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

Sicamous resident Paige Mounce says she has found numerous sick mice and rodents on her property. She wants the district to get started with a non-chemical treatment program so that other animals that might eat the poisoned rodents do not get sick. (Paige Mounce-Facebook)
Numerous rat complaints in Sicamous prompt look at pest control options

Resident warns chemical treatment dangerous to pets, livestock, wildlife

x
Morning Start: Bubble wrap was originally intended to be wallpaper

Your morning start for Monday, Oct. 26, 2020

BC Liberal Party Shuswap candidate Greg Kyllo and wife Georgina celebrate another successful campaign, with preliminary results for the 42nd provincial general election showing Greg winning the riding with a comfortable majority. (Jim Elliot-Salmon Arm Observer)
Shuswap’s Greg Kyllo faces third term and BC NDP majority

BC NDP candidate Sylvia Lindgren celebrates party’s success

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

BC Liberal Party Shuswap candidate Greg Kyllo and wife Georgina celebrate another successful campaign, with preliminary results for the 42nd provincial general election showing Greg winning the riding with a comfortable majority. (Jim Elliot-Salmon Arm Observer)
BC Liberal Party Shuswap candidate Greg Kyllo and wife Georgina celebrate another successful campaign, with preliminary results for the 42nd provincial general election showing Greg winning the riding with a comfortable majority. (Jim Elliot-Salmon Arm Observer)
BC Election 2020: Preliminary results show BC Liberal Greg Kyllo winning third term as Shuswap MLA

Kyllo expressed gratitude to voters and supporters as results rolled in on Oct. 24

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

While Revelstoke has one of the oldest bear awareness societies in the province, the city has yet to implement a community wide bear-proof garbage system. (Submitted)
Saving bears: Revelstoke’s garbage dilemma

More than 400 bears have been killed in the city since 1986

Multiple motor vehicle incidents stalled traffic between Kelowna and Vernon on Highway 97 after a morning snowfall Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Pam Wiebe Brunsdon - Facebook)
Slick roads on Monday commute around Vernon

Several accidents have been reported stalling highway traffic

A police pursuit ended with an arrest in Williams Lake on Highway 97 Sunday afternoon. (Facebook video screenshot)
Video catches police pursuit that ends with man kicked, punched in Williams Lake

A video of the arrest is getting widely shared on social media

Kelowna Secondary School. (SD23 photo)
One case of COVID-19 identified at Kelowna Secondary School

Interior Health will follow up directly with those who may have been exposed to the virus

BC NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu offered praise to her team of volunteers (pictured Oct. 21), following a too-close race with BC Liberal and incumbent Eric Foster in the 2020 provincial election Oct. 24. The outcome will be dependent on the final count from mail-in ballots expected in three weeks. (Facebook)
‘Every vote counts’ in tight Vernon-Monashee race: NDP Harwinder Sandhu

Incumbent BC Liberal Eric Foster finishes election night with slim lead

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO)
UPDATE: One dead after Highway 97A crash near Armstrong, police watchdog investigating

The crash happened as RCMP attempted to stop an alleged stolen vehicle

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Most Read