MANITOBA Hydro employees away from home in the trenches of the post-storm cleanup Monday will not be able to exercise their right to vote in the federal election if they have not already made arrangements, according to Elections Canada.
"There is no alternative option right now," Elections Canada spokeswoman Marie-France Kenny told the Free Press during a phone interview Thursday.
"We know there’s hundreds of workers and we’re really sorry, but we know that at least we got 60 of them to vote if they chose to."
Over the weekend, about 60 Hydro employees posted in the Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman riding had the opportunity to cast a ballot at a community hall polling station. Kenny said a returning officer organized special ballots for out-of-town electors.
Days before Oct. 21, those working elsewhere and who did not cast an advanced ballot or apply for a special ballot (the deadline was Oct. 15 at 6 p.m.) to mail in their vote appear to be out of luck.
"We’re prepared for disasters and this is not the first one during an election, but there’s a limited amount of options that the law allows us to do," Kenny said. "You can’t just go vote at any poll."
Manitoba Hydro spokesman Bruce Owen said Thursday the utility was working with Elections Canada to see what could be done. Contacted again after Elections Canada’s response, Owen said: "It’s something we’re still looking at."
The utility’s crews have been working around the clock to restore power to the 266,234 sites across the province hit by the recent premature winter storm.
More than 1,000 employees are still in the field tackling more than 6,000 outages in the Interlake, Dauphin and Portage la Prairie regions. Hydro estimated crews will be able to return home in a week.
The utility has said its crews are being challenged by wet conditions, although it is making progress thanks to assistance from SaskPower, Hydro One (Ontario) and Minnesota Power.
Meanwhile, Elections Canada said evacuees from 13 affected First Nations remaining in Winnipeg on election day will be able to vote at the University of Winnipeg’s Wesley Hall.
For First Nations voters who remained in their homes affected by power outages, Elections Canada said it is working to safely offer services Monday but with reduced hours of operation where there is still no electricity.
Kenny said outreach staff will help identify where people have been displaced and communicate with affected communities about available options.
In Winnipeg Centre, where 750 voter information cards were returned "undelivered" by Canada Post, Elections Canada said Thursday new cards were not sent to those electors.
It invited them or any Manitobans with questions about where and how to vote to call 1-800-463-6868 or go to elections.ca.
Maggie is a cub reporter who covers every beat in the newsroom. She appreciates alliteration, when newspaper ink stains her fingertips and, more importantly, tips on social and environmental equity issues.
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Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.
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