Canadians heading to the polls to choose next federal government

Viewing parties go online during COVID-19 pandemic election day

A voter casts a ballot in the advance polls on Sept. 10 in Chambly, Que. Canadians will vote in a federal election Sept. 20. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

By The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Canada’s first−ever pandemic election culminates today as Canadians from coast−to−coast go to the polls to choose the 338 members of Parliament to sit in the House of Commons.

Elections Canada says almost 6.8 million people voted early, most of them at advanced polls over a week ago, and the rest through special ballots cast by mail or at Elections Canada offices.

But a majority of Canada’s more than 30 million eligible voters will mark their ballots today.

Elections Canada encourages voters to wear masks but only requires them in places where they are mandated by provincial rules. Proof−of−vaccination regulations do not apply at polling stations in any province where they currently exist.

Polling stations are open for 12 hours, but the opening times vary by region, starting as early as 7 a.m. PST in British Columbia and as late as 9:30 a.m. EDT in Ontario and most of Quebec.

Most riding winners will be known by the end of the evening, but Elections Canada is also warning it could take up to four days to finish counting all the special ballots, meaning some close races may not have official winners for several days.

Meanwhile, with the federal election underway, a traditional form of viewing appears to be missing.

The COVID−19 pandemic has limited the number of viewing parties across the country.

Large indoor gatherings are less appealing — if not off−limits — due to the virus and the higher−than−average number of mail−in ballots means final results may not be announced tonight.

Some organizations have taken their viewing parties online.

A community centre in Calgary, for instance, is holding a “family−friendly” virtual party in an effort to allow interested viewers a chance to come together, while limiting the spread of COVID−19.

Party leaders made last−minute appeals in whirlwind tours of swing ridings on Sunday, in an effort to convince voters to buy into their version of what this vote is all about.

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