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Meeting Summary – Meeting of the Advisory Committee of Political Parties – February 22, 2008

Elections Canada Strategic Plan 2008–2013

The CEO reviewed the main elements of the Elections Canada Strategic Plan 2008–2013. (See Strategic Framework 2008–2013.) He noted that the Plan contains three strategic objectives – trust, accessibility and engagement – which are supported by four key enablers: human resources, information technology (IT), governance and communications.

The CEO pointed out several aspects, including that Elections Canada's IT architecture is outdated and has reached the limits of its capability. The highly decentralized design of the current IT environment severely limits the ability of the agency to respond to new requirements in an acceptable time frame – for example, the time frame to implement new legislation. The enabling role of technology to assist Elections Canada in improving access to the electoral process for electors was also underlined – specifically, implementing a registration process that allows electors to register in person, by mail, telephone or Internet anytime and anywhere and, with the prior approval of Parliament, test a secure voting process during a by-election that allows electors to vote by telephone or Internet.

The CEO also stressed that the administrative burdens associated with prescriptive aspects of the Act should be looked at, that there is a need to better support Parliament with legislative reforms, and that it is important to engage political entities on these matters.

Elections Canada will monitor the progress made against its objectives and will report back to Parliament and keep the ACPP informed. The CEO welcomed feedback and noted that the Plan is open for adjustments to deal with unforeseen circumstances that may arise during the five-year period.

The discussion that followed focused mainly on the Plan's objective of engaging youth and making the electoral process accessible to them, both when registering and voting. Members discussed factors leading to low turnout and questioned whether Elections Canada should play an active role in increasing youth voter turnout. The CEO mentioned that Elections Canada and political parties should work together to engage youth, and he was looking forward to a more in-depth discussion on this topic at a future meeting.

The area of on-line registration and voting was also discussed. Some members noted that electronic registration and voting could potentially attract younger voters and that it is anticipated that the Internet will be part of the electoral process in the future. At the same time, others cautioned that protecting the security of the vote and ensuring public confidence should be key priorities. Members indicated that their involvement in a collaborative effort to explore on-line voting would be worthwhile.