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Election 2021: 'Exponential' increase in early B.C. voters could sway seats in Ottawa

Vancouver Sun logo Vancouver Sun 2021-09-21 Sarah Grochowski
text, letter: A mail-in voting package that voters received when requested. © Provided by Vancouver Sun A mail-in voting package that voters received when requested.
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Canadians will be heading to the polls to vote on Monday morning; however, the federal election might not have a clear winner by Monday night.

Many British Columbians have already cast their ballot in the race between the Liberals, Conservatives and the NDP — which national polls have predicted are in close range to each other.

The province has seen an “exponential” increase in citizens voting by mail and at advance polls, said Andrea Marantz, regional media advisor for Elections Canada.

Requests for mail-in ballot kits — of which more than half were completed by residents in B.C. and returned to their local elections office — have risen by more than 220,000 since the last election. To date, more than 166,000 British Columbians have mailed in their ballots, compared to the 5,000 in all of Canada who sent in votes in 2019.

“We’ve had mail-in voting available for 30 years, decades, but this election, during a pandemic, is the first people have really utilized that option,” Marantz said, noting that some do not feel comfortable voting in person.

More citizens also voted in advance in the vast majority of B.C.’s 42 federal electoral ridings.

Preliminary results from Elections Canada show roughly 810,000 citizens voted at advance polling stations across the province — an 18.5 per cent increase when compared to nationwide turnout in 2019. In the North Okanagan–Shuswap, 8,623 more voters cast their ballot early this election. In Langley-Aldergrove, 6,144 more.

“Advance polls were very well attended. There were lineups at several locations,” Marantz said.

Although the uptick is not said to be connected to a larger expected turnout for election day, UBC political science professor Richard Johnston said the trend could be indicative of something else — delayed results.

“We might not be able to call a winner on election day due to the sheer bulk of the B.C. ballots mailed in,” Johnston said. “Especially if ridings are going to be as close as we’ve projected.”

Elections Canada has said it will not start counting mailed-in ballots until Tuesday.

A delay in nailing down the electoral outcome of the B.C.’s most competitive ridings could delay important information on new power balances in Ottawa, Johnston said.

“The Lower Mainland has some of the most competitive ridings in all of Canada between the Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats,” he said. “All three of the parties have a serious shot of winning seats here.”

In Port Moody–Coquitlam, where the closest three-way race occurred between Conservatives (31. per cent), NDP (30.9 per cent) and the Liberals (29.1 per cent), 3,151 more voters cast their ballots in advance.

Thousands voted at advance polls in Burnaby North–Seymour as well, a total of 17,383 compared to last election’s 13,342 when Liberal incumbent Terry Beech came out on top with 35.5 per cent of the votes compared to the NDP (32.3 per cent) and Conservatives’ (19.4 per cent).

In Vancouver–Granville, where 450 more people voted at advance polls, Liberal Taleeb Noormohamed, who lost the last election by a six per voting margin is the only returning candidate on the ballot. He’s up against Conservative Kailin Che and New Democrat Anjali Appadurai.

Johnston said, “if there are many close races, a modest shift of seats from Conservative to Liberal or NDP could occur in Ottawa.”

One of the few ridings where fewer voters attended advance polls was South Okanagan–West Kootenay, where a two-way competition ensued in 2019 between NDP incumbent Richard Cannings, who won with 36.4 per cent of the vote compared to Conservative Helena Konanz (35.2 per cent).

“People who vote early had their minds made up from the start but we’ll have to wait to see what they thought,” Johnston said.


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