Early figures indicate Canadians avoided the ballot box more than ever before on election day.

Just 58 per cent of eligible voters visited the polls -- from a high of 69 per cent in Prince Edward Island to 48 per cent in Newfoundland, according to preliminary numbers.

The all-time national low -- until now, it appears -- was 60.9 per cent in the June 2004 ballot that saw Paul Martin's Liberals secure a minority government.

Voter turnout in federal elections has steadily dwindled, with only the occasional hiccup, falling to 64.7 per cent in the January 2006 election from a high of 79.4 per cent in March 1958.

While chilly weather may have been a factor during the wintry vote two years ago, that didn't seem to be a problem Tuesday.

"It was pretty nice weather right across the country, and that usually means pretty good turnout. Certainly from what we were hearing out East, people were out and voting," James Hale, an Elections Canada spokesman, said before all polls had closed.

"It's like Christmas to Santa Claus, it's a good day when people are out voting as far as we're concerned."

More than 1.4 million people cast ballots in advance polls.

It was unclear whether stringent new proof-of-identity requirements seriously affected the overall turnout.

Hale said the agency put a lot of effort into informing people about the identity rules leading up to the election.