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Meeting Summary – Post 42nd General Election Special Meeting – November 19, 2015

ACPP Members' Feedback on Services to Political Parties

ACPP members were invited to share their experience with and comments on EC services to political parties during the 2015 election.

Returning officers

Some problems with ROs at specific locations were raised (i.e. Sudbury and Calgary), such as candidates' nominations being refused, misinformation on access rules for canvassers and scrutineers given to university campuses, bingo sheets not being provided, etc. It was suggested that these problems might stem from a combination of training issues and inadequate remuneration, which limits the pool of potential candidates. Michel Roussel asked parties to put all allegations in writing and formally send them to EC, which will allow the agency to take appropriate action where applicable.

Stéphane Perrault, DCEO, Regulatory Affairs (DCEO RA), informed members that campuses seemed to be unaware of the access rules for canvassers and scrutineers, and while this is an enforcement issue for the Commissioner of Canada Elections, it is also a matter of outreach. Parties should call the hotline before an issue escalates.

Candidates' debates

Some parties expressed their concerns that smaller and emerging parties are usually excluded from candidates' debates and asked if EC could provide directives on these meetings and find ways to ensure that they have more visibility. They reiterated their concerns and their need for more visibility and more access to the public sphere. Stéphane Perrault informed members that, as explained in a previous interpretation note (OGI), the CEA does not require that all candidates be invited to a debate.

EC's communication channels

Service provided to parties through EC's legal hotline and general hotline was deemed good and effective overall, but some members reported situations when EC agents lacked information and training, which caused long delays and processes to get an actual answer.

In some instances, reports indicated that the EC website gave inaccurate polling place information through postal code searches. The need for a more streamlined process to report inaccuracies on the EC website was raised. It was also asked if EC could consider integrating more information about candidates on their website, such as a picture and a link to their social media accounts, in addition to their name and party.

Campaign signs

Questions and comments were raised about damaged campaign signs, more specifically on how to prevent and deal with vandalism and stealing. Some parties reported that when they contacted EC, they were told it was police matter, which is inaccurate. There were also reports of candidates' signage not being compliant with by-laws and members asked how EC could address this issue adequately. Stéphane Perrault clarified that there are rules in the CEA protecting signs and that it was the role of the Commissioner of Canada Elections to enforce these rules. While municipalities are entitled to remove signs, they must, prior to taking action, notify the person who authorized the sign on behalf of the campaign (unless the sign is a hazard to public safety).

Rules and regulations

Canvassing and access to premises

Canvassers were usually successful in accessing apartment/condo buildings using the access letters on the EC website.

There seemed to be a general lack of knowledge as to what the canvassers do. For instance, post-secondary institutions seemed unaware of the rules of access and limited accessibility to SVRE sites, or even denied overall access to canvassers. It was suggested that EC could address this issue with some outreach and inform the community centres and campuses that host polling places about the rights and responsibilities of candidates and canvassers.

It was also noted that the general public needs to be informed about what a candidate's nomination paper is, and more specifically, that signing a nomination paper does not mean that you have to vote for that candidate.

Some candidates experienced issues while trying to collect their signatures and were denied access to public places. It was mentioned that while candidates have responsibilities towards EC, it appears they do not have any form of protection.

There were some concerns regarding the mandatory $1,000 deposit to become a candidate, which not every Canadian can afford, creating a barrier to participation for potential candidates. It was suggested that this barrier should be removed.

Tools

It was mentioned that the password for the electoral list was problematic, complicated and used unusual symbols. In some instances, the correct files were not delivered; ROs provided the preliminary list in PDF format, when it should have been provided on a USB key; and the database did not allow users to extract information correctly.

ACPP members also reported that the bingo sheets were not always properly filled out (missing information or containing mistakes, voters appearing twice), and that, in some instances, they were simply not available as required, or ROs would fail to provide them. Members requested to be provided with a proper list of voters and wanted to reinforce that they were entitled to bingo sheets on request.