It’s early days yet, and anything can happen. Still, political junkies across Canada are noticing a trend within the electorate they haven’t witnessed in years, maybe even decades: Citizens actually intend to vote this time around at the ballot box.
That’s good news, if only because it suggests that those who are ultimately responsible for the condition of their democracy – John and Jane Q. Public – are taking their pickings (meager as they might be) seriously.
If we obsessive-compulsives are correct (and, dear reader, there’s no guarantee that we are – remember what actual pollsters had to say about recent provincial elections in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, in which they got their forecasts so wrong even American late-night comedy shows took a break from lampooning the absurdities of U.S. politics to highlight those of ours), then this could be the biggest election turnout since the early 1960s, when upwards of 80 per cent of eligible adults cast tickets.
As a matter of more than mere interest, the lowest voter turnout on record in this country was in 2008, in the depths of the Great Recession, when barely 59 per cent of the eligible population deigned to visit their polling stations. Oddly, though, those most committed to the democratic plebiscite at that time were those who ultimately had the least to gain: New Brunswickers, of whom a higher percentage than the national average showed up to vote.
As things track now, this province appears ready to repeat that performance a little more than a month from now, though the result would be anything but conclusive.
According to a CBC analysis, “It appears the federal horse race may have reverted to its three-headedness again, as two new polls suggest a narrowing of the gap separating the three parties. But one of the surveys provides some insight into what and who is capturing voters’ attentions, and what effect it might be having. The CBC Poll Tracker still has the NDP in the lead with 33.5 per cent support, followed by the Conservatives at 29.1 per cent and the Liberals at 27.3 per cent. The Greens are averaging 5.5 per cent support, while the Bloc Québécois stands at 15.3 per cent support in Quebec.”
Added the public broadcaster: “This is a bit of a reversion to where things stood before the publication of two polls that suggested strong numbers for the New Democrats. These surveys by Forum Research and the Angus Reid Institute, both out of the field a week ago, put the NDP at 40 and 37 per cent support, respectively, among eligible voters. It boosted the party in the average, but the four polls that have been published since have put the NDP between 31 and 34 per cent support. That is where the party was polling prior to the release of these two bullish surveys.”
However New Brunswick “votes” and whatever the national impact this may produce, the province can at least pat itself on the back for its determinedly engaged citizenry.
As Elections Canada points on its web site, “The issue of voter turnout is taking on greater importance in public discussion in Canada and elsewhere. Observers increasingly link declining participation in elections to some of the more fundamental problems of modern democracy.
Indeed, notes the organization, “If the social and political forces that are driving turnout down are of a longer-term nature, the problem of low voter participation could continue to plague the political system for years to come.”
That, at least, does not appear to be one of New Brunswick’s myriad problems. For once.