GOLDSTEIN: Long waits to vote were due to decisions by Trudeau

A significant number of ridings across Canada — and especially in the Greater Toronto Area — had fewer polling stations than normal — by up to 50%.

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If you were stuck waiting in huge lineups to vote Monday in an election almost two-thirds of Canadians didn’t want, you had one person to thank for it: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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While there are always some delays in voting in federal elections, even Elections Canada warned people leading up to Monday’s vote, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, that the process was going to take much longer than usual for many voters and asked for patience.

That’s on Trudeau.

First, there was no need for Trudeau to call a snap election on Aug. 15, just three days after Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, warned that Canada was in the middle of the fourth wave of the pandemic because of the Delta variant.

Under Canada’s fixed election date law, Trudeau wasn’t required to call an election until October 2023.

None of the opposition parties were threatening the minority Liberal government with a non-confidence vote, saying a pandemic was the wrong time to send Canadians to the polls.

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First, Trudeau ignored that and called the election just 22 months after the last one, because he thought a snap election was his best chance, given favourable polls in July, to regain the majority government he lost in the last election on Oct. 21, 2019.

Second, Trudeau ignored the strong recommendation of Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Perrault last fall that the election campaign should last the longest time legally allowed — 51 days — to give his agency time to handle the logistics of a pandemic election, prepare, hire and train workers, and process hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots.

Instead, Trudeau chose the shortest election campaign legally possible — 36 days — for Sept. 20, when he called the vote on Aug. 15.

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The government also failed to pass legislation Perrault said was needed to change the voting day from one, 12-hour opportunity on Monday, to two, eight-hour voting days on Saturday and Sunday, which he said would be easier both for voters and election workers.

The Liberals and Conservatives accused each other of failing to pass that legislation before Trudeau called the vote, but again, it was Trudeau who was responsible for the election’s timing, not the Conservatives.

As a result, Elections Canada had a staff shortage in conducting Monday’s vote — only about 78% of the total complement it wanted.

Many traditional polling stations — such as schools and homes for seniors — were not available for this election for public safety reasons.

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The requirement of physical distancing while waiting to vote disqualified many other traditional polling sites.

As a result, a significant number of ridings across Canada — and especially in the Greater Toronto Area — had fewer polling stations than normal — by up to 50%.

That meant huge lineups of people waiting to vote at some locations, as well as many people having to travel further to their polling station than they had in the past.

  1. Voters in the Spadina-Fort York riding gather from Fort York to Bathurst St. under The Beltway on Monday, Sept. 20.

    Voters face long lineups to cast ballots on Election Day in Canada

  2. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets supporters at an election campaign stop on the last campaign day before the election in Vaughan September 19, 2021.

    Liberal push to make election a referendum on pandemic only partly successful

  3. Elections Canada sign in front of a voting station. Voters wait in line at an Elections Canada advance poll at St. Anthony District Meeting Centre, 10425 84 Ave., in Edmonton Friday Sept. 10, 2021. Photo by David Bloom

    Voters now get the final word in only poll that matters

COVID-19 safety protocols also lengthened wait times to vote.

While media organizations will predict the winner of the election earlier, it could take Elections Canada up to five days to officially determine the winner of this election — although on Monday it said it should complete the job by Wednesday.

That’s because Elections Canada won’t start counting hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots until Tuesday.

The delay is necessary for security reasons, to make sure people who mailed in their ballots didn’t also vote in the advance poll or on election day.

lgoldstein@postmedia.com

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