New Brunswick suspends municipal elections in lockdown areas

·3 min read
A resident arrives to vote in the New Brunswick provincial election at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Quispamsis, N.B., in 2020. (Andrew Vaughan / Canadian Press - image credit)
A resident arrives to vote in the New Brunswick provincial election at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Quispamsis, N.B., in 2020. (Andrew Vaughan / Canadian Press - image credit)

New Brunswick's municipal elections are being put on hold in some northwest regions that are under lockdown.

The elections were scheduled for May 10 after being postponed last year due to the pandemic.

Elections New Brunswick announced the delay on Sunday, shortly after the Edmundston and Haut-Madawaska area entered the province's tightest level of restrictions.

Residents of the region are being urged to stay home amid rising cases of COVID-19 variants.

The provincial government recently passed legislation to allow the suspension of nominations and voting in a particular zone in the event of a lockdown.

David Owens, the assistant chief electoral officer, said voting in the rest of the province will continue as scheduled.

"We have some very clear direction on how to proceed in this manner," he said.

The municipal election will be delayed in Edmundston and other areas under lockdown.
The municipal election will be delayed in Edmundston and other areas under lockdown.(Bernard LeBel/Radio-Canada)

Municipalities where elections are suspended include Edmundston, Haut-Madawaska, Lac Baker, Rivière-Verte, Sainte-Anne-de-Madawaska and Saint Léonard. Some district education council and health authority board elections will also be delayed.

While the suspension is only for the area in lockdown, Elections NB said could delay results for the entire province. Electors have the right to cast ballots from another returning office if they are away from their regular voting location.

Candidates waiting for details

The news left some candidates in northwest New Brunswick looking for clarification.

Edmundston interim mayor Eric Marquis had been campaigning on social media amid red-level restrictions before the lockdown was announced.

"This is not necessarily a surprise for us," he said.

Marquis said he is waiting for details from Elections NB to see how the suspension will affect his ability to campaign.

"I don't have a clue right now," he said.

New Brunswick has no rules defining campaign lengths for municipal elections, so candidates can continue activities that follow public health rules, according to Paul Harpelle, an Elections NB spokesperson.

Eric Marquis is a candidate for mayor of Edmundston. He is waiting to see how the suspension of the municipal election in areas under lockdown will impact his campaign.
Eric Marquis is a candidate for mayor of Edmundston. He is waiting to see how the suspension of the municipal election in areas under lockdown will impact his campaign.(Bernard LeBel/Radio-Canada)

Haut-Madawaska Mayor Jean-Pierre Ouellet is seeking re-election in the large, rural municipality and welcomed the news.

"I guess it's the proper decision they have made at the moment to make sure candidates could properly transmit their message to the population for the municipal election," he said.

"I just wish it's a matter of weeks, not a matter of months."

Once the lockdown is lifted, Elections NB will work with the returning officer to verify that polling stations are still available. Voter information cards will then be sent out and the election will continue as normal.

Harpelle said if the lockdown ends quickly, it's possible the election could still be held in person in the Edmundston area on May 10.

Electors in the lockdown areas can still request and submit ballots to vote by mail while the suspension is in effect.

The returning office in Edmundston is closed as a result of the lockdown, mail-in ballots will be processed by the Grand Falls location.