Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

April 26, 2010 16:18 ET

Harper Government Introduces the Increasing Voter Participation Act

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 26, 2010) - The Hon. Steven Fletcher, Minister of State (Democratic Reform), today with the Hon. Josée Verner, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister for La Francophonie, moved ahead with the Government of Canada's 2010 Throne Speech commitment to increase voter participation by giving Canadians more chances to vote during federal elections. 

"Increasing the number of advance polling days means giving Canadians more opportunities to vote and will help to increase voter participation," said Minister Fletcher. "That is why our Government is improving Canada's democracy by adding two additional voting days for voters."

The Increasing Voter Participation Act, introduced today, adds two new advance polling days to the campaign period. The first additional day would be on the Sunday eight days before election day and the second would be on the Sunday immediately before election day. More importantly, all 65,000 regular polls will be open on the Sunday before election day. This will maximize the opportunity for Canadians to vote at advance polls in their own neighbourhood and will be particularly helpful for Canadians living in rural areas who often must travel long distances to vote.

"Voter participation in the political process is the cornerstone of our democracy," added Minister Verner. "Our Government believes it is important to encourage citizens to participate in the democratic process."

Backgrounder

Increasing Voter Participation Act

Canadians currently have access to three advance polling days on Friday, Saturday and Monday, the tenth, ninth and seventh days respectively before election day, between the hours of noon and 8 p.m. The number of polling stations open on advance polling days is considerably more limited than is the case on election day. During the last general election, advance polls were established in 3,071 polling locations across Canada, as compared to 15,205 ordinary polling locations used on general voting day.

The Increasing Voter Participation Act would add two additional advance polling days. On the Sunday, immediately before election day, all polling stations used for election day would be open, maximizing voting opportunities for Canadians at a time when interest in the election is peaking. 

The other additional advanced polling day would be on the Sunday eight days before election day. This would create a block of four consecutive voting days between the tenth day and the seventh day before the election. 

Maximizing the opportunities for Canadians to vote is particularly important in view of falling voter participation rates. While voter participation rates in national elections averaged around 75 per cent for much of the post-war era, voter turnout fell to 67 per cent in 1997, 61.2 per cent in the 2000 election and 60.5 per cent in the 2004 election. Although turnout rebounded somewhat in the 2006 election when it rose to 64.9 per cent, it fell again in the 2008 election to an all-time low of 58.8 per cent.

Canadians are increasingly making use of advance polls to cast their vote. In 1997, a total of 704,336 Canadians voted at advance polls, representing 5 per cent of total votes cast. In the 2008 election, 1.5 million Canadians voted at advance polls, representing 11 per cent of total votes cast.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of State (Democratic Reform)
    Jessica Georgakopoulos
    613-943-6975