OTTAWA — Elections Canada says it won’t require its polling workers to be fully immunized against COVID-19, but all polling stations will be “highly controlled” with enhanced public safety measures in place.
Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Perrault said on Wednesday that he has consulted widely about the move and continues to seek advice as the pandemic evolves.
“The recommendations do not include mandatory vaccination, whether they be for electors, for workers, or candidate representatives. In the next three weeks or so, poll returning officers will be hiring some 25,000 Canadians to work at the polls to serve approximately 18 million Canadians. These are the same Canadians, these are the same people you meet every day at the grocery store,” said Perrault.
Elections Canada says it will, however, impose additional safety measures at polling stations.
“[Canadians] can expect to see essentially the kind of measures that they now have been seeing for the last 18 months. So, we will have people in charge of ensuring that the place is clean, that the electors are properly distanced. They will see for example these physical transparent barriers that will separate the poll workers,” said Perrault.
Masks will be distributed, hand sanitizer enforced, and disposable pencils required, he added.
The news comes as federal party leaders try to make clear their stance on mandatory vaccinations after the government announced last week that vaccinations would be required of federal workers and most federal industries, as well as commercial air, rail, and cruise ship passengers by the fall.
Since then, debate has erupted around whether a mandatory vaccine policy infringes on individual rights.
Asked whether Elections Canada would refuse a ballot to someone not wearing a mask, Perrault said that if Canadians plan to vote without a mask – unless it is for medical reasons – they should plan to vote by mail.
More to come….