Advance poll numbers don't show massive early turnout for Burnaby South vote

New advance poll figures released by Elections Canada show turnout is higher in Burnaby South than in the other two ridings hosting byelections on Monday, but not out of the norm.

Byelections will be held Monday in Burnaby South, Outremont and York–Simcoe

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was one of 5,462 people who voted in the Burnaby South advance poll over the weekend. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is fighting for his political life in Monday's federal byelection in Burnaby South, spending the last few weeks campaigning in the riding to win himself his first seat in the House of Commons.

Voters don't seem to share his sense of urgency, however. New figures from Elections Canada put advance voting over the weekend on track with other byelections held over the last few years — byelections that didn't feature a national leader on the ballot.

Three byelections are taking place Monday in the ridings of Burnaby South in B.C., Outremont in Quebec and York–Simcoe in Ontario. Voters in the three ridings had the chance to cast their ballots early over four days between Feb. 15 and 18.

According to the advance polling figures released by Elections Canada Tuesday, Burnaby South boasted modestly higher turnout figures than the other two ridings, with 5,462 voters tramping out to the polls over the weekend.

York–Simcoe was next with 4,283, followed by Outremont at 3,795. When rendered as a share of the last tally of eligible voters (the list of electors is revised when new byelections take place), Outremont's advance polling turnout narrowly edged out York–Simcoe at 5.4 to 5.2 per cent.

For Burnaby South, that number was 7.2 per cent. In 2015, Burnaby South also had a higher number of people voting in the advance poll than either Outremont or York–Simcoe. As a share of all voters, advance turnout in 2015 was 12.3 per cent in Burnaby South — lower than Outremont's 12.6 per cent but higher than York–Simcoe's 9.9 per cent.

That suggests that while Burnaby South is punching a little above its weight in advance voting — an indication of some interest on the part of voters — it isn't a notably high number. Four byelections held since 2015 have had higher advance turnout, including two that flipped from one party to another and two that weren't particularly competitive.

The low turnout in Outremont — scene of Tom Mulcair's historic breakthrough for the NDP in a 2007 byelection — also signals that voters aren't taking an abnormally keen interest in these votes.

Byelection turnout typically is much lower than in general elections. It has averaged just under 34 per cent since 1997, while turnout has averaged just over 63 per cent in general elections. The new advance turnout figures in Burnaby South, Outremont and York–Simcoe suggest that these three ridings look to be about on track for that level of voter participation as well.


Éric Grenier

Politics and polls

Éric Grenier is a senior writer and the CBC's polls analyst. He was the founder of ThreeHundredEight.com and has written for The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post Canada, The Hill Times, Le Devoir, and L’actualité.


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