Look­ing hard for a mes­sage

Ranked bal­lot idea has some merit to en­cour­age larger turnout

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL -

Any­one who fol­lows pol­i­tics al­ways looks for a mes­sage in by­elec­tions. Noth­ing star­tling came out of the three held Tues­day in Nova Sco­tia, but at any rate the gov­ern­ing Lib­er­als can rest easy with the re­sults.

What was more trou­bling, as ex­pressed by Premier Stephen McNeil in the af­ter­math, was the low voter turnout. In the Dart­mouth South rid­ing, only 38 per cent of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers cast bal­lots, re­sult­ing in the NDP’s Mar­ian Mancini win­ning by just 82 votes over the Lib­eral can­di­date.

The turnout in Syd­ney-Whit­ney Pier was 42.6 per cent while 47 per cent of po­ten­tial vot­ers took the time to cast a bal­lot in Cape Bre­ton Cen­tre.

With the Lib­er­als pick­ing wins in the two Cape Bre­ton rid­ings, how­ever, both for­merly held by the NDP, McNeil cer­tainly wasn’t handed any wor­ries in the over­all out­come.

Had it gone another way, the Lib­er­als win­ning only one or none, a lot of peo­ple would be try­ing to read some- thing into the tea leaves.

But it’s hard to say if any such mes­sage would be forth­com­ing in a midsummer by­elec­tion with lit­tle at stake – even if vot­ers like to see such con­tests as bell­wether events, a test of the gov­ern­ment’s per­for­mance.

In the lead- up, ear­lier this week, Don Mills, chair­man and CEO of Cor­po­rate Re­search As­so­ci­ates, said he didn’t see these three by­elec­tions as any test of gov­ern­ment sup­port. With a solid ma­jor­ity, a cou­ple of seats wouldn’t make a sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ence. That of­ten means in­ter­est in them isn’t as high, Mills said, and vic­tory is more likely to de­pend on which party gets more of its sup­port­ers out to the polls.

On top of that, again, let’s re­mem­ber the time of year. Gen­eral elec­tions are typ­i­cally cast in fall or spring, never in the sum­mer when, frankly, most peo­ple are pur­su­ing a more en­ter­tain­ing agenda.

The abysmal turnout can prob­a­bly in large part be at­trib­uted to those fac­tors. McNeil did re­flect on con­sid­er­ing such pos­si­bil­i­ties as re­form­ing the sys­tem to one of ranked bal­lots to en­cour­age bet­ter turnout. There’s merit in that, def­i­nitely, but at the same time we can be sure when vot­ers want to send a mes­sage, a lot more will show up.

‘ When vot­ers want to send a mes­sage, a lot more will show up’

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