Hydro employees working on Manitoba storm cleanup will be able to vote near job sites

Manitoba Hydro workers who are in the field cleaning up after the massive snowstorm last week will be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote on Monday from outside of their polling location, a spokesperson from the Crown corporation said.

Plan with Elections Canada will keep workers from having to travel from cleanup sites to vote: Manitoba Hydro

Manitoba Hydro crews work near Portage la Prairie, Man. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Hundreds of Manitoba Hydro workers who are in the field cleaning up after last week's massive snowstorm will be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote on Monday, a spokesperson from the Crown corporation said Friday.

"[Elections Canada has] come up with a plan to allow our field staff to … cast their ballots in existing polling locations near the job sites where they're actually working," said Scott Powell, the director of corporate communications for Manitoba Hydro.

Typically, Canadians who can't vote in their home riding on election day have to go to an advance poll, or get a special ballot from Elections Canada, Manitoba Hydro said in an emailed statement Friday.

However, because of the timing of storm, many of the utility's staff weren't able to do either of those things.

Powell said Manitoba Hydro 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. It's a win-win for everybody," he said.

"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.

Polling location changes

Elections Canada already made a number of changes to polling locations following the snowstorm. 

Marie-France Kenny, a regional media advisor for Elections Canada, says as many as 60 hydro workers who were working near a polling location in the Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman riding had an opportunity to vote by special ballot at advanced polls this past Monday.

The workers stopped by a polling location to warm up, eat some food and have a rest.

"We thought, while they're here, let's ask them if they want to vote," Kenny said. 

A polling station for evacuees from 13 communities will be set up at the University of Winnipeg's Convocation Hall. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

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.

'Mega-polling station'

Kenny said Elections Canada is also taking steps to help evacuees forced from their homes by power outages cast their ballots.

A "mega-polling station" with 13 polls will be established inside Convocation Hall at the University of Winnipeg on Monday, she said.

The polls are for people from the following communities who will be in Winnipeg on Oct. 21: 

  • Long Plain First Nation.
  • Peguis First Nation.
  • Pinaymootang First Nation.
  • Sandy Bay First Nation.
  • Fisher River First Nation.
  • Lake Manitoba First Nation.
  • Lake St. Martin First Nation.
  • Little Saskatchewan First Nation.
  • Dakota Tipi First Nation.
  • O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation.
  • Dauphin River First Nation.
  • Kinonjeoshtegon First Nation.
  • Dakota Plains First Nation.

Polls set up in the evacuees' home communities will still run those who did not leave.