Door knocking and all-candidates meetings have been mainstays in election campaigns in New Westminster for decades – but how will they connect with voters in a time of COVID-19?
New Westminster’s NDP candidate Jennifer Whiteside said details about her campaign will be coming out in the days ahead. She said the NDP has worked “very diligently” under the instructions of the public health officer to put in place provisions to ensure the safety and security of people working on the campaign, citizens wanting to engage with the campaign and candidates.
“We will be looking for ways to safely connect with the people of British Columbia in ways that are appropriate and respect the COVID protocols that we are all living under,” she said. “We will have a look at what instructions the party has in that regard. But I do think it’s very important that we do everything we can to be in the community and to be meeting, however we can, whether it is virtually or on the street in berma shaves or in outdoor spaces with people in New West.”
Lorraine Brett, the Liberal candidate in New Westminster, criticized NDP Premier John Horgan’s decision to call a snap election during a pandemic.
“It’s an unusual campaign. COVID has placed a lot of restrictions on everyone. I think we will see as we go forward what is allowed. I am currently not door knocking, but that doesn’t mean I am not in touch with people,” she said. “I can honestly say that this campaign is not welcome by the citizens of British Columbia.”
To date, the NDP and the Liberals are the only parties that have confirmed to the Record that they’ve selected candidates for the New Westminster riding.
British Columbia’s 42nd provincial general election is on Saturday, Oct. 24. Advance voting takes place from Oct. 15 to 21.
“Our main focus is ensuring a safe and accessible voting process during the pandemic,” chief electoral officer Anton Boegman said in a news release. “We have been working with Dr. Bonnie Henry’s office to develop our safe voting plans and make sure that voters don’t have to choose between safeguarding their health and exercising their right to vote. All voters have the option of voting in person with protective measures in place, or voting by mail.”
Elections BC is taking a number of steps to ensure the safety of voters and employees at polling stations, such as physical distancing, capacity limits, protective barriers and hand-sanitizing stations. Election officials will be wearing personal protective equipment (such as masks and face visors) and voting stations and frequently touched services will be regularly cleaned.
“We encourage voters to wear a mask when they vote to help protect others. Voters will not be asked to remove their mask to vote. Voters will be asked to sanitize their hands before and after voting,” said the Elections BC website. “To prevent close contact, some familiar voting procedures may be different. For example, voters will make a verbal declaration of their eligibility to vote instead of signing a voting book. Voters also can bring their own pen or pencil to mark their ballot.”