An election lowdown and vaccine update
There’s something in the air and it’s not pumpkin spice: It’s election szn!
By Paisley Sim
The pandemic may have upended our sense of time, but one thing is clear: it’s artisan gourd season, b*tches! No, wait. I mean it’s election season.
On Wednesday, the Liberals introduced a confidence vote over the creation of an anti-corruption committee and Canada narrowly avoided a snap-election. On Saturday, BC went to the polls. Saskatchewan, and the Toronto-Centre and York-Centre by-elections happened on Monday. And we’ve finally entered a single digit countdown to the US election.
It goes without saying that these elections are unlike all others, but what’s received less attention is the way that our elections infrastructure has adapted to meet the moment.
Voting in the time of coronavirus
Elections BC estimates that 800,000 votes will be cast by mail-in ballot. That’s about 35%
of expected turn out, whereas in 2017 just 1% of votes were by mail. Saskatchewan has received 61,225 mail-in ballot requests, where in 2016 only about 4,000 people voted by mail. Election costs are not reported until after everything has been tallied, but in 2017 BC’s provincial election cost an estimated $39 million and counting 200,000 absentee ballots took several days. No doubt, this year will be more costly and results will take longer.
Elections Canada, and their provincial counterparts, are independent agencies funded by annual appropriations from the legislative branch. In most provinces, legislation states that mail-in ballots begin to be counted on and after election day. In Saskatchewan, a final count and ballot verification is done 12 days after the election, in BC it’s 13 days.
What about our friends south of the border?
With President Trump sowing doubt about election integrity and mail-in voting, there are multiple (seriously concerning) possible timelines for what their election night/week/month may look like. Each state has until December 8th to resolve any disputes around the popular vote.
In the spirit of time having little meaning these days, it’s not worth predicting how events will play out. But why this matters is because election integrity is a critical pillar of representative democracy alongside competitive political parties, due process of law, free speech, individual rights, government transparency, and a free media.
The deluge of mail-in ballots may test our elections infrastructure. But history gives us reason to believe that it will perform under pressure. Elections Canada celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020, and we should feel comforted by the fact that the vast majority of Canadians have a high-level of trust in our election results, and believe our institutions are able to run free and fair elections.
Speaking of elections, what’s going on in BC?
British Columbia’s election, held this past Saturday, led to a landslide victory for the New Democratic Party. The exact results won’t be known for another two weeks because of the number of mail-in ballots and absentee ballots (see, we told you!).
The NDP had 41 of 87 seats going into the election and needed 44 to secure a majority in the Legislative Assembly. According to current results, they have picked up somewhere between six and fourteen more seats, placing them in a very comfortable majority position.
Now that Premier Horgan is sitting comfortably in his seat, what does he have planned for the rest of the province? Here’s the rundown:
- A Recovery Benefit Fund of $3 billion per year for building schools, hospitals, and other capital projects. This includes $400 million in community infrastructure and $300 million in recovery grants for small businesses.
- A COVID-19 relief package of $1,000 for families earning less than $125,000 per year, and $500 for individuals earning less than $62,000.
- Frozen rent increases until the end of 2021 and a $400 renters’ rebate for those who need it.
- A government-backed benefits system for gig-economy workers.
- A minimum wage that automatically increases with inflation, after it hits the scheduled increase to $15 per hour next year.
- More $10 per day childcare spaces (yes, it helps the economy!).
- Net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
- 10 new urgent and primary care centers by the end of 2020 and $1.4 billion over ten years for long-term care homes.
Long story short, we can anticipate a lot more spending in the next few years, but–according to the NDP’s election promises–on some pretty important things. The deficit right now is $12.8 billion, which is not bad compared to some other provinces. The NDP won’t plan to balance the budget until people are back on their feet, which after several years of close to balanced budgets in BC, voters are clearly willing to part with. Keep an eye on the results for the final numbers on BC’s election in the next couple weeks!
(More) Canadian COVID-19 vaccine candidates
By Nabeela Jivraj
We’re all hoping for a coronavirus vaccine to be released quickly, but what’s actually happening to get us there? Well, this is what the federal government has planned…
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced yet another commitment to securing COVID-19 vaccines for Canadians, this time through domestic research and development. This commitment totals $214 million and includes a provision of “up to $173 million” towards purchasing around 76 million doses of Quebec-based Medicago Inc.’s candidate, being developed alongside GlaxoSmithKline. The vaccine is set to be ready in the first half of 2021. An additional $18.2 million is going to Vancouver-based Precision NanoSystems (PNI) and another $23 million for several other early-stage vaccine candidates.
But don’t we already have vaccines covered?
When combined with the contracts Canada has already signed with pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, Sanofi and AstraZeneca, the government has spent over $1 billion, betting on multiple vaccine candidates to secure over 358 million doses for Canadians. While this acts as a safety mechanism for ensuring that Canadians are vaccinated should some of the trials fail, experts have also criticized Canada for vaccine nationalism. While richer countries with the ability to purchase the vaccine doses buy up the world’s short term supply in advance, poorer countries will be unable to procure vaccines from the global supply. In terms of global public health outcomes, research into global vaccine allocation underscores that to save the most lives, “it is better to vaccinate some people in all countries rather than all people in some countries.”
The COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX) is a joint initiative to provide safe and equitable global access to vaccines globally. Last month, the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research (CCGHR) called on Canada to increase its COVAX contributions in line with its current spend for Canadian doses and to advocate for other countries to do the same. So far, Canada has committed a total of $245 million to the COVAX fund. COVAX will provide vaccines to more than 90 countries unable to procure them, so long as it is able to raise $2 billion by this December.