Lesson 4: Democratic and Equality Charter Rights

Topic 3: The Right and Responsibility to Vote

Voter turnout has diminished in many western democracies in recent decades, including in Canada. Prior to 1980, it was not common to have a voter turnout of less than 70%.

Federal Election Turnout for Selected Elections

General Election Date Voter Turnout (%)
4 September 1984 75.3
21 November 1988 75.3
25 Oct 1993 69.6
2 June 1997 67
27 November 2000 61.2
28 June 2004 60.9
23 October, 2006 64.7
14 October, 2008 58.8

(Source: Elections Canada)

Elections Canada commissioned a major study of non-voters after the 2000 general election’s historic low voter turnout. It found that one of the major factors in diminished voter turnout was low turnout by the youngest voters. Only 25% of 18-25 year olds and only 22% of 18 to 21-year-old voters participated that year. Youth voter turnout for 18-21 year olds improved for the 2006 election, rising to 38%. Results for youth turnout for 2008 are not yet available.  

Provincial and local elections in BC have experienced an even lower voter turnout in recent years.

BC General Elections

Year Voter Turnout (%)
2001 55
2005 58
2008 50.99

(Source: Elections BC)

Local elections in British Columbia have an often lower turnout than federal or provincial elections, but there is a great degree of difference between municipalities from election to election. Likely voter turnout is higher when there is a controversial issue or a more contested election than if some positions such as mayor are acclaimed.

Local BC Elections November 2005 — Sample Jurisdictions

Municipality Voter Turnout (%)
Stewart 84
Terrace 24
Vancouver 32
Nanaimo 32
Saanich 19
Sidney 9

(Source: Union of BC Municipalities)