Chief electoral officer Stéphane Perrault holds a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. Canada’s chief electoral officer says that in the event of a snap election during the pandemic, Canadians would have better access to the polls with a longer campaign — even though a shorter one appears more likely. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Chief electoral officer Stéphane Perrault holds a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. Canada’s chief electoral officer says that in the event of a snap election during the pandemic, Canadians would have better access to the polls with a longer campaign — even though a shorter one appears more likely. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

A short snap election would pose voting hurdles, says chief electoral officer

Elections Canada continues to brace for an explosive increase in the number of Canadians who vote by mail

Canada’s chief electoral officer says that in the event of a snap election during the pandemic, Canadians would have better access to the polls with a longer campaign — even though a shorter one appears more likely.

Stéphane Perrault says the time required to send out up to five million mail-in ballots, work with remote communities and install health measures for a countrywide vote amid a deadly second COVID-19 wave demands a longer writ period.

“That is a considerable undertaking,” he said, referring just to the mail-in ballots.

But if the Liberal government triggers an election, it would likely result in a shorter campaign so the Grits could seize on their relative popularity, warned Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski.

“If a government chooses to call an election prior to the fixed election date, normally they do so because they are ahead in the polls. And it seems to follow then that if that is the case they would have a shorter rather than a longer writ period to take advantage of their popularity at the time,” Lukiwski told Perrault in the House affairs committee Thursday.

A day earlier, political brinkmanship over a parliamentary committee issue came to a head in a confidence vote that could have sparked an election, which was averted when the NDP opposed the Conservative motion that prompted the showdown.

An election amid the pandemic would add at least $50 million in costs for items ranging from masks and hand sanitizer to health-awareness campaigns and prepaid postage, Perrault said.

Returning officers would not have offices, computers or other resources at the start of a snap election, triggering a logistical scramble, Perreault said Thursday.

“You have to find polling locations, you have to find polling workers,” he said.

Engaging groups facing systemic challenges such as homeless Canadians and Indigenous communities that have tight travel restrictions would also need more time, he said.

Available locations for polling stations could take longer to track down as some landlords may not want to open their buildings to the public and risk infection, particularly in the case of schools, churches and community facilities that serve vulnerable groups.

Elections Canada continues to brace for an explosive increase in the number of Canadians who vote by mail should the country have an election during the pandemic.

Public opinion research commissioned by the agency earlier this year suggests one in five voters would prefer to cast their ballots by mail during the pandemic, while 58 per cent would prefer to vote in person at advance or election-day polling stations.

Earlier this month, Perrault asked Parliament to quickly pass a temporary new law to give Elections Canada tools to conduct a federal election safely.

He wants the would-be bill to allow for an election to be held over two weekend days, rather than on the usual Monday.

Perrault has said voting would take longer due to the smaller number of voters and poll workers present at polling stations — both for health reasons and because of potential recruitment issues. Two-thirds of election workers in a typical vote are 60 years of age or older, the most vulnerable age group for the coronavirus.

Perrault also wants the new law to give Elections Canada discretion to decide how to administer the vote safely in long-term care facilities, which have borne the brunt of the more than 9,000 COVID-19 deaths in Canada.

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. (File photo)
Surrey mayor taking it on the chin during budget public hearing

So far, he’s cut five callers off during Monday’s virtual meeting

A criminal trial for Robert Boule (inset), the owner of the Smuggler’s Inn, is to begin in August 2021, following a failed application to strike down immigration-act provisions that he is charged under. (Photo courtesy of The Northern Light newspaper)
Blaine inn owner’s challenge of immigration act fails

Robert Boule’s trial on human-smuggling charges set to begin August 2021

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Mirandy Tracy, left, and Tara Kurtz are two Langley mothers who are organizing a "sick out" for Tuesday, Dec. 1 to protest COVID conditions in schools. They're calling for masks and smaller class sizes, among other things. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Politician, labour leader throw support behind student Sick Out day

Langley parents started the movement to keep kids home on Dec. 1 as a protest

A family emerged with a purchase at the Tannenbaum Tree Farm at 5398 252 St in Aldergrove on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
Christmas tree season is off to an early start

People are ‘bored’ with staying home due to COVID-19 and want to decorate early, farm owner believes

A heavy police presence was on scene on Dec. 28, 2017 following the shooting death on Bates Road in Abbotsford of Alexander Blanarou, 24, of Surrey. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Three men charged with Abbotsford shooting death of Surrey man

Alexander Blanarou, 24, was killed in a rural area on Dec. 28, 2017

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A convoy of seven pickup trucks, six of which were hauling boats, makes its way around the Chilliwack Law Courts on Dec. 1, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
First court date for Fraser River anglers ticketed during demonstration fishery

Convoy of trucks circled the courthouse in downtown Chilliwack Tuesday honking their support

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Most Read