Good morning. Wendy Cox in Vancouver this morning on election day.
Today and through the weekend, The Globe and Mail team will be working to bring you the latest about what’s happening at the polls. Actually, we’ll likely be bringing you the latest election news until the middle of November. The province’s Chief Electoral Officer, Anton Boegman says Elections BC aims to have all the counting done by Nov. 16, but it may take even longer.
That’s because although Saturday is the official election day, some 480,000 people had mailed in ballots and another 245,379 mail-in ballots were still outstanding. It means that although roughly two-thirds of voters are expected to have dropped their choice into a box at a polling station, the real results of the election won’t be known until that final third of votes are counted. Mail-in ballots aren’t counted until at least two weeks after the election day.
It’s unprecedented: In 2017, only 6,500 people mailed in their ballots.
But it’s a convenience, prompted by the pandemic, that is likely here to stay. So, too, is the decision this year to switch the traditional voting day to Saturday from Tuesday.
As Mike Hager writes this weekend, necessity has bred invention.
“Mail balloting is really here to stay,” said Richard Johnston, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of British Columbia.
But it does mean the count takes longer. Each ballot must be scrutinized, sorted into the riding it is meant for and cross checked to ensure the person mailing it in hasn’t already voted. British Columbians seem all right with that: For all the political sparring and the at-times nasty campaign, none of B.C.'s political leaders has tried to call in doubt the veracity of mail-in votes.
That stands in stark contrast with the United States, where President Donald Trump has repeatedly questioned the integrity of mail-in ballots during the presidential election campaign and the new head of the Postal Service is facing a conflict-of-interest investigation because he has donated millions of dollars to Republican lawmakers.
“For all the many ways in which people criticize [each other], we are seeing none of them undermine or attempt to undermine the integrity of the election,” said Heidi Tworek, an associate professor at UBC’s school of public policy and global affairs.
“The ability of leaders to play within the world of free and fair elections is obviously tremendously important for helping voters themselves – regardless of which party they vote for – understand why it might be that it takes a little bit longer.”
Check back for a special edition of this newsletter Saturday night. We’ll be telling you as much as we know by the end of the evening and will give you an idea of what’s ahead for all three parties.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.
AROUND THE WEST:
SMALL TOWNS IN ALBERTA: Residents of a handful of small towns in Alberta whose financial problems have been exacerbated by the long-running oil downturn in the province are being given the nuclear option – dissolving their communities. A handful of municipalities in Alberta are going through the province’s viability-review process, which culminate in votes that can reshape local political landscapes. Reporter Carrie Tait talked to people in those towns about what can be an emotional decision, but also a pragmatic one. In Manning, in northeastern Alberta, the town has $20-million in repairs and infrastructure projects on its to-do list, a staggering amount for a community of 1,183 people. They will vote next week on what to do.
SASKATCHEWAN ELECTION: The two main party leaders in Saskatchewan made big promises Thursday with just three days to go before the provincial election. Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe outlined his vision for a strong province at a car rally north of Regina. “Who do you trust to lead Saskatchewan’s economic recovery?” he asked. "Do you trust the Saskatchewan Party who is running on our record or do you trust the NDP who is running away from its record? Our record is one of growth, more people, more jobs and much more opportunity,” Mr. Moe said as supporters honked their horns.
Earlier in the day, NDP Leader Ryan Meili was in Saskatoon where he criticized Mr. Moe’s record on COVID-19 and promised $50-million to support the pandemic response if he becomes premier. “An NDP government would get to work on the COVID recovery immediately,” Mr. Meili said. "We won’t do what we saw with Scott Moe when he took the summer off instead of coming up with a decent return-to-school plan. We’ll get to work right away: Day 1.” Mr. Meili said the cash would provide comfort to families who are worried about how to protect one another as case numbers rise in Saskatchewan.
On Friday, Mr. Meili asked voters to focus on his opponent’s track record before Monday’s election. He says the Saskatchewan Party has a history of laying off health care workers. He highlighted his party’s plan to fix understaffing in health care and shrink classroom sizes, among other promises. Meanwhile, Mr. Moe was surrounded by honking vehicles at an outdoor rally in Saskatoon where he said his incumbent party has the experience to guide the province through the COVID-19 pandemic. He repeated several campaign promises at the rally, including his party’s plan to have a balanced budget by 2024.
Saturday is the last day advanced polls are open in Saskatchewan.
MANITOBA COVID RESTRICTIONS: Brent Roussin, the Chief Provincial Public Health Officer, announced on Thursday 147 new cases – 87 in Winnipeg, where more restrictions on restaurants, pubs and gathering sizes came into effect this week. He said the measures will also apply to the northern health region and Churchill starting next week. Extra measures are being put in place for schools in the Winnipeg area and the north starting Monday, including cancelling field trips, banning choirs and wind instruments and requiring substitute teachers to wear medical masks.
COVID AND THE BORDER: International travellers arriving in Alberta will soon have a way to avoid the mandatory two-week quarantine that has been in place since the spring. Starting Nov. 2, people arriving at the Calgary airport or coming into Canada at the Coutts, Alta., border crossing can opt to get a COVID-19 test before going into quarantine. If it comes back negative, which could take a couple of days, they can leave quarantine if they follow a few rules and get a second test after six or seven days. It’s designed to reduce the disruptions on travellers, particularly Canadians who leave and are currently forced to quarantine for two weeks when they return. Some experts have suggested allowing travellers into the public just a few days after arriving opens up the risk that they could become infectious and spread the virus. Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu says the program, which is a test pilot that could be expanded elsewhere in Canada, is designed to balance protecting the public with easing restrictions that have hurt the economy.
INDIGENOUS HEALTH: Chloe Crosschild remembers watching her grandmother navigate the health care system. From the Blood Tribe in Alberta, Ms. Crosschild’s grandmother spoke Blackfoot as her fist language. She was diabetic but also participated in cultural ceremonies that required fasting. Accessing the health care system can be complicated in the best of times, but for Indigenous people, it can be especially difficult working with two levels of government, coping with language barriers and mixing western medicine with their own traditions. To ease those challenges, Ms. Crosschild has been hired as Alberta’s first “patient navigator” for Indigenous people. She says she will also be there to build bridges between Indigenous patients and a health care system that is often a source of distrust in First Nations communities.
ALBERTA CURRICULUM: A proposal from government-appointed advisers to shield younger children from the dark history of residential schools is facing fierce backlash, including from the former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. An advisory panel appointed by the United Conservative Party government has presented the Education Minister with a package of recommendations that argues information about residential schools should not be taught until children are at least in Grade 9. Even then, the document says the schools should be presented as one example of “harsh schooling.” Senator Murray Sinclair, who led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, says that would be akin to discrimination and present students with a distorted view of the mistreatment of Indigenous people in Canada. Education Minister Adriana LaGrange declined to comment on any of the document’s recommendations, repeating that the document is merely advice. She said residential schools would be taught in elementary school but she declined to say at what age that would start or how that information would be presented.
OVERDOSE-PREVENTION SITE IN YALETOWN: Yaletown residents opposed to a permanent overdose-prevention site in their downtown Vancouver neighbourhood say a council vote in favour of it this week is hugely disappointing. But they plan to work on new initiatives to ensure there is a constructive dialogue around the issue, as well as work with the city and health authority to address their concerns.
Kelly Cryderman on Alberta’s approach to COVID-19 (and Halloween): “But life, including restaurants, schools, some return to travel and Halloween, must go on, [Premier Jason Kenney] said, especially as the province faces the particularly intense economic challenge of weak oil demand. This messaging is part and parcel of a conservative vein in the province’s political culture – one that places a high value on entrepreneurship, embraces an idealized version of rugged Western North American individualism and is hostile toward what it views as unwarranted government intrusion.”
The Globe and Mail’s Editorial Board on the Saskatchewan election: “The choice on the ballot in Saskatchewan on Oct. 26 is not between two political extremes. Voters can choose four years of mild austerity, or four years of milder austerity.”
Ghada Alatrash, Bassem Hafez and Yahya el-Lahib on the Calgary Arab Film Nights Festival: “To be an Arab in the West is to continuously try to defy and disrupt the misrepresentations – an exhausting task indeed. We reject these stories. They do not represent us as Arabs.”