Nova Scotia

What you need to know about N.S. municipal elections this fall

Preparations are underway for municipal elections this fall. An election co-ordinator says the COVID-19 pandemic has added a "whole other level of planning" to this year's elections.

Virtual workshops for would-be candidates in HRM available now

People wait in line to vote in a Democratic presidential primary election outside the Hamilton High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on April 7, 2020. (Kamil Krzacynski/AFP via Getty Images)

Municipal election day in Nova Scotia is just two months away and municipalities are forging ahead with preparations despite concerns from some groups about safety.

Halifax Regional Municipality has launched virtual workshops on its website for people interested in learning more about running for a council seat. It will replace the typical in-person sessions that were cancelled due to COVID-19.

"There's a lot of planning and COVID has definitely added a whole other level of planning because we need to ensure that we are working with a safe election," Trish Smith, elections co-ordinator for the municipality, told CBC's Mainstreet.

Some municipal organizations have raised concerns about holding elections this fall given the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19.

The democracy group Springtide, meanwhile, quit its contract, saying it may be impossible to hold safe and inclusive elections during the pandemic.

What prospective candidates should know

Smith said her team is working with HRM's diversity and inclusion office to ensure information about running in the election reaches all communities in Nova Scotia.

"We certainly encourage people from all different backgrounds, genders, races, sexual identity to come out and run as well as vote … so that our council can really reflect and represent our community," she said.

In the Halifax area, online workshops include a 30-minute virtual presentation about the nomination process. Smith said people can pause to take notes and go at their own pace.

"They'll learn all about the nomination process, what's required of someone who is running for council, what they need to do for nomination day and a little bit of information about campaign finance," she said.

Smith said wading into the world of municipal politics can be intimidating and the workshops are an important way to familiarize people with the process. 

"There's definitely a lot of information to absorb so by being able to present it online and having it there for people to take in at their own pace allows them to really have a better understanding of the process so they can feel more comfortable moving forward or not moving forward, whichever they decide," she said.

Dalhousie University is also hosting campaign schools via zoom, while the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities and the Nova Scotia Department of Municipal Affairs have listed resources online.

Candidates have until Sept. 8 to fill out the nomination paperwork. 

What voters should know

Election day is Oct. 17, and the dates for advance polls vary by jurisdiction.

In the Halifax area, people can vote by phone, online or in-person, where they'll be required to wear a mask and physically distance, Smith said. 

"We're encouraging folks, if they can, to vote at home and avoid coming to the polling locations ... just to help with crowd control because of COVID considerations," she said. 

How to vote will depend on where you live in the province. In Cape Breton Regional Municipality, for example, there will only be electronic voting while there will be a mix of online, phone and in-person voting in the Municipality of Yarmouth. 

Information about voting can be found on your municipality's website. 

With files from CBC's Mainstreet

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