Liberal leadership draws older Ontarians

OTTAWA – The federal Liberal leadership race was supposed to help the third-place party connect with a new, younger generation of voters and expand its shrunken base.

But an analysis of those who’ve registered to vote thus far suggests it’s done neither.

Almost 60 per cent are 50 years of age or older.

Almost half reside in Ontario.

With two days left to register, about 117,000 had registered to vote by mid-day Tuesday — only about 40 per cent of the almost 300,000 who signed up as members or supporters to take part in choosing the next Liberal leader.

That’s up only marginally over the 36 per cent who had registered by the original deadline of Mar. 14.

In an effort to boost the overall numbers, the party last week extended the registration deadline to Thursday, acting on a request from front-runner Justin Trudeau’s camp.

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The 41-year-old Trudeau, the party’s undisputed rock star, is widely credited with appealing to a new generation of voters.

Yet an analysis of those registered to vote thus far suggests the race has attracted primarily older voters.

Of those for whom an age is known, 59 per cent are 50 years of age or older. Only eight per cent are under the age of 25.

Another 13 per cent are between the ages of 25 and 34 and 19 per cent are aged 35 to 49.

Over the past three elections, the Liberal party’s base has shrunk steadily, concentrated in Toronto with pockets of support in Atlantic Canada, Vancouver and Montreal.

The registration numbers thus far show the party’s base remains heavily concentrated in Ontario. It accounts for 46 per cent of registered voters, boosted by high membership and supporter numbers in Toronto ridings.

British Columbia accounts for the second largest chunk of registered voters, with just less than 13 per cent.

Despite the fact that, until recently, the contest boasted three leadership contenders from Quebec, the country’s second-largest province accounts for just 11 per cent of registered voters.

Trudeau and rival contender Martin Cauchon both hail from Quebec. Montreal MP Marc Garneau dropped out and threw his support to Trudeau last week.

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The four Atlantic provinces account for 14 per cent of registered voters, about double their share of the national population.

The party has adopted a process meant to smooth out any regional imbalances. Vote results will be weighted to give each riding equal clout, whether it has 50 voters or 5,000 voters.

Insiders with various leadership camps say there are numerous anomalies in the registered voters’ list which may yet result in thousands being disqualified. For instance, there are a number of instances where dozens, or even hundreds, of registered voters all claim the same email address.

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