Parties gird for swine flu surge during campaign

Canada’s election agency is stockpiling hand sanitizer as it prepares for a possible election and a potential swine flu outbreak.

OTTAWA — Canada’s election agency is stockpiling hand sanitizer as it prepares for a possible election and a potential swine flu outbreak.

A spokeswoman for Elections Canada said Monday each polling station will have two bottles of hand sanitizer along with posters urging flu-stricken voters to cough into their sleeves and wash their hands.

“The health and safety of Canadian voters during a general election is a priority for Elections Canada,” Diane Benson said.

“Elections Canada is taking appropriate steps in line with government of Canada guidelines to provide Canadians with a safe and healthy voting environment.”

Benson wasn’t immediately able to say how much it will cost to stock each voting station with bottles of hand sanitizer.

The agency detailed its plans after the New Democrats asked Canada’s top election official if the country is prepared to go to the polls in the event of a swine flu outbreak.

Judy Wasylycia-Leis, the NDP’s health critic, wrote to Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand asking how ready Elections Canada is for a possible resurgence of the H1N1 flu virus this fall.

“As you are no doubt aware, experts expect a strong resurgence in H1N1 infections in the coming months, with high incidences in some communities, including remote aboriginal communities,” Wasylycia-Leis wrote.

“An election poses significant potential public health risks. Large public events, canvassing and other typical campaign activities, not to mention polling booths and long line-ups to vote on election day, all result in a great deal of contact between members of the public.”

She asked Mayrand what measures Elections Canada has to “safeguard public health and to ensure Canadians who contract the virus are not disenfranchised.”

“There’s such a possibility for a major outbreak . . . if it really does happen, should we even be in an election?” Wasylycia-Leis said in an interview.

Mayrand has not yet replied to Wasylycia-Leis’s letter. He was not immediately available to comment.

Some experts anticipate a second wave of the H1N1 virus to hit early this autumn, peaking in mid-October — a few weeks before Canada has a flu vaccine ready for distribution in early November, and smack in the middle of a possible election.

Swine flu could become an issue during the campaign if the virus becomes more virulent and Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is accused of mismanaging the outbreak and dragging its feet on a vaccine.

The attacks appear to have already begun. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff on Friday accused the Conservatives of leaving Canadians vulnerable to a possible H1N1 pandemic this fall. He brandished a newspaper article on a U.S. study that predicted an earlier-than-expected flu outbreak.

But political operatives are also making more practical plans for H1N1 on the hustings.

Senator David Smith, the Liberals’ campaign co-chairman, said the party’s election planners have held preliminary talks about what to do if another bout of swine flu hits during a campaign.

“Not specific plans, but we certainly have discussed it,” he said.

“The gist of it is, it’s kind of difficult to deal with hypothetical situations until you know the facts. What we’ve basically concluded was, ’well, if something along these lines happens, we’ll do exactly what the doctors say.”’

That includes stocking the Liberal buses and campaign plane with antiseptic wipes and hand sanitizer, Smith said.

Just Posted

Man causes mischief with axe in Ponoka

Arson and attempted break and enter charges laid

Red Deer RCMP look for fraud suspect

Red Deer RCMP are looking for public assistance to identify a fraud… Continue reading

Blood donations needed in Central Alberta: Canadian Blood Services

357 donors are needed before Aug. 26 at the Red Deer clinic

WATCH: Red Deer man shaves beard for Mustard Seed

‘I have spent 30 years of my life being addicted to both alcohol and drugs’

Oilpatch fears delays as U.S. judge orders further review of KXL pipeline route

CALGARY — Potential delays in the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline… Continue reading

‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin dies at 76

NEW YORK — Aretha Franklin, the undisputed “Queen of Soul” who sang… Continue reading

Arrests in Burnaby, B.C., as order against Kinder Morgan protest camp enforced

BURNABY, B.C. — The RCMP arrested protesters Thursday as officers enforced a… Continue reading

‘Hot and dirty work:’ Commander describes fighting massive Ontario wildfire

BRITT, Ont. — From a helicopter flying over a smouldering swath of… Continue reading

Calgary Fire Department logs record opioid overdose calls in July

CALGARY — The Calgary Fire Department says there were a record number… Continue reading

RCMP in Burnaby, B.C., say Kinder Morgan protest camp to be dismantled

BURNABY, B.C. — The RCMP arrested protesters when officers enforced a court… Continue reading

Study: Smokers better off quitting, even with weight gain

NEW YORK — If you quit smoking and gain weight, it may… Continue reading

Italy says death toll will mount in Genoa bridge collapse

GENOA, Italy — The death toll from the collapse of a highway… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month