Five months ago, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated, "If we can get the issues out and get more people voting, we can get rid of Harper." With advance voting significantly up from 2011, Elections Canada bracing for a large voter turnout today, and the Conservatives almost nine percentage points behind in the polls this morning, it looks like she was right.
Prior to the election being called in early August, Barlow spoke at ten town hall meetings across the country encouraging people to vote: Vancouver (April 30), Ottawa (May 7), Winnipeg (May 12), Saskatoon (May 13), Bridgewater (May 19), Moncton (May 20), Scarborough (June 1), Toronto (June 18), London (June 22) and Courtenay (June 24). And our youth vote campaigner Brigette DePape was at five campus events with her Go Vote message for students: University of Winnipeg (February 25-26), University of Regina (March 5-6), Simon Fraser University (March 16-17), Ryerson University (March 23), and Nipissing University (March 30).
Since the election was called 78 days ago, the Council of Canadians distributed more than 150,000 voters guides and how to vote guides, 39 chapters organized 193 varied "Go Vote" actions across the country, two 'Storm the Dorm' youth vote days of action (on September 9 and October 5) took place on numerous campuses, a youth vote video was launched (with more than 461,697 views on various platforms so far), and much more. DePape also spoke at the Indigenous Rock the Vote rally on October 11 in Vancouver, participated in the #ImagineOct20th concerts in Toronto and Vancouver, and called on youth to vote in this Huffington Post op-ed posted on Friday.
Early indications have been good that voter turnout will be up.
On August 14, the Canadian Press reported, "[Canada's chief electoral officer Marc] Mayrand says he's surprised at how many people have already signed up to vote." Mayrand commented, “If you asked me before whether in the first week of August we'd see 13,000 Canadians registered for the first time for an election, I would not have bet on that. It is a sign out there people are paying attention. We had an average number of calls of 15,000 per day this election. And being so early in the process, that is somewhat unusual, but it points out people are paying attention."
On October 8, CBC reported, "Canada's chief electoral officer sees positive signs that voters are keenly engaged in the election, including students and citizens living abroad....[Mayrand says] there are positive signs that even more people are participating in the democratic process." Mayrand observes, "We see more people voting by mail, more people voting from abroad, more people having a vote on campus. This week in the first three days we had 42,000 students who voted. So all across we see Canadians quite engaged, and that's good as far as I'm concerned." The final tally between October 5-8 found that 70,000 people had voted at the advance polls on 38 campuses and at 13 friendship centres across the country.
And on October 12, CBC reported, "Around 2.4 million Canadians have voted so far in advance polls, representing a 16 per cent increase over the three advance polling days in the 2011 federal election, says Elections Canada. The agency estimates that 850,000 voters cast ballots on Friday, 780,000 people voted on Saturday and 767,000 on Sunday, an increase of nearly 400,000 votes compared with 2011." Adding in the 1.2 million people who voted last Monday on an unprecedented fourth day of advance voting, advance voter turnout is up 71 per cent over 2011.
Today, the Council of Canadians will be reminding the thousands of people who have signed our 'I will vote' pledge to head to the polls. In the May 2011 federal election, voter turnout was 61.4 per cent overall and just 38.8 per cent for youth. That low voter turnout only benefited the Conservatives. Let's ensure those numbers are much higher this election.
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