VIRDEN, Man. — A Canadian flag was removed from a Manitoba advance polling station on the weekend because a worker felt it violated election rules.
Elections Canada said a worker in Virden, near the Saskatchewan boundary, thought the red in the Canadian flag could be interpreted as support for the Liberal party.
Spokeswoman Marie-France Kenny said the Elections Canada returning officer was contacted by a local worker who wanted clarification of the rules.
"One employee did ask that we remove some flags because they were red, which has absolutely nothing to do with partisanship," she said Thursday. "It was all a misunderstanding."
One of the two flags were removed for a period of time, but it was ultimately raised again, Kenny said. She didn't know how long the flag was removed or how quickly the confusion was cleared up.
"As long as nothing is advocating for or against a candidate, there is no reason to remove them from the poll."
The worker had undergone Elections Canada training, which explains the rules that prohibit campaign literature or active campaigning near a polling station, Kenny said.
"The person misunderstood during the training that any colour associated with a party would have to be removed, which is not the case," she said. "The rules are clear — you're not supposed to go in a polling station wearing a T-shirt advocating for a candidate or a party. You're not supposed to advertise at a polling station.
"It was an unfortunate mistake."
Kenny said she didn't know if Elections Canada's rules have been interpreted that overzealously at any other polling station or whether the removal of the flag generated any complaints.
Virden Mayor Jeff McConnell called it "an unfortunate misunderstanding of the rules."
"The Canadian flag is not a partisan object," he said.
Larry Maguire, the Conservative candidate and incumbent in the riding, said he was disappointed the flag was removed at all.
"I personally would like to see the Canadian flag at all of our polling stations," Maguire said in a message. "We have a lot to be proud of."
Almost twice as many Manitobans cast ballots in advance polls over the weekend compared with the 2011 election. Just over 108,000 people voted this time, including almost 6,500 in the Brandon-Souris riding which includes Virden.
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