Big year for voters who go to the polls twice in Ontario this year

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Prepare to be wooed, safely.

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Ontario has two major elections slated for 2022 — provincial on June 2 and municipal on Oct. 24 — making this a year for promises and reckonings.

Prior to last year’s federal campaign, Greg Essensa, the province’s chief electoral officer, had asked for a number of legislative changes to address concerns around COVID-19 and ballot box visits.

In particular, he asked for the authority to extend the election calendar, set an election day when schools are not in session and establish 10 days of flexible advance polls.

Eleni Armenakis, a spokesperson for Elections Ontario, said the Doug Ford government passed the Ontario Elections Act, 2021, which moves ahead with some of those recommendations, allowing for 10 days of flexible advance polling, up from five.

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Other recommendations adopted from annual and post-election reports include creating an advisory committee to provide guidelines on voting equipment, introducing an audit threshold of $10,000 for political parties, and authorizing the chief electoral officer to use administrative monetary penalties for minor infractions.

“We have been working with the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health on how we can administer accessible, safe and secure elections during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Armenakis said. “In the event of an election during the pandemic, we would implement additional health and safety guidelines at voting locations to protect voters and staff, including physical distancing, hand sanitizer, and regular cleaning of high-touch surfaces.”

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In the first major election of the year, Premier Doug Ford will face challengers, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and new Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca.

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“Our government is focused on protecting our progress in the fight against COVID-19, building Ontario, working for workers, and making life more affordable to ensure Ontario continues to be the best place to live now and for years to come.” Ford spokesperson Alexandra Adamo said, when asked about major election issues.

Del Duca said Liberals believe ending this pandemic is the number one priority.

“And that starts with voting out Doug Ford and bringing competence to the province’s COVID-19 response,” he said. “We are also making cost of living a key issue in our platform, already announcing several major policies to help families start getting ahead. Come June 2022, we will have the strongest platform on education, health care, ending the housing crisis, fighting climate change, and building an economy that works for us all.”

Horwath’s NDPers say their plan would address home care and long-term care to improve the quality of life of seniors, create a carbon-neutral Ontario and help people acquire rental accommodations and first homes.

aartuso@postmedia.com

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