Elections Canada vs. Jays fans on Oct. 19

Major League Baseball hurls a curveball into the Canadian election

Fans celebrate following the Toronto Blue Jays series win over the Texas Rangers during game five American League Division Series baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, October 14, 2015. (Darren Calabrese/CP)

Fans celebrate following the Toronto Blue Jays series win over the Texas Rangers  October 14, 2015. (Darren Calabrese, CP)

For millions of Canadians, in Toronto and beyond, voting day will end 90 minutes earlier than Elections Canada has intended. Though polls will remain open until 9:30 p.m. ET in most of the country, for serious Blue Jays fans the primary act of democracy must happen before the Canadian anthem blares out at Rogers Centre at 8 p.m., and Marcus Stroman first vexes a Kansas City Royal with a sliding fastball a few minutes later, to start American League Championship Series’ Game 3.

It’s a nice conflict to have, sports fans, but it’s a conflict all the same.

Sportsnet reported that 8.1 million Canadians viewed the Roberto Osuna’s game-winning strikeout Wednesday to beat the Texas Rangers to win the division series. That’s close to one-quarter of the national population. Election turnout is higher, but the Conservatives’ majority in 2011 was won with only 5.8 million votes.

“Seriously. Elections Canada should consider setting up polling stations in sports bars on Monday night,” Conway Fraser, a self-described communications strategist, tweeted shortly after Major League Baseball announced the timing of the game.

“Can we just move the election to another night?” asked Tom Zillich, an editor in British Columbia.

The boys in blue aren’t worried about fans staying away from the polls.

“I’m sure many Canadians will be watching the baseball game after they’ve had an opportunity to go to the polls,” said Conservative party spokesman Kory Teneycke.

Election night campaign parties will doubtless be switching back and forth between results and game play. But spare a thought for the thousands of poll staff who will have to work and count ballots well into the later innings, without distractions from men in cleats. And for Jays personnel with a busy Monday.

    “Oh yeah. You can vote all day, right? You make time for that,” said general manager Alex Anthopoulos. “I don’t know how I’m going to vote, but I will vote.” He may be an executive who confidently traded off a battalion of young prospects for Troy Tulowitzki and David Price this summer, but he’s undecided on his ballot choice. “I’m probably leaning one way — but in fairness to everybody because they’re all Blue Jays fans — I’ll probably keep that to myself.”

    Major League Baseball may love their sport’s swelling bandwagon north of the border, but didn’t pay much attention to its political calendar when it released its postseason schedule in mid-August, when the election campaign had already begun toward Oct. 19, and the Jays were in serious pursuit of October excitement as well.

    “It was in the works for a few weeks in advance of the announcement date,” MLB spokesman Matt Bourne said Thursday. “Obviously at that point we don’t know what teams make it to the LCS round.”

    The spokesman isn’t aware of any entreaties the Blue Jays or Canadians made to remove any such conflict — not that that would have mattered much to the organization. There were team tickets and travel plans to pre-arrange, stadiums to coordinate with, and lucrative TV timetables to plot.

    “There’s a lot of games that need to take place in a short period of time,” Bourne said. “If anything gets delayed it affects the later rounds, so there’s not a lot of room for days off. By its nature, baseball’s an everyday sport: It plays weekends. It plays holidays, It plays on special occasions.”

    For a sport that fits in with apple pie and gun rights in the Americana pantheon, capital-B Baseball isn’t particularly sensitive this year to U.S. politics, either. The sixth game of the World Series, if the best-of-seven contest stretches that far, is slated for Nov. 3, the day of off-year elections in several playoff jurisdictions, including state legislature contests in New Jersey (across the river from where the New York Mets play), and a plebiscite on a $15 minimum wage in Kansas City.

    Most Jays fans with vivid memories of Joe Carter bounding onto bases to win the 1992 and 1993 World Series probably have more trouble recollecting where they were and whom they high-fived exactly two days after both victories: voters rejected constitutional reform and the Charlottetown referendum in 1992, and replaced Prime Minister Kim Campbell with Jean Chretien in 1993. The Jays’ World Series were both settled in a Game 6 — an extra game would have been the day before the referendum or general election in either year, creating bigger conundrums for newspaper front-page editors.

    Win or lose Game 3 on Monday, the Jays and Royals will live on for another match Tuesday, and possibly more. Given the tight race in the polls, the victor of Canada’s other contest may be equally unclear when the scoreboard is full Monday night.

    With files from Michael Friscolanti and the Canadian Press

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