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Pandemic federal election estimated to cost $610M, most expensive in Canadian history

Last Updated Aug 13, 2021 at 11:24 am PDT

FILE -- A sample ballot box is seen ahead of the 2019 federal election at Elections Canada's offices in Gatineau, Que., Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Summary

Elections Canada estimates the cost of a pandemic federal election would be $610 million

Much of the cost is for pandemic safety protocols and an expected surge in mail-in ballots

Opposition parties will likely use cost to attack Liberals, says political scientist

OTTAWA – If the prime minister calls an early election amid a looming fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Elections Canada says it could end up being the most expensive in the country’s history.

The elections regulator estimates the price tag for the next election could be in the range of $610 million. That’s $100 million more than the 2019 election.

A lot of the cost is due to pandemic safety measures and the expected flood of mail-in ballots.

Despite any attempts by the ruling Liberal party to justify the cost, it will be criticized by opposition parties, according to Mount Royal University political scientist Keith Brownsey.

“That this election is unnecessary and it’s very expensive, and do we do we need to do that right now? Spend $600 million in the middle of this pandemic? Couldn’t that money, shouldn’t that money be used for other purposes?” Brownsey said. “The cost of the election will surprise a lot of people, but it will also make it clear that this election may not be necessary.”

What remains up in the air is whether those criticisms will resonate with voters and whether, come voting day, Canadians will punish the incumbents or reward them like they have done in provincial pandemic elections.

Elections in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador had similar results, with incumbents being re-elected, some with majorities.

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