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Politics

The ridings that had the lowest, highest voter turnout in the 2019 election

The 2019 federal election in six minutes

The federal ridings that experienced the highest voter turnout in the 2019 Canadian election saw three-quarters of their registered electors vote, while the ridings that experienced the lowest voter turnout saw less or barely half of registered voters cast a ballot, according to preliminary data from Elections Canada.

Two Ottawa-area ridings were among those with the highest voter turnout in the federal election, while two ridings in Manitoba were at the bottom of the list, according to the early results, which Elections Canada says do not include electors who registered on election day.

Federal Election 2019: Voter turnout and western alienation
Federal Election 2019: Voter turnout and western alienation

Overall, the electoral agency says 65.95 per cent of registered electors across the country voted on Oct. 21, 2019, which was comparable to the turnout in 2015 (68.3 per cent).

Global News took a look at the top five ridings with the highest voter turnout nationally, as well as the five ridings that experienced the lowest turnout, and dissected those results with two experts.

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University of Calgary political science professor Lisa Young underscored the list contains both some continuity and idiosyncrasies.

Top 5 ridings with highest voter turnout

Five ridings in Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick claimed the top five spots for highest voter turnout this election. They are:

  • Carleton (Ontario): 77.4 per cent
  • Souris—Moose Mountain (Saskatchewan): 77.3 per cent
  • Beauséjour (New Brunswick): 77.2 per cent
  • Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek (Saskatchewan): 76.8 per cent
  • Ottawa Centre (Ontario) 76.2 per cent

Stéphanie Plante, executive director of the International Commission of Jurists Canada, said the makeup of the list didn’t surprise her, particularly the presence of two Ottawa ridings.

Federal Election 2019: In victory speech, McKenna says she’s ‘so happy’ climate change is a top election issue
Federal Election 2019: In victory speech, McKenna says she’s ‘so happy’ climate change is a top election issue

Generally, around the world, capital cities have “really high turnout” in elections because their residents are typically more engaged by virtue of being close to government, explained Plante, who researches and lectures on elections, voter turnout and minority populations in politics.

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“They work here. They live it every day … so they’re just generally hyper-aware of elections and they’re more hyper-aware of the fallout of elections,” she said.

“They are keenly aware of where political parties stand on the issues of public service engagement and renewal and stuff like that.”

High competitiveness and close contests in a riding can also trigger high turnout, experts say. Ottawa Centre has see-sawed between electing an NDP MP and a Liberal MP and has historically seen high turnout, Young pointed out.

READ MORE: Canada election 2019 ⁠— Results from the federal election

As for the two Saskatchewan ridings, both are traditionally Conservative territory — but neither were in danger of shedding their blue colours.

I think we saw high turnout, even though they weren’t too competitive, because people really felt that there was a message to be sent,” Young said.

Not a single Liberal candidate was elected in Saskatchewan on Monday night.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan’s lone Liberal MP, Ralph Goodale, loses re-election bid in Regina-Wascana

Plante also said it’s possible an anti-Liberal sentiment motivated a large turnout at the polls in those two ridings, but historically, she argued, the province has demonstrated “really high political engagement.”

“They’ve always had really strong premiers, they’ve always had really strong cabinet ministers — Roy Romanow, Ralph Goodale [and] Tommy Douglas,” she said.

“It’s just a really engaged province and a lot of people don’t know that because they’re small.”

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READ MORE: Voter turnout in Barrie ridings below national average, Elections Canada data shows

The fact that a longtime Regina MP and now Conservative leader had a shot at being prime minister might have also increased interest in Andrew Scheer and the Tories, Plante added.

As for Beauséjour in New Brunswick, it’s a riding that’s typically quite engaged in the political process, she suggested. The area has been represented by Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc for nearly two decades and before that, by his father, who later was appointed Governor-General of Canada.

“They’re very proud of their political tradition in Beauséjour and that’s usually reflected in voter turnout,” Plante said.

5 ridings with lowest voter turnout nationally

Meanwhile, the territory of Nunavut and four other ridings in British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec saw the lowest voter turnout in the election. They are:

  • Richmond Centre (British Columbia): 51.9 per cent
  • Winnipeg North (Manitoba): 50.1 per cent
  • Nunavut: 48.4 per cent
  • Churchill—Keewatinook Aski (Manitoba): 45.6 per cent
  • Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou (Quebec): 44.7 per cent

READ MORE: Canada set a new record for most elected female MPs, but advocates expected more

The three ridings at the bottom of the list are all massive — they’re among Canada’s largest — and northern, both Young and Plante emphasized.

“Those always have challenges of transportation and being able to leave your house on time. Sometimes your polling station is 40 minutes away and it’s snowing or your car doesn’t work,” Plante said.

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“It’s just proven that the longer the distance, the less you’ll be motivated to get out there.”

In addition to that, many First Nations communities prefer to participate at their band or nation level and don’t participate in Canada’s federal elections “because to them, their nation is their nation,” Plante added.

READ MORE: The ridings with the best (and worst) voter turnout in B.C.

As for Richmond Centre, Plante noted the riding has one of the largest immigrant populations in Canada and it’s possible a sizeable percentage of the population wasn’t able to vote in this federal election.

To that point, Young said studies have shown there is lower turnout among citizens in elections for which they were eligible to vote for the first time.

READ MORE: 8% of voters say they cast ballot for first time this election: Ipsos

Both Young and Plante couldn’t say definitively why voter turnout in Winnipeg North is so low.

According to Elections Canada, voter turnout in the riding was 58 per cent in the 2015 federal election and 49 per cent in the 2011 election.