A byelection being held to find a new Ward 22 councillor will proceed as planned despite the fact that it is scheduled to be held a day after a provincial stay-at-home order goes into effect.
Voters are set to go to the polls on Friday in Scarborough-Agincourt in a byelection that was scheduled last year to replace former councillor Jim Karygiannis, who was ousted from office over campaign expenses.
But on Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford declared a new state of emergency for Ontario amid soaring COVID-19 case counts which threaten to overwhelm the healthcare system. Ford also said a stay-at-home order would be in effect for the entire province as of 12:01 a.m. on Thursday. All residents aside from essential workers are being asked to stay home as much as possible and to venture out only for essential reasons such as grocery shopping and doctors appointments.
In a statement Wednesday, the city said that the election is also deemed an essential government function and that it will proceed as planned.
“The City Clerk is confident that the voting place health and safety measures will keep electors, candidates, scrutineers and election staff safe on election day,” the statement said.
There are 27 candidates running in the no-incumbent race and at least one of them has called for the by-election to be postponed in light of the stay-at-home orders.
Following Ford’s announcement on Wednesday, council candidate Tony Luk sent an open letter to City Clerk John Elvidge and the his fellow candidates urging that the by-election be postponed.
- Ontario implements another state of emergency and stay-at-home order to combat COVID-19
- Advance polls open in Scarborough-Agincourt byelection
- City to hold byelection to fill vacancy in Scarborough-Agincourt after Karygiannis booted from council
- Karygiannis out after Supreme Court declines to hear appeal to stay in office
“This announcement will undoubtedly affect very many voters who will no longer go to their voting places to cast their ballot on January 15th,” Luk wrote, calling on his fellow candidates to join him in asking for a postponement.
But the city said that it has reviewed the provincial order and that elections are deemed essential.
“The City Clerk, in consultation with Toronto Public Health, has reviewed the recent provincial announcement to determine any implications for the planned by-election.
“Government services, including elections, are essential for the continuity of government. Ward 22 Scarborough-Agincourt has been without representation since September 24, 2020, and it is important that the electors are able to exercise their democratic right to vote.”
The city said that health and safety measures such as line management, reduced touch points and distancing, were successfully implemented for advance polls and that they “exceed the requirements for other business and services that have remained open.”
More than 2,200 people have already cast a ballot in the election in advance voting held on Friday and over the weekend and more than 4,000 mail-in ballots were requested. Some 1,280 of those mail-in ballots have already been tabulated, the city said Wednesday.
Polling stations will be open across the ward between 10 AM and 8 PM on January 15. Electors are required to wear a mask at all times in voting places and are being asked to stay home if they are not feeling well, the city said.
More information about voting places and procedures can be found on the city’s website.