Finally, after the longest campaign in modern history, Canadians will head to the polls next week to vote. In a matter of days, election signs, which feel like a permanent fixture on our streets, will go. Canadians will have a new government. Although we aren’t sure who this new government will be, or the size of it, we can be certain this campaign will be remembered. Why?
A Keep-Them-Guessing Three Party Race
First, the three party tie throughout the majority of the campaign has certainly left the pollsters, pundits and media alike guessing. Even as we head into the last days, the electorate is seeing one party take a lead by a small percentage one day and then the gap closes the next. The fluctuation is within the margin of error, and no one is prepared to call it just yet.
The Digital Campaign
Hands down, this campaign saw the most sophisticated online tactics unrolled to date. I recognize that will be said about the next election campaign, and the one after, but the level of online engagement that took place during this campaign was remarkable. Political parties know a lot about you: your interests, hobbies and where you spend the majority of your time online. Election ads have taken over our Facebook feeds, Instagram, Twitter, and even your favourite online store.
No Single Ballot Box Question
Or was there? There were many unpredictable factors that changed the conversation on the election trail, from economic indicators to the tragic deaths of a young Syrian family which shone a light on the refugee crisis, or the young woman who fought for the right to wear her niqab at her citizenship ceremony. Perhaps this campaign was less about party platforms and policy and more about Canadian values. Whether it was a local, national or international issue that changed the conversation on the trail, political war rooms needed to be nimble to not only build and alter their key messages, but also their party policy.
What will happen on October 19th?
So, now with only days left, I wonder how this will all translate to the electorate on October 19? Will the young voter actually show up at the polling station? Statistics Canada recently reported that in 2011, only 37% of youth eligible to vote actually cast ballots. Did the sophisticated digital campaign engage younger voters, or do they feel as disenchanted as ever with a political system that is not very flexible and simply put, archaic?
We are also hearing that the First Nation vote is more motivated than ever with Elders and youth heading to the polls for the first time in their lives. First Nations youth are the fastest growing population in Canada. This vote could have a serious impact in Ottawa.
Then there is the “undecided” vote we hear the media and pollsters often ponder about. This voter accounts for at least ten percent of eligible voters, and they often think “What difference will my vote make?” Well, given the three way race, they might actually get out their voter card and head to the nearest polling station.
After seeing pictures of the long line-up of voters at the advance polls over the holiday weekend, I can’t help but be encouraged that this long and polarizing campaign may have inspired Canadians to engage wholeheartedly in the democratic process. And, maybe that’s what this campaign will be remembered for in the history books.