Elections Canada says it will not require its workers to be vaccinated on Election Day, but says it is taking steps to ensure long-term care and retirement home residents will be able to vote safely in the September 20 federal election.
The pledge comes after the Ontario Long-Term Care Association (OLTCA) called on Elections Canada to implement specific measures to protect residents from COVID-19 when voting. The association represents 70 percent of the 630 long-term care homes in Ontario.
Matthew McKenna, a spokesperson for Elections Canada, said in an email Friday that the health and safety of residents and staff in homes is a top priority for the agency. He said Elections Canada is working with retirement and long-term care homes to ensure the safety of voting.
McKenna added that residents who are eligible to vote will be able to vote either in the homes they live in or through other means, including voting by mail.
“Available voting options will vary from facility to facility, depending on the health and safety procedures in place and whether facility managers are able to support on-site voting services,” McKenna said in the email.
According to the latest Ontario data, a total of 3,975 long-term care residents and 10 health care workers diagnosed with COVID-19 have died.
Canada elections to provide voting options
According to Elections Canada, voters in retirement and long-term care homes will be able to vote in one of the following ways, depending on the situation in their facility:
- At the polling station on site: A home polling station will be created at a date and time specified by the Operator and Elections Canada.
- By special coordinated vote: In-house staff will work with the local Elections Canada office to provide voters with a special ballot application and voting kit. They can also help them with their requests.
- by mail: Voters will apply independently to vote using the mail-in voting process.
McKenna said that voters in the facilities will receive a notice from Elections Canada, delivered by staff at home, that will contain information about where, when and how to vote. Notifications will be delivered approximately two weeks prior to Election Day.
He added that eligible residents will also receive voter information cards and most homes will put up posters with information about the voting options available to residents.
Elections Canada expects workers it hires to be vaccinated
McKenna said the agency expects that the majority of people hired to serve in elections will receive two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“While vaccination is not a prerequisite for election work, we anticipate that – given vaccination rates across Canada and data on the demographic profile of our workforce – the majority of employees who will be hired at the call of the federal election will be vaccinated in accordance with nationwide roll-out plans. province or territory”.
“Returning officers will employ vaccinated workers where possible, and will give priority to fully vaccinated election staff to serve vulnerable populations, such as those living in long-term care facilities or First Nations communities, in cooperation with measures in place in those communities, if staff Elections they did to go there in person.”
Donna Duncan, CEO of the Ontario Long-Term Care Association, said in an interview Friday that it’s important for Canada’s elections to preserve residents’ right to vote while protecting them from COVID-19.
“We are very concerned about the health, safety and well-being of our residents in long-term care. We know that in wave one and wave two, it was our seniors in long-term care residences across Canada, but particularly in Ontario, who contracted the virus devastatingly.”
“We are now in the fourth wave, dealing with a delta variant in Ontario, and we are starting to rally for booster shots of seniors, but this is going to take some time. We know our seniors have been vaccinated over nine months and are vulnerable to hacking. We’ve started We see the breakout.”
“We are disappointed that Elections Canada has said it will not impose vaccinations on its workers. We know that the primary weapon against this disease and the primary weapon we have to protect our population is vaccinations.”
The Assembly calls on Elections Canada to incorporate the following “Guidelines” into the voting process:
- Reduce space usage: The polling station in a long-term care home should be restricted to residents of that home, primary caregivers and staff to protect the most vulnerable. If that’s not possible, the association says it is open to alternatives to in-person voting, including mail-in ballots or outside polling stations.
- Enhanced Security Protocols: The association says it believes COVID-19 vaccines should be mandatory for Canada election workers assigned to long-term care homes and auditors from political parties sent to oversee the voting process. If this is not possible, she believes that Elections Canada should manage the cost and burden of coordinating testing and personal protective equipment. For homes that have an outbreak, she says no one should enter the building and there should be an emergency plan to enable residents to vote.
- Priority planning: The association says it wants Elections Canada to implement a safety plan for long-term care residents as soon as possible, and then begin working with homes in each community to implement it immediately.
“Our message extends to the political parties, candidates, and commissioners who visit our long-term care homes,” Duncan said.
“We cannot risk the progress we have made on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19, especially as we enter fall with a potential fourth wave fueled by a delta variable, so we ask that you vaccinate and respect and cooperate with all of our residents, families and staff with our health measures.”