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Impact of COVID-19

Updated on May 26, 2020

Elections Canada has been closely monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact. As part of its ongoing readiness planning, the agency is working on a new operational approach to deliver an election in the context of a pandemic and post-pandemic.

The health and safety of electors and the thousands of election workers who make a general election possible will always be a priority. As a result, Elections Canada is currently analyzing which measures should be put in place for the next general election.

Working group

The agency has set up an internal working group to lead its planning effort. Among other things, the group is looking at:

  • Procedures and possible physical distancing measures that could be put in place at polling stations and Elections Canada offices.
  • The capacity of Elections Canada's existing vote-by-mail system.
  • How to recruit, train, and keep election workers safe.
  • Confirming the availability and capacity of its many suppliers of goods and services before and during elections.
  • Reviewing polling station requirements and identifying alternative options for locations that may become unavailable due to COVID-19 concerns.

The working group will consider potential legal, administrative and operational changes in order to deliver an accessible and safe election.

Click here for more information about the planning efforts of the working group.

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Impact of COVID-19 on the ways to vote

The Canada Elections Act contemplates elections where electors are offered a range of voting options, including voting on election day or at an advance poll, and voting by mail or at an Elections Canada office.

Elections Canada is assessing the capacity of its vote-by-mail system to handle a much larger number of electors. However, fundamental changes to the legislation would be required to administer an election where all electors would vote by mail. The Canada Elections Act, as adopted by Parliament, currently requires Elections Canada to administer advance polling stations and polling stations, where electors may vote in person, as well as a vote-by-mail system.

Following our assessment, the agency may recommend legislative changes to Parliament. However, since Elections Canada must be ready at all times to administer an election, the agency's current efforts are focused on assessing its ability to adapt its operations within the general parameters of the existing legislative regime.

At this point, Elections Canada is not considering introducing internet voting. Implementing such a change would require significant planning and testing in order to ensure that the agency preserves certain aspects of the vote, including confidentiality, secrecy, reliability and integrity. Given the current operational and time constraints, this option cannot be explored properly at this time.

Any election in this context will likely involve a combination of adjustments to voting services, including more electors voting by mail, among other measures.

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Could an election be held if there are still public health concerns?

Elections Canada does not set the date for a general election. The Canada Elections Act provides for a general election to be held on fixed dates, though given the current minority government situation, an election could take place at any time.

Elections Canada is currently evaluating a wide range of scenarios to determine how it can adapt its operations in the context of a pandemic or post-pandemic while maintaining an accessible, safe and healthy environment for electors and workers, especially for older Canadians.

As stated in its Statutory Report, Elections Canada is working towards a readiness date of April 2021. The mitigation measures developed by the working group would be fully deployed by then. If an election were to take place prior to April 2021, Elections Canada would put in place the mitigation measures developed up to that point in time. These measures will be developed in consultation with health experts and clearly communicated to electors.

In an extreme case, based on the advice of public health experts, the Chief Electoral Officer could certify that it has become impracticable for Elections Canada to administer the election in one or several electoral districts and recommend to the governor-in-council that the election writ be withdrawn. This has never been done in Elections Canada's history.

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Information-sharing and monitoring the electoral environment

Elections Canada monitors COVID-19 responses and contingency planning developed by international and Canadian electoral management bodies in order to inform its own election readiness planning.

At the international level, Elections Canada engages with a number of electoral agencies to exchange information on best practices and learn from recent electoral events. The agency also benefits from the expertise of leading organizations in the field of electoral management through its participation in the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network.

At the national level, Elections Canada is participating in a working group on COVID-19 election preparation, which brings together election experts from various electoral management bodies across the country.

In addition, in order to inform its own planning efforts, Elections Canada monitors media coverage and publicly available social media content related to national and international electoral issues in the context of COVID-19.

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Communicating with Canadians

Elections Canada understands that the situation related to the COVID-19 outbreak is fluid and can evolve quickly.

We are committed to communicating regularly and clearly with Canadians about the measures we are taking to prepare for a general election in what may be a challenging environment.

We will inform Canadians if and when we bring in changes to the procedures used during the most recent general election. We will do so using our website, social media channels, and election advertising.

Click here for more Government of Canada information on COVID-19.

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Filing deadlines for political entities during the COVID-19 pandemic

Elections Canada understands that candidates, registered parties, electoral district associations, third parties and other regulated political entities may be experiencing challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have implemented a number of measures focused on providing as much flexibility as possible to allow political entities every opportunity to be in compliance with their financial reporting obligations under the Canada Elections Act.

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Contact us

Elections Canada employees are working from home until further notice, following a directive from the Chief Electoral Officer. Despite this different work situation, responding to your enquiries remains a priority. For specific information about the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on Elections Canada's operations, or any other elections-related matter, call the agency's public enquiries line at 1-800-463-6868.

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