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

Struggling to afford rent, Sylvia Bailey is hoping to trade her love of cooking for some more affordable accommodation. (Photo courtesy of Sylvia Bailey)
Retired Victoria woman looking to cook, clean or garden in exchange for rent

Sylvia Bailey is hoping to use her love for cooking to help afford rent

HarbourCats players celebrate winning the North Division Championship Series in 2019. (Christian J. Stewart/File Photo)
Victoria HarbourCats locked out of team Facebook page

Management hires legal team to solve issue

Thousands filled Centennial Square in June for the peace rally for Black lives, sparked by outrage over the death of George Floyd in the U.S. (Black Press Media file photo)
Survey seeks input on racism in Greater Victoria

Confidential answers to inform work with immigrants and marginalized people

Leila Bui with her parents Tuan Bui (left) and Kairry Nguyen at the end of the trial that found Tanessa Nikirk guilty of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. Nikirk is back in court for her sentencing hearing. (Black Press file photo)
UPDATED: Court hears letter from driver convicted of hitting Saanich girl

Leila Bui has been in a non-responsive state since she was hit in 2017

International Bat Week runs from Oct. 24 to 31. (Photo: Cory Olson)
Time to get batty for International Bat Week

International Bat Week runs from Oct. 24 to 31

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Some of the characters in the League of Legends video game. (Photo: na.leagueoflegends.com)
E-sports trial at B.C. high schools to start with ‘League of Legends’ team game

For fall launch, Vancouver’s GameSeta company partners with BC School Sports

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

Freighter drags anchor towards Boulder Point Oct. 22. It came within 730 metres of the shore, according to maps from the Port of Nanaimo. (Photo submitted)
MacGregor introduces bill to address freighter anchorages along the South Coast

Concerns about the environment, noise, pollution and safety abundant

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

Campbell River's new hospital, July 2018
Nurse diverts opiates and falsifies records at Campbell River Hospital

Nurse facing disciplinary action for moving opiates out of the hospital

Most Read