polling station where voters indicate the person or party they wants to vote for

Campaign The attempt of a candidate to get elected

Candidate A person you can vote for to be your elected representative

Election When people for the candidates who they want to represent them

First-past-the-post The election system in Canada. It means the candidate who gets the most votes wins.

Incumbent The person currently elected. An incumbent in an election is trying to be elected again.

Political Party A group of people who have similar ideas and meet to establish rules and common goals

Poll A guess of what the election outcomes will be. These guesses are discussed regularly before elections.

Polling Booth inside the polling station there is a closed place where you can vote in private.

Polling Station The place where one can go to vote. It is open during certain hours on the days of the election.

Registration To vote you must register, which means putting your name on a list of voters

Riding The location a candidate will represent if elected. The candidate will be the representative for the people in that location, who are known as constituents.

Vote The choice of candidates or parties you make

Political words

Clean energy Clean energy is the energy that does not hurt the environment

Coalition When two different groups come together as a team

Consumers People who buy and who use different products

Culture The ideas, practices, and customs of a society

Democracy People having a say in government

Discrimination When a person or a group of people are not treated fairly

Economy The selling and buying of goods and services

Equality People being treated fairly

Environment The outdoors, including trees, flowers, and animals

Federal Federal means Canadian, while provincial means just BC or another province

Government The group of people in office who run the city, province, or country

Indigenous Persons The people who were the first people living in Canada

Majority Government When most elected representatives belong to the same political party

MLA An elected representative in the provincial government. MLA stands for Member of Legislative Assembly. 

MP An elected Representative in the federal (Canadian) government. MP stands for Member of Parliament. 

Ministry A part of the government focused on specific activities. For example, the Ministry of Education is a part of government focused on education.

Minister The person who leads a government ministry

Minority Government A government where most elected representatives do NOT belong to the same political party

Ottawa The capital city of Canada, and the location where the Canadian government meets

Priorities Very important things that must be focused on

Recession A period of time when people do not spend much money and sell a lot

Rights Protections you have against being treated poorly or being forced to do things you do not want to do

Sectors The different parts of the economy. For example, there are the food and energy sectors. Also called industries.

Social Housing Housing which is provided by the government at a reduced cost

Sustainable Development that does not harm the environment

Tax An amount of money the government deducts from people's earnings to help the government pay for things

Unemployment When someone does not have a job. If unemployment is high, many people do not have jobs

Union A group of workers formed to help support each other

Victoria The capital of BC, and the location where the provincial government meets

Download Political Words in Plain English (PDF)

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