It's voting day! Here's what British Columbians need know about the federal election

·4 min read
Polls for the federal election are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT in B.C. (Kate Bueckert/CBC - image credit)
Polls for the federal election are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT in B.C. (Kate Bueckert/CBC - image credit)

After a snap election was called on Aug. 15, Canadians will finish voting today to elect a new federal government.

Up for grabs in the 44th general election are 338 seats in the House of Commons, 42 of which are in B.C.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is trying to win back a majority government that he captured in the 2015 election. In the 2019 election, Trudeau and his party lost their majority and the popular vote, but still had enough seats to form a minority government with the Conservative Party as Opposition.

By virtue of being cast in the western-most time zone in Canada, B.C. votes are the last to be counted on election night and often influence the final make-up of the House of Commons.

Millions of Canadians have already voted in advance polls, or by mailing in their ballot.

Here's what you need to know in B.C. on election day.

How to vote

If you're a Canadian citizen who is 18 or older, you can vote in this election.

Polling stations are open between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. PT in British Columbia.

To register and/or to vote at a polling station, which are listed here, you will need proof of your identity and address.

There are three ways to do this, which are listed here.

Andrew Kurjata/CBC
Andrew Kurjata/CBC

If you are concerned about the accessibility of your assigned polling station, read or listen to our article about how accessible voting is for people with disabilities.

Elections Canada will not ask for proof of vaccination at polling stations, but masks are required in B.C.

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 have no way to cast a ballot on Sept. 20.

Will you vote?

Voter turnout in the 2019 federal election was 67 per cent according to Elections Canada. In 2015, it was 68.3 per cent.

Political watchers say that number will most likely be lower for this snap election due to voter apathy and the fact it was called during the summer and during the fourth wave of the pandemic.

"I don't know if this will be the lowest in Canadian history, which was a smidgen under 60 per cent, but it is going to be a low turnout election," said Hamish Telford, an associate professor of political science at the University of the Fraser Valley.

CBC, Erin O'Toole/Creative Commons, CBC, CBC, Chris Young/The Canadian Press
CBC, Erin O'Toole/Creative Commons, CBC, CBC, Chris Young/The Canadian Press

About 54 per cent of registered voters cast a ballot in B.C.'s provincial election on Oct. 24, 2020, down from 61 per cent in the 2017 election.

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.

WATCH | What people in Vancouver are saying about voting in the federal election:

How will B.C. figure in the results?

Telford says B.C.'s influence on the election hinges on how many seats the Liberals and Conservatives are able to secure in densely populated Southern Ontario.

It's possible that one of those parties could gain enough seats there to form government, but results from B.C. could help determine if it's a majority or minority.

There are some close races in B.C., including the riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam, which was won by the Conservatives by just 153 votes over the NDP in 2019. The Liberals finished third, but only by around 1,000 votes.

The Vancouver-Granville seat, held by former Liberal cabinet minister-turned Independent Jody Wilson-Raybould since 2015, is also projected to be close between the three parties.

On Vancouver Island, the Greens are hoping to hold on to two of the three seats they had before the election was called.

Of the nine electoral districts in British Columbia's North and Interior, six have stayed with the same party in every election the past 20 years. The other three have only changed parties once in that time.

Telford says a stronger showing by the People's Party of Canada in this election could eat into votes for Conservatives, but despite the chance for upsets and changes, he's not expecting to see results much different from 2019.

"It seems to be déjà vu all over again," he said.

Here's more on the races and issues in B.C. this federal election.

How to watch the election

CBC News will provide election coverage on radio, TV and online.

See here for a full listing of ways to follow election results, with coverage beginning live at 4 p.m. PT.

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