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Elections Canada monitoring potential Ontario school strikes ahead of election

An Elections Canada sign points voters towards the polls at Metro Hall in Toronto on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015.
An Elections Canada sign points voters towards the polls at Metro Hall in Toronto on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marta Iwanek

Elections Canada is monitoring the potential Ontario education worker strike expected to begin on Monday, just days before advance polls open.

But while the agency says it does have contingency plans in the event of a strike, it does not anticipate any voting locations will change as a result.

READ MORE: List of school closures across Ontario if CUPE education workers strike Monday

“Elections Canada is aware of the potential for strike action at Ontario schools and is monitoring the situation. At this time, there is no impact on polling locations. Poll information has not changed,” said Natasha Gauthier, a spokesperson for the federal agency.

She added that contingency plans include things like how poll workers can access desks and chairs to set up voting stations during a strike if school staff are unavailable to assist.

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Ontario parents making alternative childcare plans as CUPE strike looms
Ontario parents making alternative childcare plans as CUPE strike looms

The union representing Ontario education support workers — staff like special education assistants and school custodians — remains in talks over the weekend with Ontario’s Ministry of Education but has authorized a strike to begin on Monday if a deal cannot be reached.

That strike would see tens of thousands of those workers walk off the job, and school boards across the province have already said schools will close as a result.

A total of 36 school boards, including the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic School Board, are among those closing down.

Public school boards in Durham, Peel, Peterborough and York are also among those closing, along with Catholic boards for Ottawa, Eastern Ontario, Halton, Hamilton, York and London.

READ MORE: Parents scramble for child care as education workers, province resume talks

Schools are a popular location for polls and while both elementary and secondary school teachers in Ontario are not involved in the strike potentially beginning on Monday, both are holding votes through their union on whether to authorize strikes of their own.

Gauthier said the agency only invokes contingency plans in “rare circumstances.”

“Elections Canada is confident that CUPE leadership and members appreciate and understand the importance of the national democratic exercise on October 21. We look forward to them respecting the right of electors to exercise their right to vote,” she said.

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“However, unless Ontario electors hear otherwise from Elections Canada, they should expect that their polling locations will not change. We will communicate any changes if needed.”

Advance polls open on Oct. 11 and run through the Thanksgiving weekend to Oct. 14.

Those looking to vote at any other time can do so by going to their local Elections Canada office and using a special ballot, or can apply to vote by mail before Oct. 15.

Election day is Oct. 21.

Global News sits down with Education Minister to discuss looming CUPE strike
Global News sits down with Education Minister to discuss looming CUPE strike
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