How an early call of election influenced the result
By Chandler Walter, Humour Editor
All throughout the red sweep of the Atlantic provinces, the declaration of a new prime minister, and the probability of a Liberal majority projected, polls in British Columbia remained open.
Canada separates into four and a half time zones. Usually, time zones never really seem to affect daily West Coast life all too much. That is, until the third Monday of October, every (at least) four years. It was due to this difference in time zones that BC voters found themselves with a new prime minister, with hours to spare in their opportunity to go out and vote.
As the Westernmost province with only 42 seats up for grabs, BC has never quite been a game changer in the race to Parliament. Most federal elections are decided long before polling stations in the west close their doors on Election Day, although this was the first federal election that British Columbians were able to watch full coverage, starting at 4 p.m. PST.
Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act states: “No person shall transmit the result or purported result of the vote in an electoral district to the public in another electoral district before the close of all of the polling stations in that other electoral district.”
The section would have ideally kept voters in later time zones from knowing the results of ridings that had already been decided. Natalie Babin Dufresne, the Assistant Director of External Relations at Elections Canada, said that this section of the act was repealed in 2014 due to its lack of practicality.
Dufresne said that the repeal “was based on recommendations by the chief electoral officer simply because it wasn’t really [feasible] in this age of modern communications.” However, with the section repealed, election results were free to be broadcast the moment St. John’s polls began closing, three hours before BC’s.
Some British Columbia voters, like Jackie Fekete, were aware that election results were being broadcast before BC’s polls were closed, though did not want it to influence their decision.
“I’d been trying to ignore it,” Fekete said, regarding the news that Justin Trudeau had been projected to be Canada’s next prime minister. Fekete had to wait until after class on Monday before going to cast her ballot, and by that time, the Liberals had all but secured a majority government.
“That’s why I didn’t want to look, I didn’t want to think, “Oh, I should change my vote based on what is happening,’” Fekete said, when asked if knowing the information would have swayed her towards voting Liberal.
Courtney Striker, a fourth-year political science and gender studies student at the University of Victoria, was working as a polling clerk in Victoria on October 19, so she opted to vote during the advance polls.
Polls closed in BC at 7 p.m., and, as stated on Elections Canada’s website: “The voting hours are staggered so that the majority of results are available at approximately the same time on election night.”
Striker said those who were in the building at 7 p.m. could still vote, and the last voters casting a ballot stayed as late as 7:15 p.m. Striker worries that prematurely called elections may contribute to BC voters feeling as if their vote is wasted, though notes, “It’s not at all a good reason to not vote, because it’s about exercising a democratic right that’s not afforded to so many populations around the world.”
“In the end,” Striker said, “if the numbers say that enough people feel like it’s an issue, then broadcasters should hold off on revealing counts until precisely 7 p.m.”
When asked if Elections Canada had any modernized plans underway to address this issue the way Section 329 did in the past, Dufresne said that that remains a legislative issue, and that Elections Canada is “here to implement the law as parliament wishes it.”
It appears it is in the hands of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to see if BC voters will be avoiding election “spoiler alerts” come next federal election.