The last federal election cost $443 million. But we shouldn't, Susan Delacourt writes, get too exorcised about the cost:
That’s about $5 more per person than the cost of the 2011 election, but last year’s 78-day campaign was more than twice the length of the last one. It was also more of a box office success: nearly three million more voters than in the 2011 election.
All of those new voters means that democracy won the last election:
The political parties of all stripes are saying — with some justification — that the increase in turnout is a result of their increased sophistication in getting out the vote with data and analytics. But while that is no doubt true, it can’t be the only explanation. Nor is it enough to say that Canadians were motivated to vote last year because it was a “change” election.
Big data and big change aside, Elections Canada itself probably played a major role in upping voter turnout. And that is a particularly sweet ending to a decade in which this institution was demonized and demoralized by the government in power.
And given how the Conservatives tried to hamstring the people who Stephen Harper once referred to as "those jackasses at Elections Canada," that number is remarkable:
Recall, for instance, how former democratic reform minister Pierre Poilievre introduced the Fair Elections Act in 2014, and how he defended the measures reining in Elections Canada’s authority to promote voter participation.
“Clearly the public advertising and outreach campaigns of Elections Canada have not worked,” Poilievre said in a CBC interview after introducing the legislation. “Since they came into effect, voter turnout has actually plummeted.”
Poilievre may have wished that voter participation would plummet. But, in the future, Mr. Poilievre should be careful what he wishes for:
Last fall, Elections Canada went ahead and gamely tried to get the vote out anyway, especially among people who hadn’t shown a big interest in voting in previous elections — youth and aboriginal people in particular.
Elections Canada set up 71 “satellite offices” for voting at select university and college campuses, YMCAs and friendship centres, and gathered more than 70,000 votes this way, most at the campus locations. Another pilot project in hospitals produced 22,000 votes from people in acute or long-term care.
Elections Canada also introduced an online voter registration service, which 1.7 million people used to see if they were on the voters list. More than 300,000 people in Canada got onto the voters’ list through this new online route, according to the report issued last week. As well, voters were permitted for the first time in 2015 to apply online to cast a special ballot if they were unable to vote at advance or election-day polls. The number of people voting this way more than doubled over the 2011 special ballot figures.
Elections Canada did its job despite Conservative attempts to shut it down. One wonders what lies ahead for Pierre Poilievre.