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Early data suggests historically low voter turnout in federal election

NEWS STAFF | posted Wednesday, Sep 22nd, 2021

Despite long lines at a number of polling stations on election day – early data is suggesting voter turnout was actually near a historic low for a federal election.

According to preliminary data from Elections Canada the turnout was at least 59 per cent, which is the lowest rate in more than a decade and just above the all-time federal election low.

Some believe concerns due to the pandemic may have kept people away from polling stations and is the main reason that advance voting and mail-in ballots were so popular.

This figure will change with a million mail-in ballots still needing to be verified. Elections Canada also still needs to count ballots by those who were not registered but showed up at a polling station.

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NDP leader Jagmeet Singh says he is troubled by the apparent lack of interest in the election and says the snap election forced Elections Canada to scramble to try and make things accessible.

“I blame Mr. Trudeau,” says Singh. “He called an election without having laws in place that would have allowed us to make adjustments so that we could make sure there were easier ways to vote in a pandemic.”

Trudeau has not spoken publicly since election night and is yet to react to the low voter turnout. Liberal ministers have also been unavailable for comment.

The last time voter turnout was this low was in 2008 when just over 58 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballot.

In 2019, 67 per cent of registered voters cast a ballot. The federal election in 2015 saw a voter turnout of just over 68 per cent.

Erin O’Toole pleads to lead Conservatives in wake of another election defeat

JOHN MARCHESAN | posted Tuesday, Sep 21st, 2021

Despite falling short in his first election as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Erin O’Toole says he wants to stick around to fight the next battle which he warned may be just 18 months away.

In a concession speech that seemed to be just as much a plea to hang on to the job he won only 13 months ago, he called on Canadians to be weary of Justin Trudeau’s true intentions while doubling down on his centrist approach.

“Over the past 36 days, we have demonstrated to Canadians that we have set out on a path to engage more Canadians in our Conservative movement. More people voted for Canada’s Conservatives than any other party and that’s a strength to build on,” said O’Toole. “Our support has grown, it’s grown across the country, but clearly there is more work for us to do.”

As of midnight ET, O’Toole’s Conservatives were leading or elected in 121 seats, the same as in 2019 even though they won slightly more of the popular vote than the Liberals, as they did last time. Those results ended up forcing Andrew Scheer out of the party. Predicting that Trudeau will plunge the country into another election in 18 months in yet another bid to secure a majority, O’Toole said he’s “resolutely committed to continuing this journey for Canada.”

The evening started well for the Conservatives as they managed to increase their standing in Atlantic Canada, a region which saw the Liberals hold 27 of 32 seats available across New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador when the election was called. This time around, the Conservatives had secured at least six seats and as many as eight including a notable one in Nova Scotia with Rick Perkins defeating Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan in South Shore-St. Margarets.

While most riding winners were expected to be known on election night, Elections Canada has warned it could take up to four days to finish counting all special ballots, meaning some close races may not have official winners for several days. There are also almost 800,000 mail-in ballots to be counted, starting Tuesday, which could yet change the preliminary results in many tightly contested seats.

One of O’Toole’s mandates when he took the helm of the Conservatives little over a year ago was to appeal to a broader range of voters, specifically in southern Ontario and Quebec. Throughout the 36 day campaign, O’Toole tried to transform himself to meet the needs of the electorate, presenting himself as a moderate centrist in an attempt to win over disillusioned Liberal voters. And while the Conservative Leader was handily re-elected in his riding of Durham – a riding he has represented since a November 2012 byelection – the anticipated gains in the GTA simply failed to materialize.

Hampering O’Toole’s efforts towards the end of the campaign was Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada. The far-right group, which once again failed to win a single seat, managed to increase its percentage of the popular vote from 1.6 per cent in 2019 to over five per cent this time and those gains certainly came at the expense of the Conservatives.

“I spoke to Mr. Trudeau and congratulated him on a hard won campaign,” said O’Toole before cheering supporters. “And I told him if he thinks he can threaten Canadians with another election in 18 months, the Conservative party will be ready.”

“And whenever that day comes, I will be ready to lead Canada’s Conservatives to victory.”


RELATED: Justin Trudeau’s Liberals win minority government in 2021 federal election

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RELATED: Federal Election 2021: Real-time results and map


Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

What did we learn from another Liberal minority win?

THE BIG STORY | posted Tuesday, Sep 21st, 2021

In today’s Big Story podcast, a Liberal minority government. Likely within a few seats of where we started, 37 days ago. Did this election matter? What did it reveal about Canada’s political mood? About the health of our electoral system? And about the future of the two leaders who went head to head for the past six weeks? Turns out, more than you might think.

GUEST: David Moscrop

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google and Spotify

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

The $600M election only Justin Trudeau wanted: will it backfire?

CYNTHIA MULLIGAN | posted Monday, Sep 20th, 2021

It is an unprecedented election in the midst of a pandemic. As the fourth wave carries on, one only has to look to the crisis in Alberta to see COVID-19 is still a threat and far from over. But when the election was called the federal Liberals stumbled out of the gate, unable to explain why they triggered it. It is a question they have not been able to properly answer to justify the expense to COVID-weary voters.

“I was one of the people off the top that said this was the ‘Seinfeld election,’ an election about nothing. In some ways it has been, but it is certainly an important election,” observes Will Stewart, a public affairs strategist and senior vice president at Hill and Knowlton.

Among the many issues, the election will determine if Canada will, or will not, move forward on a national childcare plan and how it will tackle climate change.

At dissolution, the Liberals had 155 seats and the Conservatives had 119. Polls suggest the two parties are neck-and-neck, each needing 170 seats to win a majority, but it does not appear either will reach that coveted target. Veteran pollster John Wright with Maru Public Opinion doesn’t think it is possible, saying, “there is no one in the current landscape that is going to win a majority.”

CityNews will be covering election night across the country with a panel representing many perspectives and voices. Ontario NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa, a strong voice for Indigenous communities, will be in our station throughout the evening along with Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner who believes Trudeau may ultimately regret his decision to try and get a majority.

“I think it has the possibility of backfiring on Mr. Trudeau,” he says. “He never has defined why he called the election and what he needs a mandate for.”


RELATED: How and where to watch CityNews’ coverage on election day


On election night the CityNews panel will also include B.C.’s former provincial Liberal attorney general Suzanne Anton, Andray Domise from Maclean’s, Will Stewart from Hill and Knowlton, veteran Liberal insider Bob Richardson, and Estefan Cortes-Vargas, a former NDP MLA in Alberta and current transgender activist who says voters resent having to go to the polls.

“People are very resistant to this election taking place in the first place,” says Cortes-Vargas. “The anti-vaxxers are making a lot of waves and headlines but when it comes to talking about childcare, foreign affairs, the economy not a lot of things are making it into that conversation.”

In fact, anger has been a dominant theme in this election to the benefit of Maxime Bernier. He has been courting anti-vaxxers with his libertarian anti-establishment messaging. Many believe his People’s Party of Canada will pull votes away from Erin O’Toole and the Conservatives. Various polls suggest Bernier’s party has four to eight per cent support, a marked increase from the last federal election in 2019 when he won 1.6 per cent of the vote. Bernier may not win any seats, but he could cost the Conservatives seats in tight ridings and hand Trudeau a victory. A look at this cover of the conservative leaning Toronto Sun‘s newspaper on Friday, Sept. 17, shows the very real concern among some Conservatives.

 

Ultimately, victory will come down to which party can get out the vote on election day. That’s a given in any election, but the pandemic adds a new twist. Will voters want to stand in line in a pandemic? Stewart says COVID-19 could also impact the outcome.

“Those lines are going to be long,” he says. “We know we have fewer polling stations than we typically have, and Elections Canada has less staff all because of the pandemic so those are interesting questions and voter turnout could play a massive factor in this election.”

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine works in kids ages 5 to 11

LAURAN NEERGAARD THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Sep 20th, 2021

Pfizer said Monday its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it will seek U.S. authorization for this age group soon — a key step toward beginning vaccinations for youngsters.

The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech already is available for anyone 12 and older. But with kids now back in school and the extra-contagious delta variant causing a huge jump in pediatric infections, many parents are anxiously awaiting vaccinations for their younger children.

For elementary school-aged kids, Pfizer tested a much lower dose — a third of the amount that’s in each shot given now. Yet after their second dose, children ages 5 to 11 developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults, Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president, told The Associated Press.

The kid dosage also proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary side effects — such as sore arms, fever or achiness — that teens experience, he said.

“I think we really hit the sweet spot,” said Gruber, who’s also a pediatrician.

Gruber said the companies aim to apply to the Food and Drug Administration by the end of the month for emergency use in this age group, followed shortly afterward with applications to European and British regulators.

Earlier this month, FDA chief Dr. Peter Marks told the AP that once Pfizer turns over its study results, his agency would evaluate the data “hopefully in a matter of weeks” to decide if the shots are safe and effective enough for younger kids.

Many Western countries so far have vaccinated no younger than age 12, awaiting evidence of what’s the right dose and that it works safely in smaller tots. But Cuba last week began immunizing children as young as 2 with its homegrown vaccines and Chinese regulators have cleared two of its brands down to age 3.

While kids are at lower risk of severe illness or death than older people, more than 5 million children in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began and at least 460 have died, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Cases in children have risen dramatically as the delta variant swept through the country.

“I feel a great sense of urgency” in making the vaccine available to children under 12, Gruber said. “There’s pent-up demand for parents to be able to have their children returned to a normal life.”

In New Jersey, 10-year-old Maya Huber asked why she couldn’t get vaccinated like her parents and both teen brothers have. Her mother, Dr. Nisha Gandhi, a critical care physician at Englewood Hospital, enrolled Maya in the Pfizer study at Rutgers University. But the family hasn’t eased up on their masking and other virus precautions until they learn if Maya received the real vaccine or a dummy shot.

Once she knows she’s protected, Maya’s first goal: “a huge sleepover with all my friends.”

Maya said it was exciting to be part of the study even though she was “super scared” about getting jabbed. But “after you get it, at least you feel like happy that you did it and relieved that it didn’t hurt,” she told the AP.

Pfizer said it studied the lower dose in 2,268 kindergartners and elementary school-aged kids. The FDA required what is called an immune “bridging” study: evidence that the younger children developed antibody levels already proven to be protective in teens and adults. That’s what Pfizer reported Monday in a press release, not a scientific publication. The study still is ongoing, and there haven’t yet been enough COVID-19 cases to compare rates between the vaccinated and those given a placebo _ something that might offer additional evidence.

The study isn’t large enough to detect any extremely rare side effects, such as the heart inflammation that sometimes occurs after the second dose, mostly in young men. The FDA’s Marks said the pediatric studies should be large enough to rule out any higher risk to young children. Pfizer’s Gruber said once the vaccine is authorized for younger children, they’ll be carefully monitored for rare risks just like everyone else.

A second U.S. vaccine maker, Moderna, also is studying its shots in elementary school-aged children. Pfizer and Moderna are studying even younger tots as well, down to 6-month-olds. Results are expected later in the year.

Western University students set to walk out of class to protest ‘culture of misogyny’

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Friday, Sep 17th, 2021

Students at Western University are set to walk out of class Friday to protest what they call a “culture of misogyny” on campus after a series of sexual assault allegations surfaced in recent days.

The students say they will also be speaking out about the London, Ont., school’s handling of those allegations.

Western and London police have said four women have come forward with formal complaints about being sexually assaulted on campus recently.

Police are also investigating allegations made on social media of mass drugging and sexual assaults at the Medway-Sydenham Hall residence on campus during orientation week.

The force has said no one has come forward with a formal complaint on those online allegations.

Western announced yesterday that it will require students in residence to take training sessions on sexual violence and consent as it works to address what it describes as a problematic campus culture.

The measure is part of a new action plan that will also see the university hire 100 new “safety ambassadors” — a mix of upper-year undergraduates and graduate students who will work overnight in residences.

The school also plans to create a task force that will take “a comprehensive look” at student safety.

Today’s event is expected to see students walk out of their classes at noon.

Elections Canada ‘clerical error’ leaves Ontario man questioning vote-by-mail system

ERICK ESPINOSA | posted Friday, Sep 17th, 2021

An Ontario man was left questioning the mail-in ballot process after the kit he received contained a different ballot.

Craig and his wife joined 1.2 million Canadians this year in requesting a vote-by-mail package for the federal election. When their kits arrived from Elections Canada, they opened them together only to discover that the instructions did not match the ballot.

“The instructions enclosed with the ballot specifically state that I am to ‘clearly print on the ballot the first and last names of the candidate of my choice,’” he tells CityNews. “It goes on to state ‘do not write anything else on the ballot.’”


As it turns out, the ballots they both received were the normal ballots that already contained the candidate’s names. “There are no instructions in the package on how to complete a regular ballot,” he says.

Concerned that the ballots could be spoiled, Craig contacted Elections Canada for clarity.

“I got through to the first person and explained what the problem was. He said that was a mistake and we will send you out the proper two ballots but would have to get in touch with our regional office.”

However, the regional office told the Pickering resident to ignore the instructions and fill out the ballots as one normally would.

That left him questioning the process. “I said, well it doesn’t really have a lot of integrity to it, does it?”

According to Matthew McKenna of Elections Canada, it’s believed to be a clerical error on their end.

“After the nomination process closes, and the regular ballots are printed, electors voting by special ballot at their local Elections Canada office will often be given a regular ballot to use, instead of the special ballot where they need to write-in the name of the candidate of their choice,” he explained.

According to McKenna, this is done to make the process simpler for the elector. When they do this, their ‘regular’ ballot is still sealed in the series of security envelopes so that the secrecy of their vote is maintained.

“In this case, it sounds like the regular ballot was accidentally included with the elector’s vote-by-mail kit, instead of a special ballot,” says McKenna. “As long as the marked ballot was sealed inside of the security envelopes, it will still go into a ballot box (inside of the inner envelope, indistinguishable, at that point, from the other ballots) for counting on election night.”

Craig discovered online that the vote-by-mail kits in British Columbia contained a different set of instructions compared to Ontario’s. Instructions that, if received with either a ‘special ballot’ or ‘normal ballot’ would provide proper guidance to the voter.

 

“It’s a little thing, but for anyone with a comprehension issue it could be a deal breaker for voting, or getting the vote counted,” he says, asking why things would be done differently between the two provinces.

“It struck me as in if I can’t understand it, what’s somebody who isn’t familiar with the processes, maybe voting for the first time, what are they going to do with it?”

It turns out the type of ballot received wasn’t the only issue for Craig and his wife.

“The ballot wouldn’t even fit in the envelope. We ended up having to cut the edge off as it was about 1/8th of an inch too big.”

Craig wasn’t the only one to reach out to CityNews regarding issues with their mail-in ballot.

“My kit is missing the crucial ballot,” wrote Tony Giverin. “This is the piece of paper that is inserted into envelope A. Is this an isolated case or did others receive the same incomplete kit?”

McKenna says that election workers work hard to ensure that processes are followed precisely to avoid any confusion among electors, but errors do happen from time to time.

“We apologize to this elector for any inconvenience or concern.”

Two NDP candidates resign following anti-Semitic online comments

LUCAS CASALETTO | posted Thursday, Sep 16th, 2021

Two NDP candidates have resigned after their anti-Semitic comments on social media caused an intense backlash.

The party confirms that the two candidates – Dan Osborne from Nova Scotia and Sidney Coles from Toronto – have stepped down.

Federal party leader Jagmeet Singh addressed the resignations during a campaign stop in southwestern Ontario.

“I want to be very clear: their comments were completely wrong and have no place in our party,” Singh said in Essex, Ont., on Wednesday.

“Those messages were completely unacceptable, and the right decision was made.”

Osborne was reported to have Tweeted to Oprah in 2019 asking if Auschwitz was a real place, referring to the Nazi-run concentration camp in Poland during the Second World War.

“I want to offer an apology,” Osborne said in a subsequent tweet Sunday.

“The role of Auschwitz and the history of the holocaust is one we should never forget. Antisemitism should be confronted and stopped. I can’t recall posting that, I was 16 then and can honestly say I did not mean to cause any harm.”

Coles was reported to have posted misinformation about Israel being linked to missing COVID-19 vaccines. Both Coles and Osborne’s Twitter accounts have since been deleted.

“Those comments were wrong, and I’m encouraged to see a clear apology and a complete withdrawal of those comments,” Singh continued.

“In addition, they’re talking about the importance of getting training. Antisemitism is real. We’re seeing a scary rise in antisemitism, and we are unequivocally opposed, and we’ll confront it.”

Yesterday, Singh had said it was enough that the two apologized for their past Anti-Semitic remarks.

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) issued a statement on the matter, saying “FSWC exposed and denounced Coles’ tweets in which she repeatedly accused Israel of misappropriating U.S. supplies of the coronavirus vaccine.”

“Coles apologized after the organization called on the candidate to issue a retraction and detailed apology for her false and offensive remarks that hurt members of the Jewish community,” wrote FSWC in a press release.

“We are relieved the candidates have stepped down and committed to participating in antisemitism education, and we thank NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh for his leadership in ensuring this outcome,” said Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, director of policy at FSWC.

“Amid rising Jew-hatred in this country, all political parties and leaders must send a message, loud and clear, that antisemitism will not be tolerated in any shape or form.”

Today, the three main party leaders are in Eastern and Central Canada, a day after a new poll suggested the already close federal-election race is getting even tighter.


With files from the Canadian Press

 

Where the Parties Stand: Truth and Reconciliation

THE BIG STORY | posted Thursday, Sep 16th, 2021

In today’s Big Story podcast, we asked our listeners what their key issues were in this election, and this week we’ll tackle the top five. Every day we’ll go deep on the major party platforms with an expert immersed in that field. Today, truth and reconciliation. A few months ago, when news of hundreds of unmarked graves at residential schools was horrifying Canadians, it seemed unimaginable that dealing with Canada’s legacy of racism and implementing meaningful reconciliation would not be a leading issue in the next election. Now here we are and … is it?

Every party has a plan to tackle the darkest element of Canada’s history and culture — but what are those plans, and how do they sound to Indigenous people who have been promised so many things, and let down so many times? And speaking of that: How many boil-water advisories are still in effect, and why should any party that has held power in the past four decades be taken seriously on this issue while they remain?

GUEST: Jaida Beaudin, Indigenous journalist, currently at the Waniska Research Centre

You can subscribe to The Big Story podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google and Spotify

You can also find it at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

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