Meeting Summary – Inaugural Meeting December 16–17, 2013
3. The Regulatory Framework
The regulatory framework for elections, including political financing and enforcement, is established by the legislation itself, which provides no regulation-making power.
The conduct of an election is based on highly detailed rules that leave little room for flexibility. The prescriptive nature of the legislation limits the ability to review procedures and reallocate functions at polling stations to address challenges such as those highlighted by the case of Etobicoke Centre during the 2011 general election as well as the external review by Harry Neufeld.
The political financing regime is not only complex but also applies to political entities, such as candidates and official agents, who often have little experience or expertise and learn the rules as they go.
Non-compliance with the regulatory framework is almost exclusively addressed through criminal offences and sanctions. The criminal process is slow and ill-suited to deal with most cases of non-compliance with regulatory requirements, and where criminal sanctions are warranted the sanctions currently provided in the Act are extremely low.
Board members were of the opinion that the offences and penal sanctions are not well tailored to address non-compliance with the Canada Elections Act. They felt that administrative sanctions would be more effective. They also suggested that the CEO look at better ways to communicate with and train official agents.
Members pointed out that the Act is too prescriptive and complex, and would benefit from greater flexibility to respond to circumstances arising in the course of an election to promote achievement of the objectives of the Act.
The board strongly recommended that the CEO engage with the leadership or executive directors of the political parties represented in the House of Commons to solicit their interest in establishing a code of conduct for political parties and to promote the desirability of communicating cases of infringement as a deterrent to electoral misbehaviour, thereby encouraging public confidence in fair elections.