Low turnout expected in federal byelection votes held Monday

Four federal ridings go to the polls on the Monday before Canada Day

(CP photo)

(CP photo)

CALGARY — Polls are open in four federal ridings Monday, the day before the Canada Day holiday, and two political scientists based in Alberta say turnout could be low in some of the votes, even by byelection standards.

“It could be that voter turnout collapses,” says David Taras a political scientist from Mount Royal University in Calgary.

“Even by the standard of a normal byelection where voter turnout is traditionally not very high — this could be less. I think the Tories are basically saying let’s get this over with.”

With the July 1 holiday falling on a Tuesday this year, many Canadians are probably sneaking an extra day off for a four-day weekend in the mountains or at the lake.

Paul Fairie from the University of Calgary says picking a new member of Parliament may not be top of mind, especially with the Liberals expected to win Scarborough-Agincourt in the Toronto area and the governing Conservatives expected to take the Alberta seats of Macleod and Fort McMurray-Athabasca.

Only the Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina is really up for grabs between the Liberals and the NDP, Fairie predicts.

He notes byelection turnout is always about 20 per cent below normal and he anticipates turnout in Monday could be 20 to 30 per cent lower than that.

“For the Conservatives, it’s a low-interest, low-stakes kind of venture. There are more interesting things to think about in the summer than a byelection.”

Taras agrees.

“There’s really nothing at stake for the Tories in this. They have two safe seats and the other two are really just opposition seats where they have no hope.

“So it doesn’t matter whether it’s June 30 or July 30 or September 30. The Tories have very little at stake.”

The Alberta riding of Fort McMurray-Athabasca was vacated by Conservative MP Brian Jean, who stepped down in January, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.

Conservative MP Ted Menzies resigned his southern Alberta seat of Macleod last November to become president and chief executive officer of CropLife Canada, an agriculture trade association.

In suburban Scarborough-Agincourt, Liberal stalwart Jim Karygiannis stepped down to run for a seat on Toronto city council in a ward that overlaps much of the federal riding.

Toronto’s Trinity-Spadina became vacant when New Democrat Olivia Chow, widow of former federal NDP leader Jack Layton, resigned to challenge Rob Ford for the mayor’s job.