Authors: Milad Alishahi, Teague Pushor
On May 20, 2020, the Minister of Government Relations, Lori Carr, issued a ministerial order that delayed the general elections in all resort villages in Saskatchewan to August 29, 2020.
The Local Government Elections Act (“LGEA”) requires resort villages to hold a general election every four years on the last Saturday of July. General elections in all resort villages were scheduled for July 25, 2020 prior to the ministerial order.
The LGEA provides the Minister of Government Relations the power to change the date of general elections when the election cannot be held on the required date. As provided in the ministerial order, due to the continued state of emergency in Saskatchewan and public health order, the elections may make it difficult for municipalities to comply with physical distancing requirements. The additional time will allow resort villages to adapt their election processes to follow the physical distancing and self-isolation requirements in effect.
The ministerial order also extends the time for polling stations to remain open. Polling stations now must open by 8:00 a.m. and remain open until 9:00 p.m. If a polling station is located in a hospital or personal care facility, that poll must remain open for a minimum of three hours on election day. Resort villages are also encouraged to hold at least one advance poll and adopt a system to accept mail-in ballots.
Other municipal general elections are scheduled to occur throughout the fall. Municipalities should begin amending through processes to create advance polls and a system to accept mail-in ballots. As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, municipalities will need to watch for further ministerial orders which may affect the general elections this fall.