Special voting stations open for evacuees, others affected by Manitoba storm

It was a drizzly election day in Winnipeg, where last-minute arrangements were made over the past week to ensure everyone who was eligible had a chance to cast a ballot.

Some polling stations had reduced hours due to power outages 10 days after storm

A storm evacuee registers to vote at the University of Winnipeg's Convocation Hall polling station on Monday. (Travis Golby/CBC)

It was a drizzly election day in Winnipeg, where last-minute arrangements were made over the past week to ensure everyone who was eligible had a chance to cast a ballot.

Elections Canada set up a special polling station inside the University of Winnipeg's Convocation Hall to accommodate anyone living temporarily in the city after a snowstorm 10 days ago knocked out power to a number of remote First Nations communities.

Chief Garnet Woodhouse of Pinaymootang First Nation, which is about 250 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, said it was hard for people who were evacuated from his community to get to the polls in Winnipeg.

"They're not familiar with the city, where to vote, where to go," he said. "I think a high percentage of them will try and vote, but I believe there's some [who] are gonna miss out."

Woodhouse said he was worried about elders from the community having difficulty navigating the city and walking up stairs to get into the polling station.

Chief Garnet Woodhouse of Pinaymootang First Nation said he thinks more accommodations should have been made for elders evacuated from his community. (CBC)

He said many have been shuffled around from hotel to hotel since being evacuated to Winnipeg more than a week ago, and he's been disappointed with how the situation was handled.

"Our elders are respected in our community, and they don't deserve that kind of treatment. We should accommodate them when they go through a crisis like this," said Woodhouse.

For Runa Shorting, who was among the many people evacuated from Pinaymootang during the storm, making it to the polling station in Winnipeg was important — but it wasn't easy.

Shorting and her husband, Wayne, first went to the wrong building. Once they realized their mistake, they headed over to the university and spent a long time looking for parking before finally getting to the polling station — all with two small grandchildren in tow.

Runa Shorting and her husband took two of their grandchildren to the polling station on Monday. (CBC)

"It was a little stressful," said Shorting.

Still, it was important to her that they cast their ballots on Monday. Shorting said she has voted in every election since she turned 18, and she doesn't plan on stopping now.

"I think our vote would make a difference," she said. "I'm trying to make a difference, anyway."

In northern Manitoba, several polling stations in the Churchill–Keewatinook Aski riding and one in the Selkirk–Interlake–Eastman riding had to move or close earlier than scheduled, according to Elections Canada's website.

'People are frustrated'

One volunteer said she saw many evacuees going through similarly stressful situations to vote.

"A lot of people are frustrated," said Yolanda Thompson, a volunteer who was helping the evacuees. "I'm not even sure if they brought their IDs, so we're going to try to do the best to help them out."

A total of 13 polls were set up in the hall for the evacuees. Like everyone else in the province, they were allowed to cast their ballots until polls closed at 8:30 p.m. local time.

"We also have polling stations in the [13] ridings for people who didn't evacuate," said Elections Canada spokesperson Marie-France Kenny, who helped oversee the setup Monday morning at the university.

Storm evacuees line up to vote on Monday at a special polling station at the University of Winnipeg. (CBC)
Storm evacuees enter Convocation Hall to vote on Monday. (CBC)

Special arrangements were also made for people other than the evacuees, she said.

Hydro and telecom workers dispersed around the province, trying to restore the connections to those communities — and many other hard-hit communities, such as Ashern, Arborg, Portage la Prairie and Dauphin — were being allowed to vote by special ballot.

They included workers from Manitoba and people who have come to the province from Saskatchewan and Ontario to help.

Kenny said that 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, on the weekend.

Elections Canada spokesperson Marie-France Kenny says there are also polling stations in the 13 ridings so those who didn't leave can vote. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

A slow-moving storm blasted southern Manitoba beginning Oct. 10, and into the next day, bringing five to 25 centimetres of heavy wet snow that pummelled trees and power lines.

With trees still covered in leaves — and above-freezing conditions — the moisture-laden snow accumulated in the canopy, weighing heavily on limbs and branches, until they came crashing down.

It's estimated some 30,000 city-owned trees and tens of thousands of privately-owned trees were impacted. 

The storm caused so much damage that it may be up to three weeks before the city can start focusing on removing tree debris from public property — and an entire year to tidy up — City of Winnipeg forester Martha Barwinsky said last week.

Some Winnipeggers who voted early Monday didn't reveal who they supported but gave their reasons for making their mark and what they thought of the 40-day campaign.

If people don't vote, they don't have a right to complain about the government, says Winnipeg voter Allan Phillips. (Kevin Nepitabo/CBC)

"Quite frankly, the behaviour of the two leading candidates wasn't up to democratic excellence," said Allan Phillips, who has voted in every election he could and believes this was the nastiest.

"It was mainly a mudslinging campaign, and if the only way you can look good is to make someone look worse, it's not a good sign."

Quan Chung has been eligible to vote for many years but this is the first time she's done so.

"The world has gotten to a place where I don't feel like it's very safe, and we don't really get a say unless we [vote], and this is our chance," she said.

Quan Chung cast her first-ever ballot on Monday, saying change isn't going to happen 'unless people get out there and say something and do something.' (Kevin Nepitabo/CBC)

There wasn't one single issue that drove her to the polls but rather several, including safety, the economy and the environment.

"I should have voted many times over [in my life], but I haven't felt like I needed to. I felt like the world would just sort itself out," Chung said.

"But I don't really think that's going to happen unless people get out there and say something and do something."

Phillips, whose big issue is the climate, echoed that, saying people have all kinds of concerns they want addressed, "but if you have not voted, you do not have the right to complain."

Katherine Redhead has been teaching her kids about the importance of voting and exercised her right Monday. (Kevin Nepitabo/CBC)

Katherine Redhead hopes her elementary school-aged children grow up valuing and exercising the right to vote and has been using the election campaign to help educate them about it.

And on Monday, she went to the polls to put action behind her words.

"I think it's really good that I set an example … because I believe that every vote does count," she said, listing her top concerns as being health care and tax breaks for lower-income people.

"I voted for the greater cause, and hopefully they win," Redhead said, with a fist pump in the air.

With files from Marina von Stackelberg


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.