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Nearly 80% of eligible voters turned out for a 1950s Canadian election

Over 43 federal elections, voter turnout rates have ranged from 58.5 per cent to 79.4 per cent

The highest voter turnout ever for a Canadian federal election fell just short of 80 per cent of eligible voters casting a ballot. 

On March 31 1958, Elections Canada reported a 79.4 per cent voter turnout rate for the federal election that saw John Diefenbaker elected as Prime Minister with a majority government. Nine months prior on June 10, 1957, 74.1 per cent of eligible Canadian voters elected Diefenbaker to his first term as Prime Minister, but with a minority government.  

There were 9,131,200 electors on the official list in 1958, and 7,357,139 ballots cast.

In 1957, there were 8,902,125 electors and 6,680,690 votes cast.

Election turnout continued to hover in the high '70s for the next five federal elections (1962, 1963, 1965, and 1968). 

But voter turnout hasn't reached much higher than 75 per cent since then with the elections of 1979, 1984, and 1988 seeing turnout rates of 75.7 per cent, 75.3 per cent and 75.3 per cent respectively. 

The lowest-ever voter turnout for a federal election was on October 14, 2008 when just 58.5 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot. Stephen Harper won a minority Conservative government with 143 seats, and the Liberals led by Stéphane Dion in second place at 77 seats. 

In 2008, there were 23,677,639 electors listed as eligible to vote, with 13,929,093 ballots cast. 

Overall, voter turnout has increased since then with 61.1 per cent in 2011, 68.3 per cent in 2015 and 67 per cent in 2019. 

The first-ever federal election from Aug. 7 to Sept. 20, 1867 saw 73.1 per cent of eligible voters participate to elect John A. Macdonald as Prime Minister. There were 268,387 ballots cast in the 1867 election. 

Trudeau vs. Trudeau

There are some similarities between the elections that led Pierre Elliott Trudeau to become Prime Minister and the ones that led his oldest son, Justin Trudeau, to become Prime Minister. 

Pierre Trudeau was first elected in 1968 with a majority Liberal government and a voter turnout of 75.7 per cent. His second term was a minority Liberal government elected in 1972 with a voter turnout of 76.7 per cent. 

Less than two years later, Pierre Trudeau won his third term as Prime Minister with a majority government after the July 8, 1974 election, which saw a voter turnout of 71 per cent. 

Canada elected a Conservative government led by Joe Clark in 1979, and then elected the Liberals and Pierre Elliott Trudeau again in 1980. 

Justin Trudeau was also elected with a Liberal majority in October 2015 with a voter turnout of 68.3 per cent. Like his father, he won a second term with a Liberal minority in October 2019 and the voter turnout was down slightly at 67 per cent. 

Tonight is Justin Trudeau's third election as leader of the Liberal party.


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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 15 years of experience as a local journalist
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