Voter apathy could plague Calgary

Could following the federal election in Calgary be as interesting as watching blue paint dry?

Could following the federal election in Calgary be as interesting as watching blue paint dry?

The percentage of Canadians who went to the polls hit a record low in 2008 and Alberta had the second lowest voter turnout in the country at an estimated 52.9 per cent. Janet Brown, a Calgary-based public opinion research consultant, said turnout in the province could even be lower this time around.

"When people give reasons for not going out to vote, it's usually just because they are tired of voting. They feel that elections are coming too quickly, it's hard to sort of get engaged in the race. I don't think there are any signs yet that we will get a higher voter turn out, probably the same or lower."

Pollster Janet Brown predicts Calgary will see a low voter turnout this election. (CBC)
Southern Alberta isn't known for its diverse political appetite – Conservatives won every riding in 2008.

"We live in a region where all the seats are held by Conservatives and after the next election they likely will all be held by the Conservatives as well. Whether you care or not depends on how important you think it is to vote and whether you think voting is a duty or just an option," said Brown.

Calgary residents returning to the polls

Calgarians could also be suffering from election fatigue.

record low number of Albertans, just 41 per cent, cast ballots in the March 2008 provincial election, which saw Albertans elect an historic eleventh straight Progressive Conservative government.

But Calgarians are coming off a municipal race that seemed to capture residents' attention. About 53 per cent of eligible voters turned out to cast votes for their mayor and council members last October. That was up from only 33 per cent in the 2007 race.

Naheed Nenshi won the mayor's title, a job left open by the departure of Dave Bronconnier.

"The thing about the municipal election is there was no incumbent. We were voting for a brand new mayor," Brown said. "The only seat without an incumbent is Calgary Centre-North. … When you are dealing with races with incumbents, it doesn't really garner as much attention as when it is a fresh race open to anyone."

Voters not expecting change

At Central Blends, a café in Calgary Centre-North, several voters said they weren't paying much attention to the election. That's despite the fact the departure of high profile Calgary Centre-North MP Jim Prentice could make for an interesting race in the riding.

"We have a history of federal elections. People are just sick of it. We won't see people coming to the polls. What we need is something like what happened when Naheed Nenshi was elected in Calgary and people were just motivated to go and vote," said Zelda Brennan.

Joe Shaw said he will reluctantly head to the polls, even though he believes Canada doesn't need an election right now, and it's a forgone conclusion who will win in his hometown.

"Obviously here in Calgary your vote, unless you vote Conservative, doesn't really mean anything because no one else is going to get elected," he said.