A closer look at the Fort McMurray-Athabasca and Macleod by-elections

Conservative candidates were elected in two federal by-elections yesterday in Alberta. This is an event which would normally not be a source for much commentary, but there are some interesting points to be made from the outcome of these two by-elections.

Fort McMurray Athabasca Federal By-Election Results 2014
Unofficial results of the 2014 federal by-election in Fort McMurray-Athabasca.

Conservatives hold, but support shrinks
In Fort McMurray-Athabasca, Conservative David Yurdiga was elected with 5,945 votes (47% of the vote), significantly lower than the landslide 21,988 votes (71.8% of the vote) earned by former MP Brian Jean in the 2011 general election. The regional breakdown of the votes could provide some interesting insight into this by-election, as Mr. Yurdiga hails from the voter-rich southern limits of this large rural riding.

In Macleod, John Barlow was elected with 12,394 votes (68%), only slightly lower than the 77% earned by MP Ted Menzies in 2011.

Liberals back in second place
The Liberals dislodged the official opposition New Democratic Party as the main challenger to the Conservatives in both ridings. Strong local campaigns as well as a boost from Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who visited the ridings numerous times during the by-elections, likely contributed to these results.

Fort McMurray-Athabasca Liberal Kyle Harrietha placed a strong second with 35.3% of the vote (4,491 votes), up from his party’s 10% in the 2011 general election. While the Liberals were not able to pull off a win, they should not be disappointed with their level of support. Percentage wise, this is the strongest a non-conservative candidate has placed in this riding since 1980.

In Macleod, Liberal Dustin Fuller earned 17% of the vote (3,062 votes), up from his party’s distant 3.6% fourth place finish in the 2011 general election.

Macleod federal by-election results 2014
Unofficial results from the 2014 federal by-election in Macleod.

Low voter turnout
Voter turnout was abysmally low. Only 15.19% of registered voters cast a ballot in Fort McMurray-Athabasca and 19.59% voted in Macleod. Although by-elections traditionally attract low voter turnout, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s choice to schedule the voting day between a weekend and Canada Day likely contributed to the low participation.

On Canada Day, we should reflect on how voter participation strengthens our democracy and the consequences of ignoring our country’s political and electoral process.

5 thoughts on “A closer look at the Fort McMurray-Athabasca and Macleod by-elections”

  1. Any comments about the non-campaign that Yurdiga carried out, skipping out both the southern and northern candidate debates, and almost a total lack of door-to-door campaigning, and perhaps even a little inept social media campaigning, contrasted to the intense door-to-door campaign carried out by Harrietha, three party leader visits, and extensive social media. Could Trudeau have been a liability?

    Also, does “social media” actually have any impact on a campaign? Twitter penetration to the general population is almost non-existent, and I’d guess those who’d follow a candidate on Facebook are likely already supporters.

  2. Truly insightful commentary, Dave. “On Canada Day, we should reflect on how voter participation strengthens our democracy and the consequences of ignoring our country’s political and electoral process.”

    You can gain a seat in our federal government with less that 6000 votes. That’s troubling.

    Who are the minority that actually take the time to vote?
    I would assume that many are influenced by social media, door knocking or mainstream media and still don’t bother to exercise their right to vote. Surely, even Tim Moen campaigned enough to garner more than 400 people in support?

    Not only are Canadians too lazy to make their way out to vote. They’re too lazy to be informed. I fear the day of online voting because it might be coin flip elections in Canada.

  3. I don’t agree that Canadians are too lazy to vote or to keep themselves informed. A decline in voting is occurring throughout most of the western world. Voters suspect, and there is much evidence to support them, that the corporate world rules the roost and that governments, regardless of which political party rules, will do very little to change things. They also suspect correctly that each of the political parties has degenerated into a small clique, mainly run by prospective office-holders and party officials. These are bastions of lack of democracy that portend poorly for the election of the candidates that this system now churns out.

    That said, I also don’t agree with the Tory and NDP supporters (though I still count myself vaguely among the latter, though the NDP threw me out of their party because I accuse them of being a small fortress that pretends it has constituency associations and real candidates in places where it does not actually exist) that these byelections mean nothing. Those who voted confirmed the polls that show the Liberal star rising throughout the country, deservedly or not.

  4. Mr. Waterhouse, yes Canadians are becoming more disengaged and dumber, but Albertans for various reasons are the most mentally handicapped densest creed on earth.

    Mr.Finkel, Justin WILL be the next Prime Minister. Those Canadians who still care to read and think are hungry for a kinder, gentler, moderate, smart, intelligent, thoughtful Canada that is a global leader in peace, yearn for that era of pride once more. We are not the kind gentle loving nation we once were. We need to recover our moderate Canadian identity and the Liberals are the best way. Mr.Finkel you should seriously consider joining with the Prov. and Fed Libs, you would add your uniqueness, talents and ideas in a constructive way. You have some wonderful ideas, join with those who will receive them. You should truly consider it.

  5. To Wide Aperture:

    Your scorn of Albertans simply reflects on your profound lack of incite for Canada and for the history of Canada.
    Since when, historically has Canada been some kind of Urban Whimp moaning the platitudes of peace while watching millions die around the world while doing nothing?
    Since when are the lads that stormed Juno beach… nothing?
    If J. Trudeau’s last name was Smith, we wouldn’t give this loser the time of day. Haven’t you seen south of the border what a no resume poseur has done to that country?

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