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Meeting Summary – General Meeting – December 45, 2014

Electoral Reminder Program

Susan Torosian, Senior Director, Policy and Public Affairs, led the session on the Electoral Reminder Program for the 42nd general election. It included an overview of the communications campaign, whose goal is to provide information to electors on where, when and ways to register and vote in the next general election. Ms. Torosian indicated that the campaign has been completely renewed to present a common look and feel and to use simplified language and digital media channels, something the agency had not been able to do for many years due to successive minority governments. She explained the campaign strategy, the communication channels, the various phases as well as the campaign highlights. The campaign is aimed at all Canadians and includes media spending targeted to those elector groups who generally know less about the electoral process. At the end of the presentation, Ms. Torosian showed a preview of the general election website, which has been reviewed and will be a central point of the campaign.

There was also an emphasis on EC's strategy for accessibility for electors. In advance of the meeting, ACPP members had the opportunity to review the Accessibility Policy and Service Offering, which outlines EC's services and initiatives to ensure accessibility for voters with disabilities.

Complaints management was also presented as part of the communications strategy with electors; a system will be put in place to better manage complaints, which will include better tracking and improved response times.

Discussion

This presentation generated extensive discussion. Many positive comments on the Electoral Reminder Program were expressed: for example, support was expressed for the mobile-friendly website, as this was deemed critical. Members asked about the tight timelines to implement the program, as an election could be called in spring 2015, but members were assured that EC would be ready for an early election. EC's readiness date is March 1.

Several questions were raised regarding registration and members wanted clarification on the process. When asked how EC would be able to evaluate the impact of information campaigns, it was noted that a strong advertising strategy alone will not alter voter behaviour in the short term.

Concerns were expressed that the voter information card and the reminder brochure might not reach all target groups, as some electors have literacy issues. EC's National Outreach Strategy will engage stakeholders and partner organizations to share the information with their groups.

There was concern that the campaign seemed to be focused on computer users and that not all electors have access to this channel of communications. It was noted that EC reaches out to local community organizations through the Community Relations Officers, who have access to many tools to reach out to target groups. There will also be a lot of advertising in newspapers.

A member asked about information campaigns to remind electors about voting day. The idea of a sticker that says “I voted” had been considered, among other ideas. Social media will have a “ready to vote” logo that is shareable electronically. EC conducted focus group testing of all our communications approaches with different groups of electors.

When asked if voters can currently lodge a complaint through EC's website and whether the complaints section will have prominence during the election, it was noted that EC will be launching the new online complaint form in spring 2015. It will be linked to a new case management system. A member asked about links between the complaint systems of EC, the Commissioner of Canada Elections (the Commissioner) and the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). Overall, there has been only preliminary discussion of coordinating websites with the CRTC or the Commissioner in terms of complaints. Generally, it was felt that most Canadians wanting to make a complaint will make it through EC, regardless of the nature of the complaint. EC will then forward those complaints not applicable to its mandate to the appropriate authority.
 
As for advertising time and participation in broadcast debates, the Broadcasting Arbitrator decides on free and paid advertising by party. Some things are not within the scope of the Broadcasting Arbitrator, but it is a useful point of contact. Issues such as “all-candidates debates” are with private broadcasters, which is outside of EC's jurisdiction.