Fewer than 20 students showed up at Gerts to watch results roll in from the federal election with the lowest turnout rate in Canadian history .
Gerts, whose TVs and beer generally attract a crowd of the politically inclined during election season, was dead Tuesday night – in stark contrast to the high turnout for the American presidential debates.
International Relations Students’ Association of McGill (IRSAM) member Sarah Quinn was surprised by the low attendance.
“Last election, there were so many people here. Even for the American debates, there were so many people here,” she said, referring to the well-attended Democrats Abroad and Students for Obama events held at Gerts for the American Presidential debates.
During the 2004 U.S. elections the bar was packed wall-to-wall.
An email was sent to campus political groups on behalf of Gerts Promotions and Events. While some, such as IRSAM and the McGill Global AIDS Coalition, did show up, others were conspicuously absent.
However, one reason for the poor turnout at Gerts may be that the Political Science Students’ Association (PSSA) opted to host their election event at Benelux. A sizeable number of people attended the PSSA event, and the atmosphere was decidedly more rowdy than Gerts, though there was still no sign of campus political parties.
Others, like Boily, were unsurprised by the results, but disappointed by the Bloc and Conservative advances.
Quinn suggested that the Gerts turnout was a reflection of people’s attitudes anticipating the relatively predictable results.
“I think this will be an election that people will easily forget.”
Barring any recounts, the Tories will end up with 143 seats, up 16 from when Parliament was dissolved, but 12 short of a majority. The Liberals stand at 76, down 19 seats; the Bloc at 50, up two; and the NDP at 37, up 7. Two independents, one from Quebec and one from Nova Scotia, round out the 308 winners. No representatives of the Green Party were elected, even though they were the only major party to get more votes than they did at the last election.
Disheartened students at Benelux booed when Green Party leader Elizabeth May’s loss in Central Nova to incumbent Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay was announced.
“It’s a shame,” said PSSA President Roy Jahchan of May’s loss. “I was really hoping that the Green Party would be heard in Parliament, especially considering their strong and articulate leader.”
The crowd was equally animated by the announcement of Liberal Justin Trudeau’s win over Bloc incumbent Vivian Barbot in the Montreal riding of Papineau. Some booed, others cheered, and still others laughed.
And as the Conservatives gained seats, the mood at Benelux turned anxious and frustrated.
“One seat that I really cared about,” said Patrick Boily, a Liberal supporter, “was Saint Boniface, and it just went Conservative.” He was referring to the Manitoba riding that has been a Liberal stronghold since its creation in 1924.
Few were surprised by the Conservative minority win, and some said that they were satisfied with the results.
“I think the minority situation is good for Canada, because it forces moderation,” said Jahchan.
Student leaders run for federal office
Some of last year’s campus politicians ran for the House of Commons. Former Law senator Erica Martin won 8.2 per cent of the vote for the NDP in Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, the riding covering the Northern half of the province. Former arts senator Lynne Champoux-Williams, won 2.5 per cent for the Greens in Lévis—Bellechasse, which stretches from suburbs across the St. Lawrence river from Quebec City to Maine. Last year’s PSSA president, Charles Larivée, ran for the Bloc in Westmount—Ville-Marie, the downtown riding that includes most of McGill campus, garnering 7.2 per cent. No candidate placed higher than fourth.