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SAANICH–GULF ISLANDS: Turnout starts slow Monday morning

Which party will be chosen to form the next government?
This was the scene inside the polling site at Deep Cove Elementary School in North Saanich just after 8 a.m. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Despite a slow start to the day, lines were building at polling stations as the 7 p.m. deadline loomed.

A small but steady stream of voters headed into Sidney’s Mary Winspear. Some came as families, some with children in tow while others, especially younger voters came alone or with friends. While unrepresentative, comments from voters identified the environment and housing as top issues. But they also echoed comments heard earlier, namely that they did not vote with a spring in their step but rather out of a sense of obligation. To be fair the apparent lack of interest as measured by actual people lining up near the facility may also reflect the high rate of advanced voting and mail-in voting by area residents. This said, this picture appears different in other parts of the riding, where lines are long.

The returning officer for Saanich-Gulf Islands said Monday morning turnout for Canada’s 44th federal election has been what he called “surprising slowly” in making an appeal to voters.

“For all the work that we have put in, as (ridings) have across the country, please come out and exercise your democratic right and vote,” said Peter Mason. “And then secondly, before you come to a polling place, read your voter identification card carefully. We already had to sent people away to other locations, back to Deep Cove Elementary, back to North Saanich Middle School, because they didn’t read it carefully and just assumed that because Mary Winspear was the advance poll, that is where they would come.”

Mason made those comments just after 9 a.m. Monday morning at the Mary Winspear Centre. “For a nice day, I thought it would be much busier,” he said, pointing into the empty main hall of the Mary Winspear Centre. “It’s not exactly rocking.”

This said, Mason predicts that turnout will pick up later in the day. “It’s hard to predict,” he said. “I’m just looking at it from a numbers point-of-view. We have a little over 92,000 electors in the (riding) and we got about 35,000, who have either voted advanced-poll or through the mail-in ballot.”

In other words, about a third of eligible voters have already cast their ballots. “Traditionally, we end up with something in the low-70 per cent of (turnout). So there could be another 26,000, 27,000 people (voting) if things holds true. But that is over 36 polling sites including the Gulf Islands.”

Comparing the current federal election to the provincial election in the fall of 2020, Mason sees parallels in terms of voters using mail-in voting.

“Saanich North and the Islands, we were the second-most mail-in ballots in the province,” he said. “At one point and I don’t know the final numbers, our (federal riding) was the second-highest mail-in ballots in the country. So clearly, may because of the high percentage of seniors and especially during a pandemic, voters want to use that option to vote by mail.”

Hali and Darren Noble were among the handful people casting their ballots at Deep Cove Elementary School in North Saanich just after 8 a.m.

“We have to work and wanted to get it before there are crowds,” said Noble. Voting itself was easy, she said. “They have the system down pat. Didn’t feel stressful at all.”

This said, both questioned the need for an election. “It’s a waste of time,” said Hali. “There are other priorities right now. I don’t like being forced into an election this time. It’s the last thing we should be thinking about right now during a pandemic.”

Conrad Dunlop cast his ballot at Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney. He said he voted because it is duty as a citizen. “I want my person in,” he said.

Like the Nobles, Dunlop did not have to wait very long to cast his ballot. “Very easy,” he said. As for the campaign itself, Dunlop said it missed some issues, specifically Indigenous relations. On the flipside, he questioned the rush toward restoring society to its state before the pandemic. “We are not ready for that yet,” he said.

When asked whether he agreed with Nobles, who considered the election a waste of time and presumably a waste of money, Dunlop agreed. “It’s a political ploy,” he said. “It’s a waste of money. It’s just to give the Liberal Party more power.”

This said, Dunlop is paying attention to the outcome. “I will be watching all night long.”

Polling stations for the Saanich–Gulf Islands riding, including the one at Deep Cove Elementary School in North Saanich pictured below, have been open since 7 a.m. Locations are off to a slow start, which means now is a great time to cast your vote if you want to avoid lines.

Melissa Haire was among the voters who cast their ballots just after 5 p.m. The second time voter and student considered student and housing issues important in her decision. While she did not necessarily pay close attention to the campaign, she did follow it through various channels including TikTok. Unlike other voters with whom Black Press Media spoke, she was more enthusiastic about the campaign. “I thought it was cool,” she said. She also had no concerns about voting during a pandemic and the process itself was smooth despite her recent move to the Saanich Peninsula. “It took five minutes,” she said.

So how much attention will she pay to the outcome? “As much as parents let me.”

Catriona Duncan and Emma Kirkpatrick also voted but both their tone and comments suggested a level of dissatisfaction with having to go through the exercise at all. Neither paid much attention to the campaign itself and Kirkpatrick, who studies political science, said she already knew who she was going to vote for, with housing a top issue for both.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. in the Saanich–Gulf Islands riding with a new federal government expected to be named Monday night in Canada’s 44th federal election.

The main parties vying for the 338 seats in the House of Commons are Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives, Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats, Annamie Paul’s Greens, Yves-François Blanchet’s Bloc Quebecois and Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada.

Who is running in Saanich–Gulf Islands?

  • Elizabeth May, Green
  • David Busch, Conservative
  • Sabina Singh, NDP
  • Sherri Moore-Arbour, Liberal
  • David Hilderman, People’s Party of Canada
  • Dock Currie, Communist Party of Canada

Polls in Greater Victoria closed at 7 p.m.

READ MORE: Saanich-Gulf Islands candidates speak out on housing, climate and COVID-19

READ MORE: Election 2021 – Who are your Greater Victoria candidates?

READ MORE: Saanich–Gulf Islands

Where you can vote:

To find out your local poll location, visit the Elections Canada website and type in your street address. Alternatively, Canadians can look at your voter registration card. Voters can only visit their specified polling location.

Elections Canada has warned that due to staffing shortages from the pandemic, some voters may experience a wait to cast their ballot.

Masks are mandatory in polling locations, but proof of vaccine is not required.

READ MORE: A guide to casting your federal election ballot in Greater Victoria

For Elections Canada’s FAQ page for questions such as what kind of identification to bring, click here.

Check out our website and Facebook page for full coverage of the results once polls close.


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