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

Alberta had 1,571 active COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta’s central zone now has 1,101 active COVID-19 cases

Provincial death toll has risen by nine

(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
FortisAlberta’s ‘Lights of Joy’ bring smiles to Ponoka seniors

Residents of Golden Leisure Lodge treated to a light display

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 1,731 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday

The province’s central zone has 992 active cases

(Photo submitted)
Ermineskin citizen graduates vet school, is part of busy practice

Dr. Justin Hodgson is rolling up his sleeves in Meadow Lake, Sask.

Jeffery Kraft. Photo submitted
Family of Jeffery Kraft feels ‘robbed’ after one accused discharged

Family of victim responds to preliminary hearing in homicide case

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

In this undated photo issued by the University of Oxford, a volunteer is administered the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Moderna chairman says Canada near head of line for 20 million vaccine doses

Trudeau created a firestorm when he said Canadians will have to wait a bit to get vaccinated

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre speaks during a news conference Monday, Nov. 16, 2020 in Ottawa. Poilievre says building up the Canadian economy post-pandemic can't be achieved without a massive overhaul of the tax system and regulatory regime. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Conservatives attack Trudeau’s ‘reset’ but they have ideas for their own

‘We don’t need subsidized corporate welfare schemes that rely on endless bailouts from the taxpayer’

There were 47 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta Tuesday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
Spread of COVID-19 in Brampton, Ont., linked to systemic factors, experts say

‘We’re tired. We’re numb. We’re overworked. We’re frustrated, because it’s not our rules’

A couple embrace during a ceremony to mark the end of a makeshift memorial for victims of the Toronto van attack, at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. in Toronto on Sunday, June 3, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
‘I’ve been spared a lot,’ van attack survivor says as she watches trial alone

Court has set up a private room for victims and families of those killed in the Toronto van attack

A person enters a building as snow falls in Ottawa, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Ottawa has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 during its second wave thanks to the city’s residents who have been wearing masks and staying home, said Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
People to thank for Ottawa’s success with curbing COVID-19: health officer

The city’s chief medical officer said much of the credit goes to the people who live in Ottawa

Most Read