Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/4/2016 (1452 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
“We’ve got a leader of the governing party who’s a bit discredited in the eyes of many voters, we have a leader of the opposition Progressive Conservatives who isn’t striking a strong response from voters and we have a new untested leader and her immaturity is showing.”
— Winnipeg-based political scientist Paul Thomas
Since the mid-1970s, voter turnout in Manitoba has continued to trend downward, even as advance polling numbers have been climbing in the last decade.
More than 78,000 voters (18 per cent of voters) cast their ballots in advance polls for the 2011 election — nearly double the 42,775 early votes (10 per cent) collected over seven days of advance polling in the 2007 provincial election.
And yet, overall voter turnout in 2011 was a paltry 55.55 per cent, slightly lower than in 2007 when 56.75 per cent of eligible voters actually took the time to get down to a polling station.
The trend lines are going in opposite directions, despite the intentions of Elections Manitoba workers, who have done their level best to make it easier than ever to mark an ‘X’ during a provincial general election — both on election day and in advance of it.
This year alone, officials told media they were ready for a possible surge of voters. And in the first two days of advance polls which began last Saturday, they got one, with nearly 22,000 Manitobans lining up to cast a ballot — nearly 3,000 more ballots than in the first two days of the 2011 election.
Of course, we won’t know full numbers of advance polls until they close, which will happen later today. But Elections Manitoba officials have been sure to warn media that rising advance poll numbers do not indicate what the final tally will be.
As pundit Paul Thomas has told CTV in recent weeks, elections are about leadership — who’s at the helm of any given party, and how much they inspire voters to get engaged in the process. Quite frankly, the 2015 election campaign has been about as engaging as a wet sock.
We can thank uninspired leadership for that.
A Probe Research poll on our leadership choices released a few weeks ago suggested that nearly one-third of Manitobans — 32 per cent — believed that none of the leaders stood out as being the most trustworthy nor inspiring. More to the point, when it comes to popularity, each of the three main party leaders scored lower than their parties’ support.
This fact alone could have a disastrous effect for overall voter turnout numbers this election. There may also be an increase in the number of declined ballots, according to some observers. Certainly we can see how uninspired election campaigns have affected voter intentions federally.
Voter turnout in the 2008 federal election hit its lowest point on record when only 58.8 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot. At the time, the Toronto Star blamed the turnout on a “sputtering competition, lack of a truly galvanizing issue and general disenchantment with politics.”
The Manitoba election is somewhat different. The NDP, which have governed since 1999, has resorted to scare tactics to motivate supporters. This was in full comic display in Brandon during the Brandon Sun, Westman Communications and Brandon Chamber of Commerce debates on Thursday night, when Brandon West candidate Linda Ross spoke of her fear of a Brian Pallister Progressive Conservative government.
“You should be afraid, you should be very afraid,” she intoned without a hint of irony, though the comment drew mirth from the audience.
The Tories, on the other hand, have appeared somewhat strident in their presumption of a victory on Tuesday, and perhaps with good reason. The NDP hasn’t been this vulnerable in decades, and the Progressive Conservatives have enjoyed strong polling numbers, even as the Liberal support appears to have collapsed — that is, if polls can be believed.
And the jury’s still out on that one, too. As they say, the only poll that counts is on election day. But between the fearful diatribes of the NDP, questionable numbers and policies from the Liberals, and a lack of firm commitments from the Tories, we get the impression that a lot of Manitobans feel like they’re being pressured to vote against “the other” rather than in favour of a better, plausible ideal.
That doesn’t suggest good leadership. And it certainly isn’t inspiring.