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Will voter engagement ramp up after Labour Day, political expert questions

'It has been harder to get people motivated,' says professor of the current federal election campaign

The pandemic, a short election period and its timing are all having an impact on how voters are engaging in the current campaign leading to the Sept. 20 vote, says a local political analyst.

“As with everything else in our lives, the pandemic makes elections harder, the day-to-day aspects of an election,” said Michael Johns, visiting professor with York University’s department of politics. “We saw this in the U.S. (federal) election where they lost a debate.

“In the heart of the 2020 campaign, it was hard for them to even have two candidates on stage and have it aired nationally. That was hard. And now you’re trying to do it on a local level," he added. 

The entire election process is complicated by the timing. The election was called for Sept. 20 in August, when people were still in summer or vacation mode, kids are home from school and when Johns says it’s typically more difficult to engage people.

This year, that campaign goes into the start of the school year.

“This election has been harder. It has been harder to get people motivated,” he said.

“Generally, I think, the pandemic and the timing of the election in both its duration and the time on the calendar. You put all those things together, I think this is what you end up with," Johns added.

Even all-candidates meetings have become a challenge. 

“I think for a lot of people, they feel uncomfortable going to an all-candidates meeting,” Johns said. “Some of them might be so sick of doing everything on Zoom, the last thing they want to do is sit through a two-hour candidates meeting on Zoom”

In addition, some people might be uncomfortable using that technology, particularly seniors, who are typically the most engaged at election time.

Johns says he’s curious to see what happens after Labour Day. Will the pandemic have taken the wind out of the election, or will it ramp up in the last two weeks?

“That’s what we’ll have to wait and see,” he said.