HMCS Winnipeg finds a way to vote

Capt Chris Willis, HMCS Winnipeg’s Padre, casts his vote in the provincial election via phone.

Capt Chris Willis, HMCS Winnipeg’s Padre, casts his vote in the provincial election via phone.

Captain Chelsea Dubeau
HMCS Winnipeg

When a snap provincial election was called in September, it presented a unique dilemma for deployed members on board HMCS Winnipeg.

How was one to cast their vote while sailing halfway around the world?

The usual method used for federal elections – mail-in ballots – was out; COVID-19’s impact on the mail and supply chain saw to that. So what was the democratically-minded sailor to do?

Fortunately, a collaborative effort between senior staff at Maritime Forces Pacific, Canadian Fleet Pacific, Elections BC, and, of course, on board Winnipeg, helped make this endeavour possible.

It wouldn’t be via mail, there was simply not enough time for that, and pre-registration was also off the table. By the time options had been weighed for how to facilitate voting, the pre-registration window for eligible voters had already passed.

What came about was an innovative solution that hadn’t before been used in a deployed naval environment: assisted, telephone voting.

Typically reserved for those members of the electorate who are unable to vote in person, due to disability for example, members on board Winnipeg were given the opportunity to cast their vote via telephone from Oct. 9 right up until the provincial election date of Oct. 24. The ship’s Voice-over-IP telephones were used for the purpose, and pre-registration wasn’t required; in fact, several voters on board were able to register right over the telephone. Identification was required and verified over the phone, and the assisted voting officials even provided each voter with a run down of candidates in their riding.

The whole process, on average, took about 10 minutes per person.

Captain Chris Willis, Winnipeg’s Padre, was the second person to cast their vote after Chief Petty Officer first Class Pascal Harel, Winnipeg’s Coxswain.

“I’m very pleased that we got an opportunity to vote,” said Captain Willis. “I take my democratic right to vote very seriously and try to vote whether it’s municipal, provincial, or federal, whenever I can.”

But while it may have been easy for Winnipeg sailors to cast their ballots, it took a lot of time and effort to bring the whole thing to fruition.

“I know there was a lot of leg work and a lot of effort by people in the chain of command, and that’s very much appreciated,” said Captain Willis. “I know people back home were working hard on this too, so Bravo Zulu for making sure we could participate.”

About 120 members on board had cast their ballots by the time the final voting window for Winnipeg wrapped up.

Winnipeg is currently deployed in the Asia-Pacific region on Operation Projection and Operation Neon, to further strengthen Canada’s relations with partners in the area.


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  1. Ed Watson says:

    Thank you for this article. I am so proud of my grand daughter, Captain Chelsea Dubeau, the author. It is absolutely wonderful to have been able to keep in touch with the HMCS Winnipeg and her crew members during this deployment. Heart felt thanks to all of you for your service. I would like to add a Bravo Zulu for getting the opportunity to vote. That must have taken a lot of work to achieve.

    Godspeed to the ‘Winnipeg and her crew as you enter your final month of deployment.

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