Voters are going to the polls for the third time in eight months in Nanaimo, B.C., with Monday’s by-election contest in the federal riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith, which comes just six months before October’s federal election.
Voters will replace former New Democrat MP Sheila Malcolmson, who resigned in January in a successful run for the British Columbia NDP in the provincial riding.
Seven candidates are running in the by-election: New Democrat Bob Chamberlin, Jennifer Clarke of the People’s Party of Canada, Liberal Michelle Corfield, Conservative John Hirst, Jakob Letkemann of the National Citizens Alliance, Green Paul Manly and Brian Marlatt of the Progressive Canadian Party.
Despite the string of elections in the area, voters don’t appear to be suffering from election fatigue, says David Black, a political communications expert at Victoria’s Royal Roads University.
Voter turnout in last October’s municipal vote was 40 per cent. It was 53 per cent in the Jan. 30 provincial by-election and in the October, 2015 federal election, Nanaimo-Ladysmith saw 75 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots.
“There’s something going on in Nanaimo that’s kind of wonderful,” Mr. Black said. “Turnout in 2015 was 75 per cent. That typically means the higher the turnout, the less predictable the race, because you have a lot of voters who are not partisan and who may be persuadable.”
He said the presence of five national leaders in Nanaimo-Ladysmith during the by-election indicates the importance of the vote this close to the federal election and that will likely increase voter turnout.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Green Leader Elizabeth May, the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh and Maxime Bernier of the People’s Party of Canada have all been in the riding since the by-election call.
“It’s their presence and the fact that it’s the last by-election before October that has made this by-election, in its own way, a proving ground, a laboratory for national political messages heading into October,” Mr. Black said.
He said he expects Monday’s vote to be a four-way contest between the NDP, Conservatives, Greens and the Liberals. Each party polled 20 per cent or more in 2015 with Ms. Malcolmson winning for the NDP with 33 per cent of the vote.
Mr. Chamberlin is a vice-president with the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs; Ms. Corfield has served as chair and vice-chair of the Nanaimo Port Authority; Mr. Manly is a researcher, filmmaker and communications specialist; and Mr. Hirst, is a financial manager and the youngest candidate at 32 years old.