A lockdown in the Edmundston region is likely to delay election day in that area and could delay the reporting of results elsewhere in the province.
On Sunday, Elections New Brunswick announced all election-related activities in six municipalities would be postponed after the province announced that Zone 4 would enter lockdown in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases. That means training for poll workers is being postponed and voter information cards can’t be sent out.
Chief municipal officer Kim Poffenroth said it’s unlikely that polling day will take place as scheduled.
“If the lockdown isn’t lifted before the end of this week, we’re quite certain that polling day … will be delayed by at least a week in the locked-down areas,” Poffenroth said.
“At this point it is somewhat speculative, but the expectation that a lockdown like this would be lifted within less than seven days of when it was initiated, I think based on past experience is quite unlikely.”
A lockdown in Zone 4 earlier this year lasted for 16 days.
Elections for municipal councils, district education councils and regional health authority boards is scheduled to take place on May 10. The delay is made possible by recently passed legislation that allows Elections NB to suspend electoral activities in any region that enters a lockdown prior to May 10.
The legislation also says that results elsewhere in the province can’t be reported until polling day has taken place provincewide, as residents can cast their votes from any returning office in the province.
“I would say it’s safe to say there’s going to be some delay in voting and how long that is really will depend on how long the lockdown is in place,” Poffenroth said.
The suspension leaves the campaigns of those in Edmundston, Haut-Madawaska, Lac Baker, Rivière-Verte, Sainte-Anne-de-Madawaska and Saint Léonard in limbo.
The elections for the Francophone Northwest school subdistricts 1, 2, 3 and 4, Anglophone West sub-district 1 and for Vitalité Health Network subregions A3 and A4 are also impacted.
Eric Marquis is the acting mayor for Edmundston and also a mayoral candidate. He says the suspension allows him to put thoughts of the campaign aside and focus fully on the situation being faced in the northwestern city.
“As acting mayor, the first responsibility that I have at hand is to take care of the population and that is what I’m doing now,” Marquis said.
Marquis said the situation in the area is worrying and that the coming days will be critical.
“We hope to see a better future, we hope to see in the next week or so that cases will go down, the spread will stop and we can do back to some form of normalcy.”