City urges people to get out and vote in Ward 22 byelection on Friday despite pandemic


The city is urging residents in Ward 22 to get out and vote in the Scarborough-Agincourt byelection on Friday despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friday's byelection is being held to replace Jim Karygiannis, who was removed as city councillor last year due to a campaign spending violation in the 2018 municipal election.

Twenty-seven candidates are running for municipal office. There are 65,793 people eligible to vote.

In an email on Thursday, Mayor John Tory urged people to go to the polls and cast their ballots in the byelection.

"I want to reassure residents that health and safety has been a top priority for this election and that City staff have been working with Toronto Public Health to make sure all safety protocols are in place," Tory told CBC Toronto.

"Your vote matters."

The city said in a news release this week that the byelection will proceed as planned on Friday.

"Government services, including elections, are essential for the continuity of government," the city said in the release.

"Ward 22 Scarborough-Agincourt has been without representation since September 24, 2020, and it is important that the electors are able to exercise their democratic right to vote."

The city said the city clerk, with the help of Toronto Public Health, has reviewed the provincial stay-at-home order that took effect in Ontario on Thursday and determined that the vote can and will proceed.

City government can carry out byelection, province says

The Ontario health ministry said in an email on Thursday that the city can hold the byelection according to the regulation of the Reopening Ontario Act. The province is currently under a second state of emergency and a provincial stay-at-home order as officials try to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"The byelection is not prohibited by the Emergency Order," the ministry said.

General rules for areas in Stage 1, which include Toronto, state: "Nothing in this Order precludes operations or delivery of services by the following in Ontario: 1. Any government. 2. Any person or publicly-funded agency or organization that delivers or supports government operations and services, including operations and services of the health care sector."

Pandemic precautions will be in place at all polling stations to keep voters safe. 

"These measures include health screening, reduced touch points, physical distancing, occupancy standards and specialized health and safety positions in all voting places," the city said in an email.

According to the city, a total of 2,227 voters cast ballots on advance polling days on Jan. 8, 9 and 10. The city sent out more than 4,000 mail-in ballot packages and 1,280 have been returned to the city and tabulated.

Ward includes temporary hotel shelter

Ward 22 includes the Delta Hotels by Marriott Toronto East, which is housing 330 people who were formerly experiencing homelessness, a number that has been confirmed by the city's shelter, support and housing administration.

"Toronto Elections provided information flyers to be posted in the facility, as well as copies for distribution to residents so they understand where, how and when they can vote," the city said in the email.

The Scarborough Civic Action Network (SCAN), a non-partisan organization that aims to address inequities across the district through civic engagement, has said the ward has many seniors and a substantial population of people born in China and that population is diverse.

Ward boundaries run from Victoria Park Avenue to the west, Midland Avenue to the east, Steeles Avenue East to the north and Highway 401 to the south.