Elections Canada Engagement with Public Health Authorities – CEO Appearance on Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (COVID-19 response)
Assessments by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Provincial/Territorial and Indigenous health authorities have allowed Elections Canada to enhance its health and safety protocols.
Elections Canada will continue to follow evolving provincial, territorial and Indigenous public health regulations and, if required at the issue of the writs will revisit operational instructions to field election officers.
A representative of the PHAC also offered guidelines for candidate activities such as canvassing at a meeting of the Advisory Committee of Political Parties (ACPP).
The feedback received from provinces' and territories' public health authorities is informing Elections Canada's decision making.
Elections Canada will review operational decisions as we continue to receive feedback, including from First Nations, Métis and Inuit public health authorities.
Electoral security and safety demand a whole-of-government approach
Elections Canada has been proactively engaging the PHAC and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety to share planning assumptions and seek observations and guidance on the implementation of proposed adaptive measures to deliver a safe election for all participants.
Elections Canada is also working with the Government Operations Centre to refine the electoral security Concept of Operations so as to include a whole-of-government response to multi-tier health-related emergencies during an election.
Public health response to the pandemic is local
In Canada, responding to a public health crisis is largely a matter for provincial/ territorial and local authorities.
Elections Canada consulted provincial and territorial health authorities to ask them to review the revised products and instructions to ensure they are consistent with their guidelines/orders.
Elections Canada has sought assurances from provincial and territorial Chief Medical Officers that polling operations do not constitute a "gathering" or "event" under their regulation, and would thus be exempted from certain of the restrictions that limit or forbid public gatherings.
Drawing from experience in the October 26, 2020 by-elections in Toronto Centre and York Centre, and the experiences of recent elections in other Canadian jurisdictions, Elections Canada has mapped out a network of health authorities across the country to ensure we have contact information.
Effective communications and collaboration are key
In addition to provincial and territorial health authorities, Elections Canada has established relationships and communications channels with various groups including:
With PHAC participation, Elections Canada presented information on how it is preparing for a general election under pandemic conditions, with a focus on guidelines for candidate activities such as canvassing.
Public Health Agencies:
Elections Canada's, PHAC's and provincial and territorial public health agencies' communications team have established a connection to foster collaboration and alignment on public-facing communications and media inquiries related to COVID-19.
Indigenous Services Canada
Indigenous Services Canada has reviewed Elections Canada's COVID-19 Instructions and advised on priority points for Indigenous communities in general.
First Nations Communities
The Health Sector Directorate of the Assembly of First Nations has reviewed Elections Canada's COVID-19 Instructions and advised on issues specific to First Nation communities living on reserves.
The Manitoba Métis Federation has reviewed Elections Canada's COVID-19 Instructions and indicated how to reduce barriers for Métis community members.
Elections Canada is awaiting feedback from the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) and its four reginal governments, Inuvialuit, Nunavut Tunngavik, Makivik and Nunatsiavut from COVID-19 Instructions