Toronto District School Board will host fewer than half the number of polling stations this election

Voters enter the polling station at St. Luigi Catholic School during election day in Toronto on Monday, October 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is hosting fewer than half the number of polling stations for the federal election on Sept. 20, compared to the 2019 federal election, a spokesperson confirmed to CTV News Toronto.

The TDSB is supplying approximately 120 polling stations this election, said Ryan Bird, the school board’s spokesperson. By comparison, last election they hosted 308 polling stations.

"There were some [locations] that were declined as they didn’t meet the requirements set out by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health," Bird said.

An Elections Canada spokesperson confirmed to CTV News Toronto that fewer schools would be used as polling stations this election.

“Where we will be using schools, they were all carefully chosen to be able to follow COVID-19 protocols. We worked with the Ontario Ministry of Education to follow their criteria for whether a school was suitable for a polling place,” Nathalie de Montigny, an Elections Canada media relations representative, said.

She said the schools chosen must have “a direct path to polling stations, separate entrances and exits and [Election Canada’s] own COVID protocols.”

In addition, de Montigny said many locations used in the past were not available because of the pandemic. This year, Elections Canada is seeking bigger polling locations that offer physical distancing options.

“Some schools were not available and some schools might not have offered the physical distancing required,” she said. 

However, Elections Canada said it would not be possible to provide a list of schools that will be hosting polling stations this year because they “do not differentiate,” whether a site is at a school, hotel, community centre, or any other location.

The cutback in TDSB polling stations aligns with an overall drop in locations to vote in the Toronto area this year. In the GTA, eight ridings will have half the number of polling sites this election. Elections Canada said on Friday that the reason for fewer polling stations is partly due to an effort to find larger locations to allow for physical distancing.

The TDSB’s reduced polling sites follows the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s (TCDSB) decision not to supply the around 100 locations that were being considered this election.

“When we have thousands of people coming in and out of the building. Some are vaccinated. Some are not. Who knows,” TCDSB Chair Joseph Martino told CTV News Toronto on Sept. 1.