Politics

Canadians vote amid some delays, robocalls and power outages

After a 40-day campaign, millions of Canadians are casting ballots today in the 43rd general election.

Elections Canada says about 27.4 million people eligible to vote at one of 20,000 polling stations

Voters wait in line to cast their ballots in Montreal in the 43rd general election. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

After a 40-day campaign, Canadians are voting in the country's 43rd general election, with polls now closed in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario and the Prairies.

The first ballots were cast, starting at 8:30 a.m. local time, in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick; the last will be cast at 7 p.m. PT (10 p.m. ET) in British Columbia.

Elections Canada says roughly 27.4 million people are eligible to vote at one of the approximately 20,000 polling places across the country.

While most voters will cast their ballots today, around 4.7 million Canadians did so in advance polls last weekend — a 29 per cent increase over 2015.

But on Monday, Elections Canada said there have been robocalls giving misinformation about when people could vote. Some people got these calls in ridings in Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

The agency said electors should be wary of any calls, emails or texts claiming that your polling station or voting time has changed. Anyone receiving such calls should call 1-800-463-6868.

"Elections Canada does not call, email or text electors about where to vote or about moving a polling station," the agency said.

It's not known if the calls were mischief or an attempt to influence the election. 

There were 55,515 Canadian expats registered to vote, and a final tally shows a record number 31,798 have marked ballots.

Canadian citizens 18 and over who have not already voted can put an X beside the name of their favoured candidate at local polling stations.

A voter walks into a polling station during advance polls on Oct. 11 in St-Georges, Que. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Rosellen Sullivan, an early voter in St. John's today, said it's been an important campaign and urged others to vote.

"There are a lot of issues, and I just think this election is particularly important. I think there's a lot of uncertainty in the country right now, and I think every vote counts," she said.

"I know that's a cliché, but actually, compared to the last election where I think there was a lot of non-turnouts, I think it was really important for people to vote this time around."

Voting delays

Voters were turned away at a number of polling stations in Ottawa West-Nepean shortly after they opened and told to come back later in the day because they were short-staffed. One of the eight locations that opened late was not in operation until after 4 p.m., according to Elections Canada. 

There were also late openings at some Toronto polling stations after Elections Canada workers were no-shows for their shifts.

In Toronto's University-Rosedale riding, Jessye Grundlingh said she had to wait about three hours to vote after arriving at the Pope Francis Catholic School polling station around 9:45 a.m. local time.

She was told there was no ballot box to correspond with her voter card, nor anyone to take her vote. An Elections Canada spokesperson confirmed there were "some glitches" but did not comment on reasons for the delays.

While there are long lines at some polls, voting appears to be going smoothly across most of the country.

In Natuashish, on Labrador's coast, the Elections Canada crew was unable to get into the community because of flight delays due to weather conditions, meaning polls didn't open as scheduled. The crew got on the early flight today, and voting is expected to continue until 8 p.m. local time.

In Manitoba, Elections Canada has set up special polls for people forced to leave their homes because of a severe storm last weekend. Polls will be open on their First Nations reserves, but people staying in Winnipeg can vote for the candidate in their ridings at a University of Winnipeg polling station.

Some polling stations in Manitoba have reduced hours because of power outages. The Elections Canada website has an update on the affected communities.

In Nunavut, a formal complaint has been made to Elections Canada because Inuktitut syllabics were not on the ballot. Inuktitut is an official language in the territory along with Inuinnaqtun, French and English.

According to a spokesperson for Elections Canada, changes would have to be made to the Canada Elections Act in order for syllabics to be included on future ballots. 

In Quebec, three party leaders cast their votes and are waiting to hear results. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is running in the Papineau riding in Montreal, Yves-François Blanchet of the Bloc Québécois is also in the Montreal area, in Beloeil-Chambly, and People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier is in Beauceville, southeast of Quebec City.

With his children in tow, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau votes in his riding of Papineau. 1:26

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is running in Regina-Qu'Appelle, and his headquarters are in Regina. 

The other two major party leaders have ridings in British Columbia: the NDP's Jagmeet Singh in Burnaby South and the Green Party's Elizabeth May in Saanich-Gulf Islands. Singh voted in advance on Oct. 13; May voted in her riding before heading back to party headquarters in Victoria.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer casts his ballot in his riding of Regina-Qu'Appelle. 1:34

If you haven't received a voter information card (VIC) in the mail — they were sent weeks ago — then you can find your designated polling station by using the postal code search on the Elections Canada website here or call 1-800-463-6868.

On that website, you can also find out who the candidates are in your local riding. Their names — and, if applicable, party affiliation — are listed on the physical ballot you'll receive from the poll clerk.

Unlike many other countries, Canada allows for same-day voter registration. That means if you aren't yet registered to vote, you can also do that today at your assigned polling station.

In some recent provincial elections, electors have been able to cast a ballot at any polling station in the province. The same rules do not apply in a federal election. On election day, you can only vote at your assigned polling station, which is typically housed in a nearby school, place of worship or community building.

All electors need to have some form of identification — proof of both identity and address — to present when they go to vote. The easiest option is a driver's licence. You can also bring your VIC and a recent utility bill. A Canadian passport and bank statement will also suffice.

Click here for a full list of ID options that Elections Canada clerks will accept.

From left: Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier. After a 40-day campaign, it is time for Canadians to vote. (Chris Wattie, Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Voting hours vary across the country

Here are the voting hours for each time zone. All times are local.

  • Newfoundland — 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Atlantic — 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Eastern — 9:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
  • Manitoba — 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Alberta, Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories — 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
  • Pacific — 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

This means polls in Newfoundland and Labrador will close at 7 p.m. ET — and all polls will be closed by 10 p.m. ET.

(There are no longer results blackout rules in Canada, so first results for areas where polls are closed will be available starting shortly after 7 p.m. ET.)

A close race

The Liberals under Trudeau and Conservatives under Scheer started the election largely neck-and-neck in opinion polls and, despite their best efforts, neither leader seems to have been able to jump ahead.

In the 2015 election, the Liberals took a clean sweep of Atlantic Canada. This time around, there are some hotly contested ridings, including St. John's East, where the NDP and Liberal candidates are battling it out. The Conservatives hope to break the Liberal hold in Nova Scotia in ridings like Kings Hants and West Nova. The Green Party also hopes to make inroads in New Brunswick, after doing well in the provincial election.

The resurgence of the Bloc Québécois under Blanchet is expected to complicate results in Quebec. The Bloc has seen a surge in support after strong debate performances by Blanchet, and could win as many as 40 of Quebec's 78 seats. Meanwhile, both Trudeau and Scheer have warned a vote for the Bloc could reopen the question of separatism.

In Ontario, the Liberals and Conservatives are fighting over 121 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons. In the last election, the Liberals took 80 seats and the Conservatives, 33. Unless the Conservatives can unseat a number of Liberals, especially in the Greater Toronto Area, they cannot hope to form a government.

The Conservatives are expected to take the lion's share of seats in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, where the economy and the fate of pipelines have been burning issues. The Liberals and NDP held a handful of seats in 2015, but prominent Liberal Ralph Goodale faces a tough race in Regina Wascana, and the Liberals may be swept aside in Alberta.

In such a close race, results in British Columbia will be watched with more interest than usual.

"British Columbia might end up being particularly important, even decisive, come election night, which isn't typical," said David Moscrop, political scientist and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Ottawa.

If current projections from CBC's Poll Tracker hold, the province's 42 electoral districts may determine whether the Liberal Party or Conservative Party holds more leverage in a minority government scenario.

Changes to polling stations are rare

The reports of robocalls bring to mind the calls made in the 2011 election, when voters were redirected to the wrong polling stations, robbing some of the chance to vote.

Guelph, Ont., campaign worker for the Conservatives Michael Sona was charged after the incident and sentenced to nine months in jail.

In the highly unlikely event that your local polling station has changed, Elections Canada will tell local news media, which will pass the message on to you through social media and news broadcasts.

Staff will also be on hand at the old polling station to direct electors to the new location.

"It is very rare that we would move a polling station after we've sent the voter information cards. We move polling stations only in exceptional situations — for example, if there is a fire at the original polling station."

Because of weather-related issues, some electors in Manitoba will be able to vote by special ballot.

As a reminder, electors are forbidden from filming or taking pictures inside the voting place.

You cannot show, film or take a picture of a marked ballot — it is illegal because it violates the secrecy of the vote under the Canada Elections Act.

And, of course, you can only vote once.

With files from The Canadian Press

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