Elections Canada testified Monday afternoon of problems at various polling stations across the country.
The federal agency notably cited an Indigenous protest and the absence of several election workers, as Canadians participate in the first-ever national election to be held in the midst of a pandemic in the country.
While the majority of polls opened on time and without incident, Elections Canada spokesperson Diane Benson noted problems in Ontario and western Canada. Some offices opened late or had to be moved.
A polling station in the constituency of Brantford-Brant, southwest of Toronto, had to be relocated due to a demonstration organized by the Council of Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee Confederation.
The council last week opposed the presence of a polling station on what it considers to be its ancestral territory. He felt that this violated a treaty and encouraged its members not to vote.
Local press reports that protesters blocked all three entrances to the polling station, sparking a clash with indigenous police. Everything was settled peacefully and the office was moved outside the reserve.
Ms. Benson revealed that election workers failed to show up at two offices in the Ontario constituency of Kenora, near the Manitoba border. Back-up employees were called in and the polling stations were to open their doors in the middle of the afternoon.
Two polling stations opened late in Grand Prairie-Mackenzie, Alta., When workers encountered locked doors. A polling station was unable to open in the riding of Skeena-Bulkley Valley, British Columbia.
Ms. Benson said special measures have been taken at several polling stations in the Toronto ridings of Eglinton-Lawrence and University-Rosedale to accommodate all voters, while respecting sanitary measures.
Elections Canada said Monday that 27,366,297 voters were registered as of September 20, including 6,495,755 in Quebec. There was a grand total of 555 candidates in Quebec.
According to the federal agency, nearly 6.8 million Canadians had already registered their vote by Monday. Most had voted in advance more than a week ago; the rest did so by “special ballots” already mailed or deposited at Elections Canada offices.
The conservative leader, Erin O’Toole, voted Monday morning in Bowmanville, Ont., in his riding of Durham. “I wonder who he’s voting for,” joked his wife Rebecca.
The Liberal Leader Justin trudeau voted in his riding of Papineau, in Montreal, accompanied by his three children. His wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, who had already voted, waited for them at the entrance to the polling station. Their youngest son, Hadrian, was holding his father’s hand when the Liberal leader dropped his ballot into the ballot box.
The head of Bloc Quebecois, Yves-Francois Blanchet, had also voted in advance. He spoke in Drummondville, Monday morning, to “bring out the vote”, and was to continue his final tour in seven other constituencies, to Montreal for election night.
Elections Canada encourages voters to wear a mask, but only requires it in places where it is a provincial directive. Proof of vaccination is not required at polling stations in provinces where this passport exists, such as in Quebec.
Public health guidelines, however, involve distancing and collecting additional information to trace contacts in the event of an outbreak, which could delay the process at polling stations.
The offices themselves are sometimes further out than usual, as many schools and building owners have chosen not to accommodate crowds of voters during this fourth wave of the pandemic. All of this can translate into longer queues at certain places and times of the day.
Elections Canada also told The Canadian Press that there have been intermittent problems with a search tool on its website that allows voters to know which office to go to, based on their postal code. The agency urged voters to check their “voter information card,” received in the mail, or call Elections Canada directly if they don’t know where to go.
Polling stations are open across Canada for 12 hours, but their hours vary by region: they opened at 7 a.m. in British Columbia but at 9:30 a.m. in Ontario and most regions of Quebec.
Results in most ridings should be known by the end of the evening, but Elections Canada also warns that it could take up to four days to complete the counting of all special ballots, which means that the winners in some close races may not be officially known for several days.