Canadians voting to choose next federal government; Some voters experiencing long lines

The latest election news all day Monday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

1:40 p.m. A line for a polling station in the heart of the Distillery District — part of Spadina-Fort York — is so long that voters told the Star they waited more than an hour to finally cast their ballots. A man who identified himself only as Jose told said he wasn’t aware there were just 15 polling stations in the riding.

“I would have expected it to be much larger, just because of the number of people here. I mean, especially given that it’s a pandemic, I would have expected them to be more spaced out,” he said.

1:15 p.m. Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet voted in advance, but spoke in Drummondville, Que., Monday morning to encourage his supporters to visit their polling stations.

“This is democracy. People send to the Parliament the people they believe will represent them the best,” Blanchet said Monday.

“Whatever Canada wants as the ballot question, it’s their business. But I believe Quebec has a right to be different.”

1 p.m. All of Canada’s major party leaders have cast their ballots in the country’s first pandemic election, which culminates today as Canadians from coast to coast go to the polls.

Elections Canada says almost 6.8 million people voted early, most of them at advanced polls over a week ago, and the rest through special ballots cast by mail or at Elections Canada offices.

11:20 a.m. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and his wife Rebecca arrived at a voting station in Bowmanville, Ont., in his riding of Durham Monday morning, both dressed in blue, to cast their votes.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is expected to cast his ballot later this morning, while NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh voted in advance of election day.

10:45 a.m. In the Toronto Centre riding, a long line to vote at the Jarvis Street Baptist Church is snaking around Allen Gardens.

Kishan Rana, a longtime resident of the riding, said this is the first time he’s had to wait so long.

“I work remotely so it worked out, but I imagine for other people it must be super hard,” he said, referring to residents asking employers for required time off to vote.

10:35 a.m. At Fort York National Historic site, the line up stretches down the Bentway trail along Fort York Blvd. Kaila Simpson, who had been in line for 25 minutes and still has a long stretch before she reaches the entrance, the Star she had suspected there would be a large turnout. “With the year we had, I was fully expecting it.”

The line felt like a symbol of the pandemic, she said. “If you get close to someone, they move. They’re scared to be close.”

Simpson added she felt that the snap election came at the wrong time. “I didn’t really think that should happen this year, because there is way too much going on and too much turmoil in our country already.”

10:30 a.m. (updated) The pandemic is already making its presence felt in Spadina—Fort York, where there are just 15 polling stations to serve the riding’s more than 115,000 residents. Voters at the Canoe Landing Community Centre lined up before the polls opened and snake around the building.

Voter Duncan Miller was nearing the front of the line when he told the Star he had been waiting about 45 minutes. While he was surprised by the wait, he said it wasn’t “unexpected given COVID.”

First-time voter Solape Bamikole said she had been waiting about 35 minutes to enter the building. “It’s been an interesting … 24 months, I figured this wouldn’t really be different.”

Thankfully, Bamikole said, she happens to be on vacation and has time to spare to wait for her turn.

9:13 a.m. “Please note that we are experiencing technical difficulties with the Voter Information Service application on our website,” Elections Canada tweeted Monday at 9 a.m.

“Please check your voter information card or call us at 1-800-463-6868 to find your assigned polling location.”

They later tweeted: “Our online information services are now back online. Thank you for your patience.”

8 a.m. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau began the 2021 federal election by calling it the most consequential moment for Canada since 1945.

That year, the world was poised to begin rebuilding itself after the Second World War forced a reckoning of the global economic, social and political order.

Whether the COVID-19 pandemic will trigger a similar shift is impossible to know — because it isn’t over.

But the federal election nearly is, and the outcome is also all but certain.

Read the real the full story from the Star’s Stephanie Levitz

7:30 a.m. As the federal election gets underway Monday, a traditional form of viewing appears to be missing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has limited the number of viewing parties across the country.

Large indoor gatherings are less appealing — if not off-limits — due to the virus and the higher-than-average number of mail-in ballots means final results may not be announced tonight.

Some organizations have taken their viewing parties online.

A community centre in Calgary, for instance, is holding a “family-friendly” virtual party in an effort to allow interested viewers a chance to come together, while limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Party leaders made last-minute appeals in whirlwind tours of swing ridings on Sunday, in an effort to convince voters to buy into their version of what this vote is all about.

7:15 a.m. Canada’s first-ever federal pandemic election culminates Monday as Canadians from coast-to-coast go to the polls to choose the 338 members of Parliament to sit in the House of Commons.

Elections Canada says almost 6.8 million people voted early, most of them at advanced polls over a week ago, and the rest through special ballots cast by mail or at Elections Canada offices.

But a majority of Canada’s more than 30 million eligible voters will mark their ballots today.

Elections Canada encourages voters to wear masks but only requires them in places where they are mandated by provincial rules. Proof-of-vaccination regulations do not apply at polling stations in any province where they currently exist.

Polling stations are open for 12 hours, but the opening times vary by region, starting as early as 7 a.m. PST in British Columbia and as late as 9:30 a.m. EDT in Ontario and most of Quebec.

Most riding winners will be known by the end of the evening, but Elections Canada is also warning it could take up to four days to finish counting all the special ballots, meaning some close races may not have official winners for several days.

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