Meeting Summary – Annual General Meeting – June 27–28, 2011
Feedback on the 41st General Election
The CEO outlined the context that will guide Elections Canada activities in the near future.
- As a result of the Speech from the Throne, quarterly political allowance will be phased out.
- The Federal Budget includes a Strategic and Operating Review designed to realize substantial savings through greater efficiency and effectiveness of public finances. The review will have some impact on Elections Canada.
- The next general election will be in October 2015. The timing will coincide with a number of provincial elections – the implications need to be reviewed to formulate a plan that addresses multiple elections in a short period of time.
- Elections Canada is currently finalizing reports on the 41st General Election, paying election related invoices and conducting post mortems and studies. The Statutory report will be ready in August, followed by the detailed evaluation report in December.
- Elections Canada is working on Vision 2015. It will look at what administrative and legislative changes need to be in place to deliver services to candidates and electors in the next General Election. Vision 2015 will be founded on Elections Canada's values of accessibility, trust and engagement.
Feedback on the 41st General Election – Services to Candidates
In an open forum, ACPP members were asked to provide their comments and questions regarding services to candidates during the 41st General Election. A summary of key issues is outlined below.
Could the proof-of-mail validation for candidate nominations act as sufficient validation for Elections Canada? Could the endorsement be sent via fax, as courier costs could be prohibitive? As well, there was a concern that courier companies are often not fast enough to deliver important documents within the tight timelines of an election campaign. It was reported that a number of ROs had not received the endorsement letter. There was a suggestion that faxed documents should be acceptable, as well as scanned documents, as long as originals are sent within 48 hours.
It was reported that there had been some confusion about registration practises, especially with the requirements for 100 names and signatures. ACPP members stated that some ROs felt that the 100 names had to be on the voters' list, and not just be residents of the riding. It was reported that some candidates had to provide names, addresses and telephone numbers of signatories, and the question was asked if this had been a specific requirement from the CEO. The CEO replied that this was not an official requirement.
A question was asked if candidates should take receipts for the $1,000 deposit for candidate nomination or if the party should take the receipt? The CEO replied that Elections Canada's preference is that candidates not take receipts for the $1,000 deposit for candidate nomination, and that Elections Canada had instructed ROs not to offer receipts directly to candidates.
There was a question regarding the number of deceased people on the voters' list. There was also a comment to the effect that some ROs were getting too old to do their jobs effectively. The CEO replied that parties should communicate directly with Elections Canada if they have any concerns about the voters' list so that Elections Canada can correct the list as required. The CEO also noted that ROs are hired through advertised competitive processes based on the merit of their qualifications and skills.
ACPP members reported that some ROs were confused as to the required presence of official agents for the registration of candidates, and that some ROs did not seem to know the rules. It was also reported that some candidates were harassed because they wanted to vote while wearing a mask.
ACPP members expressed their thanks to the CEO for the letter to landlords regarding access to their buildings to collect candidate nomination signatures. Members suggested that Elections Canada should consider educating police services about the rights of candidates to campaign in public places.
It was reported that candidates had been asked to move while campaigning in front of a business location on a public street. Members asked how to handle these situations when the letter from the CEO is not sufficient. The CEO replied that, in that case, the Commissioner of Elections should be contacted so that he can deal with the situation.
ACPP Members reported that small parties have a difficulty getting invited to all candidates' debates. It was reported that, in some cases, the police were called and some candidates were removed, even though they were not attempting to actively take part in the debate. The CEO replied that this was not an issue that Elections Canada could deal with directly.
It was suggested by ACPP members that all candidates' debates should be considered a benefit to candidates, that this is a matter that needs to be addressed and that these debates should be considered to be a form of political contribution. The CEO replied that if parties have specific complaints, they should inform the Commissioner of Elections, and that the matter of all-candidates debates had been put to Parliament for their consideration in the Recommendations Report.
A member reported that an airline offered to allow candidates in a remote area to fly for free to attend all candidates' debates. This offer could not be accepted, as it would have constituted a third party donation. It was asked if the policy could be modified for remote areas. It was also reported that candidate access to incarcerated electors is a difficult process.
There was a request to do away with the bank account audited report. The CEO indicated that he has asked Parliament for this change in the Recommendations Report.
ACPP members asked if Elections Canada will draft a new set of recommendations resulting from the 41st General Election. The CEO replied that he would like to start with the outstanding recommendations from 40th General Election, and then will consider adding recommendations arising from the 41st, as many recommendations from the 40th General Election have yet to be addressed.
It was reported that Elections Canada's helpline service level varies. The lawyers' information line always offers excellent advice and service. The CEO responded that Elections Canada will need to investigate in order to provide better service to Official Agents. François Bernier indicated that there were three levels of service, and that the answers depended on the level the requester was speaking with. Official and Chief Agents should identify themselves upon accessing the help lines in order to be directed to the correct service.
One member asked why the $1,000 candidate deposit, paid through a candidate's line of credit, was refunded to the financial agent, even when the application form contained a check box requesting that the funds be repaid to the candidate. The CEO indicated that the matter will be investigated.
There was a question regarding the mechanism of enforcement of the Canada Election Act during an election. The CEO replied that enforcement measures depended on the specific issue. He indicated that the Commissioner of Elections (COE) should be contacted during the campaign, and if warranted, he will try to act in real time. If the breach is of an administrative nature, parties should inquire directly with Elections Canada. The COE will try to resolve the issue in a timely manner, but investigation can take time. The COE can seek an injunction, based on the statement of facts. This has been done in the past, and the COE is usually quite successful.
There was a question about an auditor who did not get paid back in a timely manner. François Bernier replied that Elections Canada pays a partial subsidy after the audit, and that it can take as long as 18 months for full payment. If an application is complete, it can be resolved in 6 months. If Elections Canada needs further information and clarification, payment can take much longer.