After a 37-day federal election campaign, Canadian voters began going to the polls Monday morning to cast their ballots.
Polling stations were open across Canada as of 7 a.m. PT. They opened first in Newfoundland and Labrador at 8:30 a.m. NT., and they will remain open for 12 hours in each time zone.
Canadians who are registered to vote will have received a voter information card in the mail indicating the polling station where they are registered to vote.
Voters who are not already registered may register at their local polling station before casting a ballot. To register, voters will be required to prove their identity and address, or have another voter from their riding swear an oath vouching for them.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was scheduled to vote at 11 a.m. MT in his Calgary riding. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff greeted commuters in his west Toronto riding Monday morning, then voted at Sir Adam Beck Junior School.
And NDP Leader Jack Layton voted in Toronto’s Trinity-Spadina riding with his family. “We’re feeling optimistic,” Layton said. “The future of our country, our wonderful country, lies in the hands of Canadians today, and I think many will choose change.”
Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe cast his ballot in the morning in the Montreal riding where he’s believed to be fighting for his own seat, while Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was to vote in Sidney, B.C., at 10 a.m. PT.
The first results will start being broadcast nationally at 10 p.m. ET when the polls close in British Columbia. Strict rules prevent any instance of what Elections Canada calls “premature transmission of results” until the last polls have closed in every electoral district in the country.
Section 329 of the Elections Canada Act states: “No person shall transmit the result or purported result of the vote in an electoral district to the public in another electoral district before the close of all of the polling stations in that other electoral district.”
The agency has issued a warning to Facebook and Twitter users to use caution on election day when communicating and posting voting results, saying the act also applies to transmissions made over the internet.
Record-setting advance polls
More than two million Canadians cast ballots in advance polls over the Easter long weekend, a 34 per cent increase from the 2008 federal election.
Preliminary figures from Elections Canada show 2,056,001 ballots were cast during the three days of advance polls, compared to 1,528,780 advance ballots cast three years ago.
Of the three advance polling dates, Elections Canada said two were the busiest advance polling days ever recorded.
Polling stations warning
Elections Canada issued a warning to voters Sunday to ignore instructions from anyone but the agency itself about where they should vote.
The warning came after reports surfaced of voters being told to go to the wrong polling stations, some up to an hour away from their homes.
Elections Canada said it had received reports of voters being given false information in several ridings, most of them in Ontario, but others as well in British Columbia.
In Manitoba, special voting stations have been set up for the almost 1,900 people forced from their homes by spring flooding.
Leaders make final pitches
The federal party leaders were all on the campaign trail Sunday, making their final pitches to voters before election day.
In the final hours of the campaign Sunday, Layton’s confidence continued to soar, as the NDP leader told the crowd gathered at a rally in Kingston, Ont., his party could defeat Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. It was the first time in the election campaign Layton specifically said he could defeat Harper.
Harper, meanwhile, took his campaign across the country, touting his economic plan and blasting the NDP’s platform, which he claimed would result in sky-high tax hikes. Harper also repeated his pitch to Liberal voters, saying the party will be nothing but a “backseat passenger” to an NDP government.
Ignatieff defended himself against Harper’s appeal to Liberal supporters, accusing the Conservative leader of trying to destroy him and the party. Ignatieff underscored the difference between the Liberals and the NDP, saying the New Democrats have never formed a federal government.
Duceppe returned to Montreal on Sunday, appealing to Bloc supporters and their love for Quebec. He repeated the party’s desire for the province to become its own country and took a shot at an NDP candidate who is running in a mostly Francophone area of Quebec but doesn’t speak French.