Scott Munnoch, Partner, Temple Scott Associates
On Sunday, August 15, Justin Trudeau took a walk with his family to see the newly-installed Governor General, and asked her to dissolve the 43rd Parliament and send the country to an early election on Monday, September 20.
Some 32 days later, we are on the eve of that election day. Pollsters are busy with new numbers being released daily, showing that the election’s outcome is too close to call. Advance polls have come and gone, with a record six million Canadians casting their ballots already. Add to that approximately one million who have voted by mail, and this has the potential to be one of the largest voter turnouts in recent times.
So, what does this all mean, and how will the last three days unfold as those still yet to vote take a last look at candidates and political party leaders before casting their ballot on Monday?
The Leaders and their teams will be fanning out across the country in a series of quick whistle-stops in ridings where they think they can make a difference with one last outreach to voters. You will be able to identify the individual party’s strengths and weaknesses by where the Leader’s don’t go. Conversely, as they attend various events in various regions, these will represent the areas that are “in play” and where the individual parties will be putting added effort over the weekend to solidify and grow their vote.
The platforms are published, the mailings are all out, the debates have taken place, the media interviews are mostly finished, and the travel is now focused on targeted regions.
It means that all the work and effort up to now won’t matter if individual riding campaigns don’t have a smooth and efficient election day plan ready to go.
GOTV, not a new TV station, but an acronym for “Get Out The Vote” will be essential in this election. There are many close races across the country. In many races, two of the three major parties are battling it out for each vote. In others, fringe parties such as the People’s Party of Canada may siphon enough votes from a contending party to make a difference in the final outcome. In Quebec, the separatist Bloc Quebecois party has a unique agenda that will be a serious threat in that province alone.
The well-organized and efficient campaigns will have identified their vote through weeks of canvassing, phone banking and digital tracking. Now their challenge is to have teams of volunteers, callers, drivers and poll scrutineers all work together to make sure that all their identified supporters make it to the polls.
The Election Day Chair and their team will be on top of every individual poll in the riding, with detailed lists marked with voter intentions, assigned volunteers, phone directories and email addresses. They will want to get those identified who intend to vote for their candidate to the voting station no matter what it takes.
In this election, the added challenge for campaigns may be more than just making sure your supporters get to the polls. The true test may be to keep them there and make sure that they actually vote. With COVID-19 still affecting our everyday lives, there are fewer voting places in every riding and safety protocols in place limiting access, lengthening line-ups and making the process more cumbersome. This may result in significant line-ups to vote, and campaigns will need additional resources to make sure voters don’t get frustrated and leave. This, too, is likely the biggest factor that led to 7.5 million Canadians voting in advance and by mail.
On Monday night, we may not have a new government in Canada. Instead, we might have an election in progress…
Data indicates that there are many tight races, and many will result in additional review and scrutiny. Local mail-in ballots and advance polls are counted after the initial ballots, and with the integrity check applied to the mail-in ballots, this could take a day or two after September 20. In some tight races, this might be enough to make a difference in the final tally.
Many suggest the outcome will be a smaller minority government than we currently have. If this is indeed the case, the riding-by-riding GOTV operation for each party will be the key to victory. A majority government seems very unlikely, so in the end, many will be asking why we needed this campaign. That question has still to be answered, and maybe the answer is simply that we don’t know the answer.
Monday night may be long, and many results will be late in coming.
Have patience, and above all, get out and vote. If you don’t vote, don’t complain.