‘Delays compounded across several steps over the course of the night,’ Elections Canada says

Posted: 10 Minutes Ago
Last Updated: 8 Minutes Ago

A Conservative supporter shows voting results on his phone at a federal byelection election night event for Toronto-St.Paul’s candidate Don Stewart in Toronto on Monday, June 24, 2024. (The Canadian Press/Chris Young)

Elections Canada says the count in the Toronto-St. Paul’s byelection that saw the Liberals lose a party stronghold went slowly but well, despite the challenges of managing a contest with 84 names on the ballot.

“The unusual dimensions of the ballot itself meant that some steps took more time than normal,” Elections Canada spokesperson Matthew McKenna told CBC News in an email. “Delays compounded across several steps over the course of the night.”

McKenna said the long ballots took more time to unfold and tally. He also said the size of the ballot itself meant that additional ballot boxes were needed.

“The counting and reporting process was done by hand, in front of candidates’ representatives — the count continued into the night until all results were published online,” McKenna said.

“We always do our best to share election results as soon as possible after polls close, but maintaining the integrity and transparency of the counts is always our first priority.”

The unusually long list of candidates on the ballot can be attributed to a group of electoral reform advocates called the Longest Ballot Committee.

According to the spokesperson for the group — the Rhinocéros Party president who goes by the name Sébastien CoRhino — the Longest Ballot Committee helped 77 candidates get onto the ballot, including CoRhino. 

The candidates who took part in the Longest Ballot Committee protest, said CoRhino, included the candidates for the Rhinocéros, Marxist-Leninist and Marijuana parties and all the independent and unaffiliated candidates except for Cory Deville.

The Longest Ballot Committee’s slate of electoral reform candidates collectively earned 1,068 votes out of the 36,962 ballots cast — nine more votes than the Green Party’s candidate, who received 1,059 votes, and significantly more than the 234 votes earned by the People’s Party of Canada candidate.

None of the Longest Ballot candidates earned more than 97 votes and one candidate — who did not appear to have even voted for himself — won no votes.

Conservative Don Stewart won the contest with 15,555 votes. Liberal Leslie Church came second with 14,965 votes, a difference of 590 votes. 

‘Next time … it will be 184 candidates’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during the 2015 federal election that it would be the
last under the first-past-the-post system. After winning power, he backed away from that promise.

Glen McDonald, who earned 42 votes as an independent candidate in the Toronto-St. Paul’s by-election, told CBC news many of the people who voted for him and other independent candidates would have voted Liberal but were upset that Prime Minister Trudeau backed down on his electoral reform promise.

“If he had moved on electoral reform, I would have actually voted for Justin Trudeau and would have encouraged other people to do so and it would have made the difference,” McDonald said.

McDonald said his group has yet to decide how it is going to approach the coming federal election but will evaluate the movement’s results in Toronto-St. Paul’s before making a decision.

“The whole purpose of the Longest Ballot is to demonstrate that our voting system is messed up. And if that message hasn’t gotten across yet, then next time it won’t be 84 candidates, it will be 184 candidates,” he said. 

Elections Canada said it will “take the time to evaluate the delivery of the byelection” and produce a report, as it does with all elections.


Peter Zimonjic

Senior writer

Peter Zimonjic is a senior writer for CBC News. He has worked as a reporter and columnist in London, England, for the Daily Mail, Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph and in Canada for Sun Media and the Ottawa Citizen. He is the author of Into The Darkness: An Account of 7/7, published by Random House.