OTTAWA — Residents of Cumberland ward in Ottawa’s east end are the first in the city to vote during a pandemic and a number of measures have been put in place to ensure the process is as safe as possible.
For this byelection, to be held on October 5, electors will be able to cast a ballot at any of the eight polling places. To ensure physical distancing, the number of people inside at one time will be limited.
“We’ll be posting the wait times for the locations on our Twitter account to update electors so they can make a choice about the location they’d like to go vote with the shortest line,” says Michele Rochette, the manager of municipal elections and French language services.
Masks are mandatory inside and there will be sanitization stations at each location. Electors will also get their own single-use pen and privacy sleeve when casting their ballots. Residents are encouraged to check the weather ahead of time because they may have to wait outside until there is enough room inside for them to come in and vote.
“Our workers will be wearing personal protective equipment such as masks but also they could be wearing face shields, they could be sitting behind an acrylic barrier and we’ll be guiding the elector to keep their two metre distance at all times while in the voting location,” says Rochette.
People with COVID-19, who have symptoms of it, who have travelled in the last 14 days, who are self-isolating or who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus are asked to stay home. Rochette says they can arrange to vote by proxy—naming someone to vote on their behalf—by calling the elections office at 613-580-2600.
“It’s a very simple process, you’re going to fill out some forms so call the elections office. I can’t stress that enough, we want to help everyone vote,” says Rochette.
Ten candidates have registered to run to fill the seat left vacant by Stephen Blais who now represents the provincial riding of Orléans for the Liberal Party of Ontario.
Among the main issues that candidates say come up when speaking with residents: speeding on residential roads, transit, the LRT, and the ward boundary review.
“The big issue in the rural area is the ward boundary review and the concern out there…haven’t met anybody yet that actually is in favour of breaking the rural part of Cumberland off and joining with Osgoode,” said candidate Patrick Uguccioni.
While there are concerns about low voter turnout because of the pandemic, candidate Catherine Kitts hopes people will still cast a ballot.
“It’s a really important election, we’ve been without representation and I want the people in Cumberland ward to have a voice on council,” she said. “We have a lot of really big decisions coming up not only that will affect us in the short term during this pandemic but some of the things that are at council right now will affect us for a long time to come.”
“It’s important [to vote],” echoed candidate Yvette Ashiri. “This is our community; the only way to develop it and to build it is by working together.”
Voting Day is Oct. 5 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Among the safety measures:
- Mandatory masks
- The number of people in the voting location will be limited
- Physical distancing markers
- Hand sanitizing stations
- Single-use stationary
- Acrylic barriers
- Disposable masks will be available if someone does not have one.
Because of COVID-19, residents are also to vote by special mail-in ballot. The ballots must be received by the Elections Office by Oct. 5 at 4:30 p.m. in order to be counted. The completed special ballot can also be brought to the Orléans Client Service Centre at 255 Centrum Boulevard by 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 5.
Alphabetical list of Cumberland Ward candidates
Click on each name to see their websites. Some candidates did not provide websites.
A. Bruce Faulkner
*Denis Labrèche withdrew from the race after the deadline, so his name remains on the ballot, but he is now supporting another candidate.
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