Pilot project to get student help at polls

Elections Canada – FEDERAL ELECTION VOTE TAKES PLACE ON OCTOBER 19, 2015

By VERNA MURPHY, Connect Contributor

French Immersion students at Holy Trinity Catholic High School will be participating in a pilot project and be the only students in Canada working on Election Day.  SUPPLIED PHOTO.

French Immersion students at Holy Trinity Catholic High School will be participating in a pilot project and be the only students in Canada working on Election Day. SUPPLIED PHOTO.

The local Elections Canada office will be trying something that has never been done before, and some lucky students in Fort McMurray will be part of history on October 19, 2015.

Marlene Garand, the Returning Officer for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake had of-ten struggled to hire enough people for all the polls in the riding. And over the years, when her own children were in school, she would have liked to see students more involved in the political process. So, last year, she took the idea to Elections Canada, and to Michael Ayers, who is the Field Liaison Officer for Northern Alberta.

The idea being that students who were 16 years of age or older could – for the first-time ever – be part of the process, and would work polls in Fort McMurray on Election Day.

The students will receive the same mandatory training as all the other election workers, and will work the polls of their school, Holy Trinity Catholic High School. All of the students participating are French Immersion students, so both official languages will be represented at each poll in the school.

“The idea came to me during the last Federal by-election here in Fort McMurray. It was hard to find workers during the last election,” said Garand.”

“The idea came to me during the last Federal by-election here in Fort McMurray. It was hard to find workers during the last election,” said Garand.

“And my kids were always curious when they were in school about how voting worked. We have so many wonderful students in Fort McMurray, so I thought it would be a joy to have students involved. And thanks to Elections Canada opening the door to this idea it moved forward quickly.”

Garand went onto say that the principal and teachers at Holy Trinity were excited to get involved as well, and have been helpful in doing things like getting the permission slips from the parents of students who wanted to be involved.

Michael Ayers, who looks after 17 ridings in Alberta, is excited about the project and seeing the students experiencing the whole process.

“Usually when I deal with the media it is because of something bad, or negative, so getting to share this story, and talking about people, the students, being excited about getting involved is so much more fun,” said Ayers who has been working on elections in Alberta since 1984.

Garand and Ayers are both hopeful that the pilot project will take off and that the students will be a reliable work force for them during future elections. The 32 students of Holy Trinity will be staffing nine polls at the school, and will be doing their training on October 2 at the school.

On Election Day, they will be there from the time the polls close, until the official counting is done after the polls close at 8:30 p.m. Garand shared how workers are still needed for other polls, as well through-out the riding, and training will be ongoing until Election Day.

If you are interested in working or finding out more information about the jobs available on the 19, please call the Elections Canada office in Fort McMurray at 587-537-4030. Voters can find their poll station and/or updated their voter registration by going to www.elections.ca.

– Connect Weekly –