What GTA residents need to know about the federal election

·6 min read
Elections Canada says polling stations will look very different than in pre-pandemic elections. (Alvin Yu/CBC - image credit)
Elections Canada says polling stations will look very different than in pre-pandemic elections. (Alvin Yu/CBC - image credit)

Residents of the Greater Toronto Area will head to the polls on Monday to help decide who will form the next federal government.

If you live in the GTA, here's what you need to know ahead of election day.

Where to vote

If you have not requested a mail-in ballot, you'll need to vote in person on Monday.

Elections Canada mails out voter information cards about three weeks before election day.

GTA residents with a voter card must go to their assigned polling station, the address of which should be listed on the card. Make sure to bring identification.

You can also find your polling station by searching your postal code here.

What time do polls open?

Each polling station is open for 12 hours — in the GTA that means from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

If you're abroad or outside of your riding

Your marked ballot must be delivered to Elections Canada in Ottawa by Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. ET.

How long will voting take?

Voting will likely take longer than expected this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has made the electoral process more complicated, according to John Beebe, director of the democratic engagement exchange in the faculty of arts at Toronto's Ryerson University.

Beebe said it took the average voter about seven minutes to cast a ballot in the 2019 federal election, but things will "look a little different" on Monday.

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

"This time, it's probably going to take a bit longer and I think it's going to be highly variable by location," Beebe said. "Some places, it continues to be super easy. And some places are seeing much longer lines."

Why voting will take longer this year

Many voters in the GTA will have to travel longer distances this year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eleven GTA ridings will see fewer than half the number of polling stations open on election day this year than they did in 2019, Elections Canada told CBC News earlier this month, citing difficulties accessing polling sites with room to physically distance.

The most drastic difference could be felt in Toronto Centre, a downtown riding of roughly 104,000 residents. On election day in 2019, 91 polling sites were open. This time around, there will be 15, an 84 per cent drop — the largest reduction in locations for any riding across Canada.

The other GTA ridings that will see a more than 50 per cent decrease in the number of polling stations on election day include:

  • Spadina–Fort York: 56 in 2019, 15 in 2021; a 73-per-cent drop.

  • Aurora–Oak Ridges–Richmond Hill: 39 in 2019, 12 in 2021; a 69-per-cent drop.

  • University–Rosedale: 69 in 2019, 23 in 2021; a 67-per-cent drop.

  • Etobicoke North: 36 in 2019, 13 in 2021; a 64-per-cent drop.

  • King–Vaughan: 45 in 2019, 17 in 2021; a 62-per-cent drop.

  • Vaughan–Woodbridge: 31 in 2019, 12 in 2021; a 61-per-cent drop.

  • Scarborough Southwest: 59 in 2019, 25 in 2021; a 58-per-cent drop.

  • Brampton East: 26 in 2019, 12 in 2021; a 54-per-cent drop.

  • Parkdale–High Park: 69 in 2019, 33 in 2021; a 52-per-cent drop.

  • Mississauga–Malton: 31 in 2019, 15 in 2021; a 52-per-cent drop.

All but two of the 20 federal ridings with the biggest reduction in polling stations on election day are in Ontario.

What COVID-19 precautions are in place?

Elections Canada has brought in a number of precautions for safe voting, including measures at polling booths, advance voting dates and mail-in ballots. Nearly 5.8 million Canadians voted over the four days of advance polling, and more than 1.2 million Canadians requested special voting kits, far more than in previous years.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

As you'll be voting indoors, it will be mandatory for residents to wear a mask, as per COVID-19 guidelines.

Any Canadian voter who is required to self-isolate due to a positive COVID-19 test, or close contact with someone who has tested positive, in accordance with their provincial or territorial rules, will not be able to vote on election day.

How to watch the federal election results

CBC News will have full coverage of the federal election on all platforms so you can follow every development.

This will include comprehensive coverage with real-time results, big election night news and analysis of how the vote is unfolding. Read about how to follow along online and on TV and radio here.

When will results be announced?

This depends on if the race is tight or not. In some ridings, it might be too close to call on Monday night and Elections Canada will rely on the counting of mail-in ballots, which won't start until Tuesday.

As mentioned, slightly more than 1.2 million Canadians requested special voting kits this year and although that number is well below the expected demand, mail-in ballots are still expected to make the 2021 election an unusual one, as results could be delayed by several days. It could take two to five days to complete the count of mail-in ballots.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press
Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Elections Canada initially predicted that between two and three million Canadians would vote by mail this year, up from about 50,000 during the 2019 election.

How many seats does Ontario have?

Ontario has 121 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons.

In the 2019 federal election, the Liberals won 79 of those seats, the Conservatives won 36 and the NDP took six.

What are the top issues in the GTA?

Housing affordability has emerged as a key theme across all three of the country's major parties' platforms.

Recent opinion polls suggest it's at or near the top of the list of election issues for voters. The average price for all home types combined in the Greater Toronto Area as of July was $1,062,256 — up 12.6 per cent compared to July 2020, according to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board.

While the Liberals and Conservatives have tried to bring overall housing prices down and increase supply, the New Democratic Party has zoned in on social housing.

The GTA ridings to watch in 2021

One week out from the election, polling in ridings such as Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, Oakville, and Whitby show Conservative and Liberal candidates nearly deadlocked.

At this point, the nine tightest races in the GTA are:

  • York Centre

  • Davenport

  • Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill

  • Richmond Hill

  • Oakville

  • Oakville-North Burlington

  • Newmarket-Aurora

  • Markham-Stouffville

  • Whitby

5 close GTA ridings from 2019

Swing ridings in the GTA play a key role in determining which party forms the government, and whether it holds a minority or majority of the seats. In 2019, some GTA MPs were only narrowly elected and are in tight races again this time.

Those ridings are Richmond Hill, King-Vaughan, Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, Davenport and Newmarket-Aurora. You can read more about why these were nail-biters last election here.

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