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federal election 2015

The numbers of people voting didn’t ‘shoot back up’ because the decline in participation has been slow and steady, said Peter Loewen, assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto.Ben Nelms/Bloomberg

Canada is bucking its decades-long slide toward voter apathy, based on early estimates of turnout at the polls.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, about 60 per cent of voters cast ballots, a seven-percentage-point increase over the 2011 election, according to preliminary estimates compiled by Elections Canada.

A similar trend played out in the rest of Atlantic Canada.

Full coverage of Federal Election 2015

In Prince Edward Island, which traditionally enjoys the highest turnout in Canada, 76.5 per cent of registered voters cast ballots, up 2.5 percentage points from 2011.

Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were also poised to show gains, even though several polls had not yet reported results by press time.

"I think this is an election where people really wanted change," Peter Loewen, assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto, said in an interview.

He expects participation in the rest of the country to mirror what happened in Atlantic Canada, but said it is not surprising that the numbers did not "shoot back up" because the decline in participation has been slow and steady.

"We don't get 15-per-cent swings between elections," Prof. Loewen said.

Over the Thanksgiving long weekend, 3.6 million Canadians cast ballots during four days of advance polling – exceeding the turnout in the 2011 election's early-voting window by 71 per cent, according to Elections Canada.

Prof. Loewen said the sharp jump in voting likely was driven by the relatively good weather and the chance for families to talk politics.

The turnout was hailed by observers as not quite a return to the glory days, when turnout exceeded 70 per cent, but a promising sign of interest in what has been the longest election campaign in modern Canadian history.

Participation by voters has been declining since the early 1990s, reaching a low point of 58.8 per cent in the 2008 election, before rebounding slightly to 61.1 per cent in 2011.

Monday began with a high volume of traffic, temporarily overwhelming Election Canada's website, but it quickly was returned to normal.

A spokeswoman for the agency said traffic was steady throughout the day at most voting stations.

About 25.6 million Canadians had registered to vote by the deadline last Tuesday.

Voters cast ballots in 66,000 polling stations across Canada during the 12 hours the polls were open.