An election worker carries a sign at a voting place for the New Brunswick provincial election in Quispamsis, N.B., Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. Election administrators in British Columbia are ready with hand sanitizer for voters and personal protective equipment for polling-station workers as part of a pandemic plan similar to one used recently in New Brunswick.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Election administrators in British Columbia are ready with hand sanitizer for voters and personal protective equipment for polling station workers as part of a pandemic plan similar to one used recently in New Brunswick.

Elections BC spokesman Andrew Watson said staff have consulted with their counterparts in the eastern province, where voters were the first in Canada to cast their ballots during COVID-19, in case Premier John Horgan calls a snap fall election.

Watson said administrators of elections in Saskatchewan are preparing for a vote that will happen by Oct. 26, adding his office began working with provincial health officials in April as the reality of a pandemic and a possible election set in.

Besides procuring safety items, ensuring physical distancing protocols are followed has been part of the training for election officials, he said.

Elections New Brunswick spokesman Paul Harpelle said public health measures worked well at voting places on Sept. 14 and the province saw a significant increase in mail-in ballots but the agency does not yet have a breakdown of numbers.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic.

That’s an option typically used by voters who will be away during an election and has been available in B.C. since 1988, Watson said.

“But for a pandemic election, to ensure accessibility, it will be an option for any eligible voter who wishes to request a vote-by-mail package,” he said, adding mail-in-ballots have accounted for about one per cent of ballots in past elections.

“Based on survey research we’ve done during our planning that number could be as high as 35 per cent.”

READ MORE: Premier Horgan peppered with questions about potential fall election in B.C.

A federal election is also possible this fall if the throne speech set for Wednesday is not supported by opposition leaders in a confidence vote.

Elections Canada says on its website that the agency is developing plans to protect the health and safety of the public, thousands of election workers, candidates and their staff in preparation for a possible fall election.

It says recommendations to Parliament could include a two-day weekend polling period, instead of the usual single day to facilitate physical distancing, and that mail-in ballots be accepted until the day after the weekend vote.

“In addition to engaging with national and provincial health officials, Elections Canada will ask returning officers to engage with health officials at the local level in order to offer services that are aligned with the reality in their region,” it says.

READ MORE: Elections Canada says two-day voting possible amid COVID-19 if election called this fall

For candidates, elections devoid of kissing babies, speaking at boisterous rallies or knocking on doors will mean different ways of campaigning during a pandemic.

Hamish Telford, assistant professor of political science at the University of the Fraser Valley east of Vancouver, said candidates would have to make a greater effort to expand their reach by phone and social media.

Televised debates of party leaders are still likely to happen but all-candidates meetings limited to 50 people by public health guidelines may not be worthwhile, he said.

Telford said that while voting at polling booths will be akin to the precautions taken when going grocery shopping, turnout may be low and few people may opt for mail-in ballots as COVID-19 cases rise in B.C.

“A lot of people are preoccupied with more urgent matters — their health, their job, their kids’ schooling. And they are concerned and wary about going out in public,” he said.

“We know that more older people tend to vote than younger people and I think older people are more concerned about COVID than younger people and that could keep older people away from the polls.”

Sonia Furstenau, the Green party’s new leader, has said a power-sharing agreement with the NDP after the last election that allowed Horgan to form a minority government has the stability needed during the pandemic. She said a fall election would be irresponsible.

Horgan said on Thursday he hadn’t made a decision on an election. He has said the Green party he signed a deal with three years ago has changed and the document was void of any mention of a pandemic.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Coronaviruselection

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

Just Posted

The Campbell River Sportsplex in Willow Point is the voting station for the Feb. 27 municipal byelection. Voting runs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
Voting underway in Campbell River’s municipal byelection

You can cast your ballot today at the Sportsplex until 8 p.m.

With the full build-out of its 477 Hilchey Road development almost complete, Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North is setting its sights on its next batch of housing: right next door. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Habitat for Humanity looks to start a third Hilchey Road project

With the current site on Hilchey Road in the final stage of… Continue reading

Ian Baikie shows the new kitchen space at Hama?Elas shortly before the facility opened late last year. Mirror File Photo.
Campbell River City Council updated on Hama?Elas and Kwesa Place

Funding was set to run out at end of March, but organizers say they can go another six months

Tyson Popove placed second in his category at the Mt. Washington Viewtour Virtual Slopestyle event. Photo by Shawn Corrigan
Campbell River skier goes big at Mt. Washington competition

Tyson Popove places second in virtual slopestyle event

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

1957 photo shows Six Mile House-sponsored #4 1932 Ford stock car with Frank Morris (from left), Ted Mackenzie, Bill Sim and driver Gerry Sylvester. (Bud Glover/Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame)
Memories race as Western Speedway approaches its finish line

‘It was life to us:’ Vancouver Island racers, crew will never forget what the track gave them

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Most Read