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

Just Posted

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

A tenant walks in front of her home on Boundary Road on Friday, June 18, 2021 after it was destroyed by fire the night before in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack family homeless after fire rips through house on Abbotsford border

Turtle rescued, no one seriously hurt following Boundary Road fire in Chilliwack

Wild rabbits are all over Chilliwack, but people often think they’re someone’s lost pet and try to ‘save’ them. But the owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room says good intentions can have bad consequences for wild animals. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room asks people to leave wild animals in the wild

Amber Quiring says people who think they’re helping are actually doing more harm than good

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

A search is underway for a 75-year-old fisherman who went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search continues for angler missing between Port Angeles and Victoria

Canadian, U.S. Coast Guard searching for 75-year-old man reported missing Thursday evening

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Most Read