Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. election results to be released Saturday at noon NT: CBC will have live coverage

Newfoundland and Labrador's troubled election, which should have ended Feb. 13, will finally conclude on Saturday after weeks of upheaval due to an unexpected coronavirus outbreak in the provincial capital.

Unprecedented election to conclude after tens of thousands of mail-in ballots counted

Newfoundland and Labrador was scheduled to vote on Feb. 13. A coronavirus variant outbreak derailed those plans, prolonging the election as voters scrambled to apply for mail-in ballots. (CBC)

Ten weeks and one day after Liberal Leader Andrew Furey called an election, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will learn which party will form their next government. 

Elections NL, the province's electoral agency, confirmed Tuesday it will release the results Saturday at noon NT. 

The announcement follows two months of unprecedented political upheaval in Newfoundland and Labrador, after the election scheduled for Feb. 13 was cancelled just hours before polls were supposed to open. 

Liberal Leader Andrew Furey called the election Jan. 15, citing a contested piece of legislation that compelled him to drop the writ within a year of taking over as premier, after the party's former leader, Dwight Ball, stepped down from the role.

This election campaign, scheduled to last just 28 days, differed from those in previous years: shaking hands, kissing babies and making the rounds inside Tim Hortons were a no-go in the age of COVID-19. 

Instead, politicians donned masks and stood six feet apart for photo ops. Reporter scrums remained few and far between, and instead, interactions with party leaders were reduced to carefully controlled Zoom media conferences. 

Election day cancelled

The week of Feb. 8 upended everything. 

After months of relative freedom from the pandemic that has plagued the rest of the country, the province grappled with an unexpected coronavirus outbreak that sent its active case count soaring. On Feb. 11, the province set a single-day record for new cases, with 100. 

With the election thrown into doubt, Elections NL pressed on, claiming polls could remain safely open. But by the end of the week, volunteers threw in the towel and refused to show up at polling stations, while municipalities across the province revoked permission for the electoral agency to use their facilities.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, held a rare Friday night press conference on the eve of the election.

She announced that coronavirus variant B117 had been confirmed in the St. John's metro area, causing the avalanche of new infections, and effectively locked down the province in response.

Minutes later — and less than 12 hours before the polls were set to open — chief electoral officer Bruce Chaulk postponed in-person voting for 18 of 40 districts.

Elections Newfoundland and Labrador has confirmed the province's lowest voter turnout this year. (CBC)

He said at the time that he would reschedule in-person voting if public health conditions improved. That didn't happen. 

Instead, the entire province shifted to mail-in voting, as the electorate scrambled to apply for ballot kits and grappled with deadlines that were repeatedly extended, backed-up phone lines and accessibility issues.

Due to the number of ballots requested before the deadline, a maximum of 51 per cent of the population will return a ballot, Elections NL has confirmed — the lowest turnout on record. Experts have told CBC News that this could render results illegitimate and spark yet another election.

Furey has battled repeated criticism for the timing of his election call, with his primary opponents — PC Leader Ches Crosbie and NDP Leader Alison Coffin — leveraging the spiralling outbreak as political fodder throughout the campaign.

Live coverage Saturday

Any ballot received after 4 p.m. on Thursday will not be counted, Elections NL has now said. Less than 48 hours after that final deadline, the winners of Newfoundland and Labrador's 40 districts will be announced. 

You can watch the results and analysis on CBC TV, with a pre-election show starting at 11:30 NT (11 a.m. in most of Labrador). It will be simulcast on CBC Radio 1. 

You can also watch it on CBC.ca/nl.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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