Manitoba

Special ballots will be used to allow hydro workers in Manitoba to vote near job sites

Elections Canada has made special accommodations to ensure hundreds of workers commissioned by Manitoba Hydro can cast their ballots on Monday, following a snowstorm that caused immeasurable damage across the province.

Blank ballots will be used at 2 voting locations so employees working on restoring power can vote

Manitoba Hydro employees work on damaged hydro poles in Ashern, Man. (Ahmar Khan/CBC)

Elections Canada has made special accommodations to ensure hundreds of workers commissioned by Manitoba Hydro can cast their ballots on Monday, following a snowstorm that caused immeasurable damage across the province.

"We've been looking at solutions for the past week ever since we knew they were out there working and trying to get people back to their homes," said Marie-France Kenny, the regional media advisor for Elections Canada.

The deadline to submit votes by special ballot was Oct. 15, but on Friday, the governmental organization made an exception for hydro workers, including those from Manitoba Hydro, SaskPower and Hydro One.

"We know they're in two main areas, so we've made arrangements for them to vote by special ballot in those ridings," Kenny said 

Kenny said under the Canada Elections Act, the chief electoral officer has the power and discretion to adapt voting procedures in exceptional situations, including a state of emergency, to ensure voting is accessible.

"It was an adaptation made by the CEO to make sure that we can let hydro workers who are in areas not in their riding to vote," she said.

The change requires a lot of support staff on the ground.

Manitoba Hydro says it's repaired a little more than half of the distribution lines that are down and two of five vital transmission lines as of Saturday. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

"We have to make sure we have blank ballots because we don't have ballots for every riding, we don't know which riding they'll be voting for," she explained.

"We also have to make sure we have people who can help them through the process, so making sure we can provide them with names of candidates in each of these ridings so they can write out their names on the ballots."

'Saves hours of travel time'

Scott Powell, the director of corporate communications for Manitoba Hydro said the Crown corporation planned to give workers time to go back to their home ridings to vote, but there were concerns that would slow efforts to restore power in areas that have been in the dark for days.

"This development saves hours of travel time and means that we won't be disrupting the restoration process for the thousands of customers still out of power, as much as we would have had," he told CBC News Friday. "It's a win-win for everybody." 

"We have some people who may have had three to four hour travel time each way to get to their home ridings."

Manitoba Hydro is working in areas of the province hit hardest by the storm, including the areas of Ashern, Arborg, Portage la Prairie and Dauphin.

Powell said he's grateful Elections Canada has come up with a plan to help Manitoba Hydro workers cast their votes.

"We really wanted our staff to be able to do this. They deserve, as all Canadians do, a chance to have their voices heard in any election," he said.