Voter turnout on Island smashes national average

Seventy-seven per cent of registered voters casting their ballot in Victoria and 76 per cent in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke.

  • Oct. 21, 2015 8:00 a.m.

— Pamela Roth

Residents of Greater Victoria flocked to the polls Monday night, with 77 per cent of registered voters casting their ballot in Victoria and 76 per cent in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke.

According to Elections Canada, early numbers show 71,478 of 92,574 registered voters in Victoria cast a ballot.Of those votes, NDP incumbent Murray Rankin claimed 30,147 (42.2 per cent), followed by the Green Party’s Jo-Ann Roberts with 23,577 (33 per cent).

In Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, 67,987 of 89,523 registered voters showed up to the polls, where NDP incumbent Randall Garrison claimed 23,816 votes (35 per cent), followed by Liberal candidate David Merner with 18,573 (27 per cent).

Kimberly Spears, a political scientist at the University of Victoria, was blown away when she heard about the numbers.

“That’s amazing. It’s just wonderful to hear,” said Spears, adding voter turnout has been dropping in the last two decades, sitting around 60 per cent.

“You just felt that momentum increase throughout the election. I remember being a little worried at the beginning of the campaign because it was so long that it might just turn voters off….I know some people that have never been interested in politics before and they were for the first time ever. They were energized by this campaign and voted.”

The Conservatives have been in office for nine years. Usually at that point, Spears said Canadians want a change, which is why she predicted a Liberal majority at the beginning of the campaign.

Spears was also hearing a strong contingent of “anybody but Conservative,” which she said motivated people to vote for different reasons, such as the local candidate, the party leader, specific policies, or the way their family has voted for years.

Locally, Spears said there were many tight races on the Island, including Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke where the Liberals edged close to the NDP as the results came in. Her predictions on who would win that riding changed two or three times throughout the campaign.

In the end, Spears was surprised to see an NDP sweep of Vancouver Island except for the riding of Elizabeth May, where voter turn out was 79 per cent — the highest on the Island.

“I think I was surprised by the lack of support for the Greens across Canada. I thought maybe we would see a little bit of growth, but I think people were afraid to split the vote,” said Spears, who was undecided until she cast her ballot.

“It just reminded me of the 1993 election. People wanted to get the Conservatives out at that point and it was just kind of almost a little bit of history repeating itself.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps watched the election results in her kitchen with her family.

Helps said she is very pleased with the results of a Liberal government and its priorities for cities, infrastructure and social infrastructure, but she’s even more pleased with the amount of Victorians that headed to the polls.

“Let that carry on in the provincial election next year and the municipal election in 2018. I think it’s remarkable,” she said, adding she lives two doors down from one of the polling stations.

“I feel I saw some people skipping to the polls with their voter card in their hand and a lot of young people, especially in the early polling days. I feel very proud of residents of Victoria for exercising their vote to that degree. It’s amazing.”

The national voter turnout was 68 per cent, according to Elections Canada. The numbers do not include electors who registered on election day.