Voter turnout low in corruption-plagued Montreal

Even after two mayors resigned in scandal, and revelations of kickbacks and bid-rigging that drove up construction costs, most Montrealers still didn't bother voting for a new civic leader.

Less than half of Montreal's voters cast ballots in Sunday's municipal election

Denis Coderre celebrates after winning the mayoral election Sunday, November 3, 2013 in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)
With corruption scandals dominating the headlines and city governance at the forefront of a provincial inquiry, many expected large numbers showing up at the polls Sunday demanding change. 

But, when the votes were counted, only about 43 per cent of Montrealers cast their ballot to elect their new civic leaders, according to numbers from Elections Montreal. 

It's a slight bump over 2009, when incumbent Gerald Tremblay swept back into city hall with a Union Montreal majority. But it's still short of the 50 per cent election officials were hoping for. 

Sunday's municipal election result is part of a persistent trend in Western democracies toward lower voter turnouts.

Denis Coderre, a former longtime Liberal MP, was elected by 32 per cent of those voters meaning only 13 per cent of eligible voters picked the next mayor.

In his victory speech, Coderre was conciliatory and pledged to work with other municipal parties.

"We are at the crossroads right now, and I will be the mayor of all Montrealers," Coderre said.

Most, of course, didn't vote for him.

Over the last 40 years, voter turnout has been steadily declining in established democracies. North America, Western Europe and Japan have all seen reduced participation at the polls.

The trend is generally agreed to be undesirable, but there's clashing opinion among political scientists regarding whether people who don't follow politics or don't want to vote should be forced to cast a ballot.

On par with other metropolises 

In Toronto, turnout rose in 2010, but the city now finds itself with a mayor facing resignation demands from across the political spectrum.

Voter turnout in Toronto was at 39 per cent in 2006, compared with 50 per cent 2010.

Other cities haven't fared much better. Calgary saw a 39 per cent turnout in last month's election, down from 53 per cent in 2010.

In Edmonton, 35 per cent voted last month, even though the job was up for grabs after the previous mayor stepped down.

With files from Canadian Press


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