Ontario First Nation man says bad advice from election officials meant he couldn't vote

A man from a remote northwestern Ontario First Nation says bad advice from provincial elections officials meant he couldn't vote in the recent provincial election.

Mike McKay, from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, says he got conflicting info from Elections Ontario

Mike McKay, from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, said he got conflicting advice when inquiring about voting in the 2018 provincial election. (David Donnelly/CBC)

A man from a remote northwestern Ontario First Nation says bad advice from provincial elections officials meant he couldn't vote in the recent provincial election.

Mike McKay from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (also known as Big Trout Lake), said last-minute travel to Thunder Bay, then on to Kenora, meant he wouldn't be in his home community — and, consequently — his electoral district on voting day.

Calls McKay made to Elections Ontario prior to election day resulted in some conflicting information, he said, with one person, who he identified as a manager, reportedly telling him he could vote in Thunder Bay as long as he had identification.

Kitchenuhmaykoosib is in the newly-created Kiiwetinoong riding, not either of the Thunder Bay-area ridings.

When McKay got to the polls on election day, staff in Thunder Bay told him he couldn't vote because he wasn't in his district and not registered to vote in the Lakehead.

"[The reported manager] says go to any polling station in Thunder Bay, as long as you have an ID and then you can cast your ballot," McKay said. "Previous to that, there were some people I talked to in Elections Ontario were telling me I could not vote anywhere except in my own riding."

McKay said he wasn't made aware of options like advanced voting or other ways to cast a ballot prior to election day.

"So, I just left and then I called Elections Ontario again ... and basically they just told me the same thing: you can't vote."

Elections Ontario said they couldn't speak specifically to McKay's experience, but said it undertook "significant outreach programs," in the lead-up to the election, including radio, television and print advertising in northern communities.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson said Elections Ontario staff visited over 80 First Nations in Ontario to provide information and educational materials and worked with Indigenous Friendship Centres to further those efforts.

The organization said those materials covered the voting process and the options available to electors, and were translated into languages like Cree and Oji-Cree.

McKay said he didn't see much in the community around information for voters.

"It shouldn't be this difficult," he said.