North

Couple stranded in Yellowknife wasn't allowed to vote — until a candidate stepped in

On their way home to Inuvik after a vacation, Wally Ballas and Anne Margret White found themselves stuck in Yellowknife on voting day. To their surprise, they were told that meant they weren't able to cast a ballot.

Wally Ballas and Anne Margret White were initially told they couldn't vote, despite being in same riding

Anne Margret White and Wally Ballas pose in front of the Hollywood sign during their vacation to California. On their way home, the couple ran into issues while attempting to vote in Yellowknife. (Submitted by Anne Margret White)

On their way back from a two-week vacation in the United States, Wally Ballas and Anne Margret White were looking forward to getting back to their home in Inuvik, N.W.T., just in time to vote in the federal election.

However, after being stranded in Yellowknife, the pair were only able to vote due to some perseverance — and a last minute intervention from a candidate.

The couple was expected to return to Inuvik Sunday. However, while en route to Norman Wells — a stop on the scheduled flight to Inuvik — Ballas and White's Canadian North flight turned around to Yellowknife, due to an issue with the plane's door.

They were told they wouldn't be able to get on a flight until Tuesday.

"We never thought we'd be late," Ballas said. "We vote every election and we were counting on this date. Just like everybody else, we'd been keeping informed the last 40 days."

When the couple realized they and several other Inuvik residents were going to be stuck in Yellowknife for the election, they turned to a fellow Inuvik resident: federal NDP candidate Mary Beckett, who was in Yellowknife for the end of the campaign, for advice.

Initially, Beckett told them to see what the Elections Canada office in the capital could do. White said they went, and were told they couldn't vote in Yellowknife.

"In the N.W.T., it's one riding, so why does it matter where you vote?" said White, pointing out that every community in the territory elects one MP.

"We're all voting for the same candidates."

Candidate steps up

Inuvik's Mary Beckett, the N.W.T.'s NDP candidate, stepped in to help the couple and other stranded passengers. (Submitted by Mary Beckett)

Disappointed, the couple posted about their experience on social media, where Beckett was following the proceedings on Monday afternoon.

That's when she and her team stepped up to help.

"My campaign managers took it upon themselves to call Elections Canada and NDP headquarters and as many people as they could," said Beckett.

The candidate, who ultimately lost the election to Liberal incumbent Michael McLeod, said she'd been approached by other people during the day who weren't able to return home to their respective communities, and she's guessing they were also turned away from voting.

"If I hadn't personally known the people involved, I might've not understood what was going on either," said Beckett.

"I think it's reasonable if you are from the Northwest Territories with all the technology we have nowadays to verify that somebody is on the voter list, and they just can't get home for whatever reason."

Eventually, Beckett's efforts were successful, and the couple was able to transfer their votes to a local venue. CBC was able to confirm at least three Inuvik residents were able to vote in Yellowknife. 

Beckett said she will write up a complaint to Elections Canada, and said there should be a change to its policy in the future, noting that this likely happens to voters across the country.

Ballas agrees with Beckett, and hopes a solution is created that will prevent people from being in his predicament.

"There should be something for people like us who do get stuck and we really wanted to vote," he said. "We're just glad we did."

CBC requested comment from Elections Canada, but didn't hear back by time of publication.

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