Elections Canada is quietly getting ready for a possible scenario that Canadians could go to the polls amid a pandemic this fall.
In a section titled “Approach to a possible fall election” on its website, the agency warns that with a minority government, an election could happen at any time. Parliament is currently prorogued until Sept. 23, after which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will return with a throne speech that could give opposition parties a chance to send Canada into its next election.
Elections Canada said it is preparing for the possibility of a pandemic election. If such an election were to occur, the agency said it would recommend a number of changes including a two-day vote over a weekend.
“This would facilitate distancing of voters, give access to a range of polling locations such as schools that would otherwise be unavailable and help to recruit poll workers,” the agency stated. The agency would also recommend that mail-in ballots be accepted until the day after the voting weekend, as well as giving more flexibility for residents of long-term care homes, who are at the highest risk from COVID-19.
Elections Canada said some preparations are already underway, including stockpiling single-use masks and pencils, reducing the number of workers needed to aid physical distancing, increasing the capacity of Canada’s vote-by-mail system, nixing voting opportunities on largely virtual university campuses and utilizing more remote training opportunities.
“While the agency is prioritizing having the basic safety measures in place for its workers, electors and candidates, electors may experience delays at the polls as the agency implements the safety measures required,” the agency said.
In an “extreme and unexpected case,” the agency’s chief electoral officer could “certify that it has become impracticable for Elections Canada to administer the election in one or several electoral districts and recommend to the governor-in-council that the election writ be withdrawn.” The agency noted this has never occurred throughout its history.
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