A federal election has been called in Canada for September 20, 2021 amidst a pandemic and the fourth wave of COVID-19.
Several elections have been held during the COVID-19 pandemic, including provincial elections in Nova Scotia, Yukon, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and New Brunswick, as well as federal elections in countries such as the United States.
The COVID-19 pandemic poses challenges when participating in federal elections. The traditional way in which electoral candidates engage with the population (e.g., debates, rallies, community meals, appearances, and canvassing) currently present health risks. Resources have been developed by several jurisdictions regarding a safe pandemic election. Resources and guidelines have also been developed by Elections Canada. All active political parties have committed to following existing provincial/regional public health measures.
COVID-19 has changed approaches to traditional campaigning on the international stage.
- Of the over 50 national elections that occurred during the pandemic in 2020, over half had limitations on traditional campaigning, depending on the existing public health restrictions at the time.
- Political events ranged from a full absence of rallies in Singapore, Montenegro and Jordan to restricted numbers for gatherings in Jamaica (gatherings of 20 people) and time restrictions on gatherings in Sri Lanka.
- Additional campaign changes included modified door-to-door campaigning in Singapore and Jamaica, which limited the number of people per campaign group and social distancing. Of note, a large portion of these political parties pivoted to remote and virtual campaigns through e-rallies, online party conventions and drive-in events.
- Election rallies held by Donald Trump in the US federal election included a large number of people without masks. These rallies were found to have led to more than 30,000 incremental confirmed cases of COVID-19.
It is important to note that masks are not mandatory in all jurisdictions across Canada at present. Therefore, the political party’s team, as well as communities engaging in campaign activities, should be encouraged to wear masks in large group settings indoors (e.g., greater than five people) if distancing cannot be maintained.
For political parties
- Mandate vaccinations among political candidates and their respective teams/parties.
- Parties should conduct ongoing community stakeholder engagement to ensure communities feel safe throughout campaign activities.
- All parties should develop a COVID-19 safety plan during the campaign and communicate it to Canadians.
- Host online or outdoor campaign events.
- Use physical distancing and masks.
- Avoid handshakes.
- Give notice to communities when/if canvassing.
- Use physical distancing (2 meters / 6 ft apart) and avoid handshakes.