December 8, 2019

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Displaced Manitoba voters get last-minute consideration

Voters and Manitoba Hydro workers affected by this month’s snowstorm were able to cast a ballot from afar on Monday, thanks to last-minute moves made by Elections Canada.

"I think it should have been clearer, because none of my peers were talking about it." - voter Clinton Richard, on confusion about the special polling station

Clinton Richard was glad for the opportunity to vote in the federal election, but it was only by chance he heard about the polling station set up at the University of Winnipeg for snowstorm evacuees from Manitoba First Nation communities.

"I was watching the news this morning, and they said that there was a shuttle bus to vote, so I figured I’d come," said Richard, who is from Dakota Tipi First Nation and will be staying at a hotel in downtown Winnipeg until power is restored at his home.

</p><p>Christina Sutherland of Pinaymootang (Fairford) First Nation leaves with her child, Noah, 1, after voting Monday at a special polling station at the University of Winnipeg for those displaced by the big storm. (Jason Halstead / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Christina Sutherland of Pinaymootang (Fairford) First Nation leaves with her child, Noah, 1, after voting Monday at a special polling station at the University of Winnipeg for those displaced by the big storm. (Jason Halstead / Winnipeg Free Press)

"I think it should have been clearer, because none of my peers were talking about it."

Elections Canada announced Oct. 18 it would be setting up a "mega-polling station" for evacuees from 13 communities over four federal ridings. Marie-France Kenny, the agency’s regional adviser, said posters were put up at hotels and shelters and information about the alternate polling station was dispersed through the media, Canadian Red Cross and Assembly of First Nations.

"It was last-minute, so it was complicated logistically because of staffing, getting the ballots, getting the boxes and all of the materials together," Kenny said, adding roughly 40 new poll workers were trained over the weekend.

Runa Shorting of Pinaymootang (Fairford) First Nation speaks to media after casting her ballot with husband Wayne Shorting. (Jason Halstead / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Runa Shorting of Pinaymootang (Fairford) First Nation speaks to media after casting her ballot with husband Wayne Shorting. (Jason Halstead / Winnipeg Free Press)

For those who didn’t bring a voter card when their communities were evacuated, they were still able to vote with a signed confirmation of residence letter from a band leader.

Runa Shorting of Pinaymootang First Nation had been in Winnipeg for a week, after power lines near her home were knocked over in the storm. She heard about the polling station through the Red Cross and Facebook, and stopped by the U of W with her husband, daughter, and two grandchildren.

"I’ve always voted," Shorting said. "Back home… it’s a small community, so it’s so much easier to just run in and out of the building. Here you have to find a place to park and go pay for parking."

Manitoba Hydro workers after voting at the polling station set up in Lundar on Monday. (Supplied)</p>

Manitoba Hydro workers after voting at the polling station set up in Lundar on Monday. (Supplied)

The local polling station in Pinaymootang, in the Churchill–Keewatinook Aski riding, had to be moved and its hours cut from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday because of ongoing power outages.

"If there’s no power, they’ve got to work only during daylight, because you can’t see where you’re marking your ballot," Kenny said, adding those who didn’t show up to vote between those hours would not be able to vote.

"As of 3 p.m., we had 399 people vote out of a possible 800. Our voter turnout of our front-line staff will likely be at or higher than the national average… It’s fantastic." - Manitoba Hydro spokesman Bruce Owen

Hydro linemen working away from home Monday took rotating shifts to vote using special ballots at polling stations set up at the workers' temporary camps in Southport and Lundar.

"As of 3 p.m., we had 399 people vote out of a possible 800," Hydro public affairs officer Bruce Owens said. "Our voter turnout of our front-line staff will likely be at or higher than the national average… It’s fantastic."

Elections Canada flew in 20 staff to run the polling stations and the special ballots cast by Hydro workers will be the only votes counted Tuesday, according to Kenny.

eva.wasney@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @evawasney

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney reports on arts, culture and life for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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