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

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Island Health opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

(News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo school district headed toward 26-per cent overcapacity in next 10 years

Using B.C. Assessment and municipal stats, consultant projects more than 18,300 students in 2030

A Nanaimo man is offering a $300 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person who broke into his SUV and stole components from his drone. (News Bulletin file photo)
Drone owner offering reward after components stolen from his vehicle in Nanaimo

Vehicle break-in happened last month on Departure Bay Road

Regenerative farming that meets genuine needs should take priority over commercial recklessness, says columnist. (Stock photo)
Column: Hubris, greed causing humans to live destructively

Placing the economy as the top priority is licence to destroy natural systems, says columnist

Kyle Patrick McGuire was give a nine-month non-custodial sentencing to be followed by two years of probation on Wednesday, March 3, at the Nanaimo Law Courts. (PQB News file photo)
Bowser man sentenced to house arrest after guilty plea to child pornography offence

Nine-month non-custodial sentence to be followed by two years probation

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

A rendering of Front Street transportation improvements set to get underway as soon as next week. (McElhanney image/City of Nanaimo)
Work set to start on Front Street cycle track in downtown Nanaimo

Road work and street reconfiguration project scheduled to start in March, finish in May

Most Read