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COVID-19 pandemic puts a damper on Canada election viewing parties

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Monday’s federal election put a damper on a traditional form of watching the returns with the COVID-19 pandemic limiting the number of viewing parties across the country.

Large indoor gatherings were for the most part either less appealing, or off-limits, due to the virus and the higher-than-average number of mail-in ballots, which meant the final results might not be announced Monday night.

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Some organizations took their viewing parties online.

A community centre in Calgary, for instance, held 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.

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Later Monday evening, Canadians got a glimpse of the two front runners as they settled in to their own private viewing parties surrounded by their families to watch the results come in.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole arrived with his wife Rebecca and children Mollie and Jack to a private viewing box in an Oshawa, Ont., hockey arena shortly after 8:40 p.m. The windows were blacked out in the room that would typically look out over the rink where supporters were to gather that evening.

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In Montreal, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau reclined on a sectional in a small suite in a hotel surrounded by his children Xavier, Ella-Grace and Hadrien and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and his wife, Gurkiran Sidhu, settled into the 19th floor executive suite of the Fairmont Pacific Rim with views of Stanley Park and the Vancouver harbour below them.

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Green Party Leader Annamie Paul ignited a party atmosphere when she arrived at a downtown Toronto venue where her campaign had gathered to watch the results. She was greeted by chants of “Annamie, Annamie.”

With long lineups of voters still waiting to cast their ballots, Paul quipped that an “open bar” would be there to keep them company.

Read more: As it happened: 2021 Canadian election coverage

In Saskatchewan, the People’s Party of Canada set up two rallies _ one inside the hotel and one outside _ to give people the option to participate, but those who choose the indoor rally must wear a mask.

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Later in the evening, PPC Leader Maxime Bernier arrived at the indoor rally, which had been adding seats throughout the night. Bernier entered a conference room packed with people who were mostly unmasked.

Organizers pleaded with the crowd to mask up, but most did not oblige.

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