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

Information Related to the Conduct of Electoral Events

The CEO covered key topics related to the ongoing by-elections and next general election.

Bill C-31 Implementation Progress Update

Concerning the Statement of electors who have voted ("bingo card"), the CEO explained to members that all electors appearing on the Official List of Electors will be assigned a sequence number for the next general election, including those who register during revision. However, for the March 17, 2008, by-elections, this number will only be available for electors on the preliminary lists.

Regarding the addition of a unique identifier and date-of-birth information on the list of electors, the CEO clarified that only the lists used by election workers on polling day will feature date-of-birth information. The unique identifier, which will be assigned to each elector in the National Register of Electors, will facilitate elector matching and list maintenance by registered political parties and candidates and will be included on all lists of electors.

The CEO noted two recent changes that will improve the coverage and currency of the National Register of Electors: 1) The opportunity for someone to confirm their citizenship on their tax return; 2) Information will be sent to Elections Canada by the Canada Revenue Agency when a tax return is received indicating that the filer is deceased.

(See Overview of Bill C-31 provisions and coming into force for additional information on amendments.)

By-elections vs. General Election

The CEO covered some key points for political entities in the event the March 17, 2008, by-elections were cancelled by the calling of a general election. (See material about by-elections superseded by a general election.)

Pre-Writ Reminders

Members whose candidates came first or second in their riding during the last general election were encouraged to submit the names of eligible people who could act as revising agents and election officers to returning officers (ROs) as soon as possible.

The CEO urged members to ensure that political parties are clear when promoting the Special Voting Rules to electors at seniors residences and long-term care facilities with respect to these electors' different voting options. Elections Canada received complaints during previous electoral events that political parties were encouraging electors to vote by special ballot and that these electors were not aware that they could no longer vote on election day because they have already registered to vote by special ballot.

The CEO also invited members to encourage candidates to file their nomination papers early.

Targeted Revision

Members were reminded that candidates are encouraged to review RO plans for targeted revisions and to recommend additional areas to ROs where they feel it is warranted. The CEO noted that for the next general election, ROs will also target addresses that have been identified by Elections Canada as potentially non-residential as well as dwellings at which the former residents may still be listed. Students living on- and off-campus will also be targeted.

Members commented that Elections Canada should continue with its efforts to facilitate student voting. Members also suggested, for greater consistency, that Elections Canada establish criteria that would determine whether polls are set up at student residences on campuses.

Security of Lists of Electors

New security procedures when remitting electronic copies of the lists to candidates were discussed. Members were informed that the CD format of the lists, which are provided to candidates after March 1, 2008, will be encrypted and password protected. Members were reminded of the statutory use of the lists of electors – namely, about registered parties, members and candidates using the lists for communicating with electors, including for soliciting contributions and campaigning or recruiting party members as provided for in ss. 110(1 )-(3) of the Act.

Candidate and Official Agent "Do's and Don'ts"

Members received an updated reminder of the legal obligations for candidates and official agents with regard to "Do's and Don'ts" (See Important Reminders for Candidates and Their Official Agents). Members were informed that it was originally developed following the 38th general election and was revised to take into account issues that arose in the 39th general election, observations from the Commissioner's office and changes brought about by the Federal Accountability Act. The reminder will be sent to ROs and EDAs and will be distributed at the joint meetings of political parties and candidates/representatives organized by the Returning Officers. Members were also informed that a similar document was being prepared for EDAs. Members commended the initiative and requested PDF versions of both documents.

Information Sheets

Elections Canada distributed two new information sheets (see Information Sheet 27 "Loans" and Information Sheet 28 "Obligations of a Candidate's Official Agent with Respect to the Receiving of Contributions and the Incurring and Payment of Expenses"). It was clarified that the information on loans does not take into account changes proposed by Bill C-29, which is currently before Parliament.

Other Items

During the meeting, members raised items for reform, including the broadcasting provisions under the Act, enforcement of the Act, access to leaders' debates, access to quarterly allowances, return of nomination deposits, and consulting electors on given issues. The CEO indicated that issues would be appropriately dealt with at another meeting.