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Erin O’Toole, left, Peter MacKay, centre-left, Derek Sloan, centre-right, and Leslyn Lewis wait for the start of the french leadership debate in Toronto on June 17, 2020.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

For nearly the past decade, NDP Quebec lieutenant Alexandre Boulerice has spent summers away from Parliament knocking on doors in his Montreal riding of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie.

Prior to the pandemic, Mr. Boulerice could visit people’s homes or invite them into his office.

But now, because he has to respect personal space, he is biking around his riding’s parks and trying to have conversations outside at safe physical distances.

“The pandemic changed everything in the way that politicians reach out out to people,” Mr. Boulerice told The Globe and Mail in an interview this week.

“Normally, we are going canvassing, we are knocking on doors, we are organizing meetings, we are receiving people, citizens or groups, organizations, in our office. All that disappeared suddenly.”

The novel coronavirus, which has dramatically changed life in Canada over the past six months, is also upending Canadian politics – a central concern for political parties, including when it comes to their fundraising capacity, with the prospect of another federal election around the corner.

COVID-19 is also a major factor being considered at the moment by Elections Canada. The agency of Parliament says it is developing a new approach to deliver an election in the context of a pandemic.

Terry Duguid, a Liberal MP for Winnipeg South, said in an interview that he and his party are approaching outreach differently.

The Liberal Party says all of its efforts are digital in 2020. Rallies and big fundraisers are off the table.

The party’s political outreach blitzes used to involve massive door-knocking campaigns, but these are now being conducted entirely at a distance.

There’s also a tried-and-true tool that is proving to be successful: the telephone.

Mr. Duguid said his office had had more than 1,500 conversations with constituents over the past three months and people are picking up the phone more than they did during the election campaign.

“I think people are hungry for conversations but also they are home,” he said. “We are doing what we can because we are advised by public-health officials that we can’t be at the doors and we can’t be at these large events.”

Mr. Duguid also participated in something new about a month ago: a Zoom social with volunteers.

“We were able to have a very vigorous political discussion with folks on the screen,” he said.

“It was really quite different than the usual political socials that you would have at D’Arcy McGee’s [a bar] or other watering holes in Ottawa. Same people but a very different method of getting together. And you know, it was wonderful just to see peoples’ faces.”

Some political parties have already had to run their own elections during the pandemic.

The Conservative leadership race played out in the midst of COVID-19, and the Green Party is currently doing so. It will name its new leader at the beginning of October.

During the Conservative leadership debates, those running in the race had to be physically distanced during the discussions. The audience was kept online.

At an Ottawa event early last Monday to unveil the new Conservative leader, Erin O’Toole was photographed with family in masks and even gave his fellow competitors a shout-out for the screen time they likely logged.

“Thank you for putting your name on the ballot,” he said. “For leaving your families for weeks to travel all over this great country – whether on the ground or in a room of your house on hours of Zoom calls.”

Mr. O’Toole’s team, as well as the other leadership camps, also had to increase online campaigning capacity during the pandemic.

Cory Hann, the director of communications for the Conservative Party, said the leadership campaigns used unique outreach methods that the party is going to learn from.

“There’s no question it required some resourcefulness, and looking past your traditional event-in-a-box with the candidate and a room full of people, but also how to apply that into a winning campaign,” he said in a statement.

For his part, Mr. Boulerice, who loves canvassing, said his party is trying to compensate with online outreach tools such as Facebook live events.

But he acknowledges that nothing can replace a good handshake, which is currently out of the question.

“In our culture, shaking a hand is to … show some trust, show some friendship, some agreement,” he said.

“You can say that with the blink of an eye but it is not the same thing.”

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