Saskatchewan voters will head to the polls in October, bipartisan election plan in the works

Saskatchewan voters will head to the polls this fall for the province’s 29th general election.

“An election on Oct. 26 is likely to look a lot different than the last election looked like four-and-a-half years ago,” said Premier Scott Moe, who confirmed the date on Friday.

“I have every confidence our chief electoral officer will ensure that we are able to conduct that election in a very safe manner across this province.”

READ MORE: A timeline of the novel coronavirus in Saskatchewan

Planning for Saskatchewan’s general election during the coronavirus pandemic will be a bipartisan effort as recommended by Elections Saskatchewan.

House leaders for the government of Saskatchewan and Sask. NDP have been in conversations to form an advisory group to plan for how people will vote.

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“There is an appetite to make sure this is done in a bipartisan fashion to come up with a plan that keeps in mind what really matters — that people are able to vote, and they’re able to vote safely,” said Opposition Leader Ryan Meili.

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Elections Saskatchewan recommends the group form alongside the province’s chief medial health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, and to study the upcoming vote.

Although the group has yet to take shape, initial steps have been taken.

“We want to be at the table,” said Sask. NDP House Leader Cathy Sproule. “We’ve been telling the government this for a while now and certainly [the provincial chief electoral officer Michael] Boda has recommended this be an opposition government type of consultation, and that’s something we are supporting.”

Under the Legislative Assembly Act, the general election has to take place on or before Oct. 26 despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest the election can be called is September.

With the curve remaining flat in most communities across Saskatchewan, Shahab said a fall election is possible if safety measures are put in place.

“For other activities, like for example voting, special provisions can apply which can minimize the risk,” said Shahab on Thursday.

“Of course, if there was a significant increase in COVID-19 activity, those provisions would have to be looked at again.”

Both the government and the Saskatchewan NDP say they are leaning on Boda to make recommendations around voting safely.

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“He did put forward a number of recommendations on how the election could be safely operated, which both the premier and Government House Leader [Jeremy Harrison] have indicated he would have the full ability to plan and operate a safe election,” said the government of Saskatchewan in a statement.

READ MORE: Elections Saskatchewan wants group to study upcoming vote during COVID-19 pandemic

With the election taking place on Oct. 26, the NDP says their focus will be getting people to vote.

“What we want to see out of this, is an election where we see a big turnout instead of something that decreases turnout because people are scared or don’t feel it’s safe,” Meili said.

“That all means working together to find ways to make this more accessible and easier for people to do safely.”

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