The conventional wisdom is straightforward: summer elections are bad.
The thinking is that people are not engaged in politics when summer hits. Sunshine and vacations take precedence and those poor wannabe politicians, looking to kiss babies and shake hands, are often ignored. Voter turnouts are low in Canada at the best of times, so trying to interest people when the sun is shining is seen as a near impossible task.
There are four federal byelections being held this week and many pundits have already expressed the fear that the outcomes won’t be as they should be because of the timing.
Voters go to the polls in two Ontario byelections and two Alberta byelections on Monday. Not only are voters being asked to vote in summer, they are being asked to do so one day before a national holiday. Can you imagine how many people plan to make this an extended long weekend and be anywhere but at home when the polls open? Will anyone actually show up to vote? Hopefully the advance polls saw a big turnout.
It’ll be interesting to see the numbers when the final tally is presented. Voter turnout for byelections is notoriously low, so don’t expect any upward spikes. If the vote count is unusually low, a lot of people will point to summer as the reason.
The Ontario byelections are being held in Whitby-Oshawa and Scarborough-Agincourt, while the two in Alberta are in Fort McMurray-Athabasca and the riding of Macleod, if you want to follow along Monday night. Given their minimal impact on the makeup of the federal government, there has been little interest in these byelections across the country and now, with summer here, well…
The PC party in our province is about to go on its own summer adventure with a redo of its party leadership race. The entire campaign is going to take place over July and August with the vote for a new leader slated for Sept. 13. The potential negative impact can’t be lost on organizers or candidates. Our short summer is precious and even devoted party players can be forgiven for wanting to get away from it all for awhile.
The challenge for candidates is the traditional method the party is sticking with for this vote. Delegates have to be elected in all 48 districts to attend the convention in September. That’s a tough slog at any time, but in summer it will be even harder. Why the party leadership would ignore the opportunity technology could afford them to increase outreach and participation, especially among young people, is baffling.
At a time when the watchword is renewal, the party chose to stick with the old ways.
The candidates face a daunting task. They will want to try and get to all of those mini-elections in every district if they can and they will want to talk to the party brass in every district long before delegate selection takes place. Reaching those people will be harder in summer and the short time frame of the campaign adds to the challenge.
There are some potential positives, though. Summer is a slow news time so the party might get a little more coverage from the media. Newspapers and newscasts still have to be filled. After the caplin run, the summer festivals and tourism stories, there’s slim pickings for hard-working journalists, so the PC leadership should get a little more scrutiny.
Politicians have always loved summer. Barbecues and garden parties give them a way to reconnect with their constituents. People are generally in a good mood and glad to say hello to their MHA.
I have a feeling this summer will be different, though, especially for the Tories. They have to fill the halls with potential delegates for the convention this fall.
Get it done early would be my advice, though the candidates might disagree.
Randy Simms is a political commentator and broadcaster. He can be reached at