June By-election Turnout: How low could we go? (You don’t want to know)

July 1st, 2014

---- 2 ±±±± 1 ±±±± 0 ±±±± 1 ±±±± 2 ++++

Until Monday, Canada had never had a federal by-election with turnout under 20%. As of today – Canada Day – we've had two of them.

Whether by accident or design, the decision by the Prime Minister to hold four federal by-elections on the Monday between a summer weekend and a statuatory holiday led to the lowest turnout ever posted in a by-election riding – 15.2% in Fort McMurray-Athabasca, AB – along with the second-lowest – 19.6% in Macleod, AB. This sets a new low for Canadian politics in more ways than one.

Jun 2014 By-Election Results

By-Election Metrics – 2014 By (Jun)

Metric Macleod, AB Fort McMurray-Athabasca, AB Trinity-Spadina, ON Scarborough-Agincourt, ON
Winner BARLOW,
John (M)
David (M)
Adam (M)
Arnold (M)
Contest Cons-Lib Cons-Lib Lib-NDP Lib-Cons
Polls 253/256 202/203 349/349 200/200
%TO 19.6% 15.2% 31.6% 29.4%
Raw Margin 9,332 1,454 6,611 6,485
Votes/Poll 36.5 7.2 18.9 32.4
% Margin 51.8% 11.4% 19.2% 30.0%
% Marg 1-3 63.0% 35.4% 47.6% 50.8%
% Marg 1-4 64.5% 43.2% 47.9% 57.8%

Not only did the Liberals win the night in terms of vote-share overall, and pick up Trinity-Spadina, ON from the NDP, they actually increased their raw vote in three of the four seats – all but Scarborough-Agincourt, ON. The Conservatives hung onto their two seats in Alberta, and the NDP hung on to its rebate in Fort McMurray-Athabasca, AB but that will be small comfort.

Party Scorecard – 2014 By (Jun)

2014 By Lib NDP Grn Cons Rest
Seats 2
2nds 2

The win in Trinity-Spadina probably belongs to veteran Toronto city councillor Adam Vaughan more than party leader Justin Trudeau, given that we know from published polls and other research that the NDP's Joe Cressy beat generic Liberals and their former candidate Christine Innes (whose ouster was long-since forgotten by E-Day and seemingly had very little effect on the by-election's outcome). Trudeau and his team did secure the riding for their party when they secured Vaughan's candidacy for the nomination, however, so they can certainly claim credit to that effect.

The NDP will have to take a close look at how it lost this seat to a stronger Liberal candidate, and some of that introspection will have to start with party luminaries in Toronto, whose early endorsements for a young un-tested candidate with the inside track, really forestalled and eventually precluded any of the vigourous and necessary competition for such a prized nomination. This is not to trivialize Cressy's own work ethic, but this was perhaps not his time to run. Nevertheless, having taken the leap, he gave everything he had to the campaign, and emerged the stronger for it

Should he decide to run again, Cressy and Vaughan would likely not face a rematch, given the former lives in University-Rosedale, and Vaughan has only Spadina-Fort York available to run in after the University-Rosedale and Toronto Centre Liberal nominations were completed.

Also looking ahead to the new boundaries, first-time Liberal candidate Kyle Harrietha – while he fell short of the unnecessarily inflated expectations for Fort McMurray-Athabasca some of his fellow Liberals accidentally spun themselves into – can nevertheless look ahead to a much more competitive race in the newer, smaller, more urban riding of Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, while Monday's Conservative victor David Yurdiga will more likely find himself in the neighbouring Lakeland seat.

Meanwhile – sorry Cory Hann – the Conservative Party's early spin on Scarborough-Agincourt that it was a Liberal-NDP race where they could not expect to exceed 10% of the vote belied the effort their party put into that seat, and their eventual results. Perhaps other seats in Scarborough would have seen the NDP in the hunt, but Agincourt has the highest income of the bunch and was therefore a more natural Liberal-Conservative seat. Conservative Trevor Ellis matched his party's 2008 vote-share – to that point a record for them in the riding – and fell 5 points shy of its 2011 high watermark, leaving Liberal Arnold Chan the clear victor.



This website is starting to show its age. The site was designed when monitors were still mostly 800 pixels wide, there was no jQuery library, were no iPads, nor the proliferation of mobile browing devices, and Don Newman was hosting Power and Politics. The charting library – the only one I could find at the time that would allow me to actually set the party colours I needed to – has just stopped working with the latest upgrade of PHP. And it's just as well, because there is no more room on the Quarterly Finance charts to fit the 2015 quarterly reports data.

So, I apologize for the ugliness of the chart above, and the missing lines on the riding charts. This summer I will be working to complete a tip-to-toe upgrade of the entire website, in time for the next election. Wish me luck!

19 Responses to “June By-election Turnout: How low could we go? (You don’t want to know)”

  1. Ron says:

    Good analysis, thanks and good luck on the upgrade.

    Your introduction displays bias, imho.

    “Whether by accident or design,”

    Come on Alice, call a spade, a spade… it is/was raw, silly voter suppression… and this time it backfired.

    This nugget (and I congratulate you for at least progressing to ambivalence on the issue) and your earlier, attempted, blatant excuse posted in May (pretending the Cons had almost no choice in timing) belies the “non-partisan” stance of your site and (except for the Peach diversion) not in keeping with your usual (great) reporting.

  2. Observant says:

    The TO ridings had a whopping 30% turnout for a by-election, which bodes badly for the NDP. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Liberals skunked the NDP in 10/15 and in the entire GTA. Liberals will be able to attract strong candidates who will hope to ride to victory on Justin’s coattails.

    The NDP are in trouble in Quebec and the RoC because the Justin Charisma Effect will swamp the Dippers.

  3. hollinm says:

    All this bodes well for the Conservatives in 2015. The Libs and NDP will split the vote and the Conservatives will come up the middle. You should expect turn out to be a lot higher come Oct. 2015.

  4. Robert McClelland says:

    “The NDP will have to take a close look at how it lost this seat…”

    They lost it to Trudeau’s current popularity and the fact he was able to devote a lot of time to campaigning in the riding; something he won’t be able to do in the next general election.

  5. don morris says:

    Thank you for reporting the election results as they were Cons:2, Libs:2,rather than as a huge Liberal victory for Justin Trudeau, as most of the mainstream media has.

    In fact it was Liberals versus Conservatives, the Libs lost 2-1,in Liberals versus NDP, Libs won 1-0.

    End result,2-2 no matter what wishful thinking one wants to indulge in.

    The winner was; both of Canada’s traditional main political Parties,Liberals and Conservatives.

    The NDP is about to slip into third in 2015,which should make Angry Thomas Mulcair even more angry.

    The NDP has nothing to offer the Country,except the very real probability that if they ever did become the government of Canada,they would tank the economy just as they have in every Province in which they’ve formed the government.

    Canadians can rest assured in 2015, there may or may not be a new government, but it certainly will NOT be an NDP government,or even Official Opposition.

  6. Shadow says:

    Mulcair’s numbers have held up well in Quebec and he should win the lions share of seats there.

    CPC has shown lasting strength in Ontario.

    Trudeau has broad national support but it won’t win him more than a couple dozen new seats so without a major breakthrough in either Quebec or Ontario it is unlikely he could ever form a government.

    I would find it hilarious if Tom Mulcair deployed a strategic voting argument against him – ‘hey its math, we got the seats only NDP can form gov’t’. Delicious payback after the Ontario provincial.

  7. Shadow says:

    Wonder if Liang Chen will be CPC candidate instead of Trevor Ellis next go around in this riding.

    She did get almost 35% of the vote in the provincial election.

    So many battle tested good candidates sunk by Hudak’s terrible campaign who could run federally now.

  8. Dave Cannon says:

    @Don Morris

    “The NDP has nothing to offer the Country,except the very real probability that if they ever did become the government of Canada,they would tank the economy just as they have in every Province in which they’ve formed the government.”

    Quit blowing smoke and enjoy Canada Day instead of trolling. Manitoba and Finance Canada’s fiscal reference tables beg to disagree with you on this. (E.g. http://www.progressive-economics.ca/2011/04/29/fiscal-record-of-canadian-political-parties/)

  9. Malcolm says:

    I’m not sure where this “NDP in trouble in Quebec” things comes from. Certainly not from the polling in Quebec.

  10. Malcolm says:

    Also, it wasn’t long before the 2011 election that the Liberals stole a by-election seat away from the New Democrats – in an even more iconic seat from the NDP perspective. But while the Liberals did manage to hold onto Winnipeg North, the by-election win hadn’t presaged much at all.

  11. Craig says:

    It’s true that the NDP wasn’t likely to finish higher than 3rd in Scarborough-Agincourt so it’s odd that some portrayed it as a riding the NDP could win. But what the NDP should be concerned about is that their vote share was cut in half from what it was under Layton in 2011. Meanwhile, the Liberal vote share in Scarborough increased about 14 points, and the Conservative vote share dropped about 5 points.

  12. Craig says:

    Shadow, the polling & seat projections by Eric Grénier and others actually show the Liberals picking up many more than just a couple dozen seats in 2015 and doing much better than the NDP right now. That could change, but right now Mulcair is down in every region of the country from where Layton was, including in Quebec. While Mulcair has good numbers in Quebec, they aren’t as high as Layton. And with a good performance in Quebec, Trudeau can move up more there.

  13. Shadow says:

    Craig take a closer look at some of those projections and you’ll see a key feature is the inefficiency of Liberal support. Very broad and shallow. Even with a lead on the CPC they are behind in the seat count. NDP putting up very solid seat numbers still too despite polling way back from others.

    In Quebec check the linguistic breakdown of polling and Trudeau is wasting support with sky high anglo numbers in Montreal.

    Of course, at some point if you run up high enough numbers none of these structural issues matter. I’m just not convinced Trudeau is anywhere near that point.

    If I were an opposition leader I would rather go into an election in Mulcair’s position than Trudeau’s.

  14. Jim Patterson says:

    I would love to see Justin as OOP leader and struggling to ask scripted questions of PM Harper. Justin would be exposed for the fraud that he is… an actor on a big stage crapping out big time.

    Liberals offered us brainy Dion and brainy Iggy and both flopped fabulously!
    Now they offer us Justin who is all brawn, beauty and bull! What’s next?

  15. you says:

    Hello, just wanted to tell you, I liked this post.

    It was inspiring. Keep on posting!

  16. Reality Cheque says:

    OK, so an election was called and 15% of the electorate turned out to vote, and the winning candidate was chosen by a mere 7% of the eligible voters.

    One day after the election, and what do you see? Protests crying ‘foul’? Riots in the streets? Of course not. The electorate respectfully accepts the decision made by those with the impetus to show up to vote.

    Rather than disdain, a 15% voter turnout should be an example to be emulated throughout all elections in Canada.

    This country has little to gain and much to lose in having its government chosen by people who just don’t give a care. If you don’t care, don’t vote. It’s that simple.

    Let those who care enough to make the decision for everybody based on what we feel is best. If you are not happy with our decision, then reconsider your decision not to vote next election.

    Until then, don’t vote, don’t complain.

Leave a Reply