Voter Turnout in Federal Election About Average Despite Pandemic Challenges

By The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
September 28, 2021 Updated: September 28, 2021

OTTAWA—Sixty-two percent of eligible voters cast ballots in last week’s federal election—about the average turnout for recent Canadian elections despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elections Canada says almost 17 million Canadians voted, out of 27.4 million eligible electors. That does not include voters who registered on election day so the final number could tick up a bit, the agency says.

Turnout was down from 67 percent in 2019 and 68.3 percent in 2015 but it was still better than four of the previous seven federal elections held in Canada since the turn of the century.

The pandemic resulted in fewer polling locations, fewer poll workers and long lineups to vote last Monday in some places.

It also resulted in a record number of Canadians—some 850,000—voting by mail.

Election officials completed counting the mail-in ballots on Saturday.

Elections Canada expected to finish validating the results in all ridings on Monday, after which candidates in close-fought ridings will have four days to request a judicial recount.

The Liberals served notice late Monday that they are seeking a judicial recount in the Quebec riding of Chateauguay-Lacolle, where the Bloc Quebecois’ Patrick O’Hara edged out Liberal incumbent Brenda Shanahan by just 286 votes.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals emerged from the election with a second minority government, having won 159 seats, a gain of two over their 2019 result.

However, the winner in one of them—Kevin Vuong in Toronto’s Spadina-Fort York—will sit as an independent after failing to disclose to the party a past sexual assault charge, which was later dropped.

Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives finished with 119 seats, down two from 2019.  The Bloc Quebecois finished with 33 seats (up one), the NDP with 25 (up one), and the Greens with two (down one).

The Conservatives won slightly more of the popular vote—33.7 percent to the Liberals’ 32.6 percent—as they did in 2019. But because their vote was heavily concentrated in Alberta and Saskatchewan, they won fewer seats.

The NDP’s share of the vote was up almost two points over 2019, to  17.8 percent. The Bloc’s share was down slightly to 32.1 percent in Quebec.

The Greens won just 2.3 percent of the vote, less than half their share in 2019 and behind the extremist fringe People’s Party of Canada, which took five percent of the vote although it won no seats.