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Meeting Summary – October 19, 2017

Elections Canada Advisory Board

Meeting Summary

October 19, 2017

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About the Elections Canada Advisory Board

The mandate of the Elections Canada Advisory Board (ECAB) is to study and provide advice on matters related to Canada's electoral system, including the conduct of elections, electoral participation of voters and political stakeholders, regulatory compliance and electoral reform.

ECAB held its most recent semi-annual meeting on October 19, 2017. Presentations were given on a number of topics including an update since the previous ECAB meeting, emerging issues regarding electoral integrity and the role of Elections Canada (EC), early voting opportunities in 2019, and reaching out and serving remote Indigenous communities.

Members were given an opportunity to discuss each topic.

Update since the Previous Meeting


ECAB members were provided with an overview of the operating environment at EC, including the appointment process for the next Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), EC's transformation agenda, and the current legislative agenda.

CEO's appointment process

The appointment process for the next CEO was launched on the Governor in Council Appointment's website in mid-September 2017, with no closing date. Review of application may have started on October 16, 2017, as suggested on the public advertisement.

Transformation agenda

EC's ambitious transformation agenda has been established based on commitments made in the CEO's Recommendation Report, regional meetings in 2015 with election administrators, and EC's Report on Plans and Priorities.

These commitments are organized into two key pillars: electoral services modernization and asset renewal.

Electoral services modernization comprises 14 projects grouped under four key priorities: modernizing voting services for electors, improving front line services, enhancing electoral data services, and improving voter information and engagement. Asset renewal comprises seven projects aimed at renewing the infrastructure and assets required to deliver electoral events.

Legislative agenda

Bill C-33, an Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, remains on the Order Paper for possible debate at second reading. Changes proposed would undo changes to the Canada Elections Act, such as restoring the CEO's broad civic education mandate; restoring vouching and permitting the voter information card (VIC) to be authorized as identification; authorizing the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to share information with EC about non-citizens; and returning the Commissioner of Canada Elections to EC.

Bill C-50, an Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (political financing), passed second reading in June 2017 and is being studied by the Procedure and House Affairs Committee (PROC). This bill aims to change notice and reporting regulations concerning events attended by ministers where participants must pay over $200 to be present.

It is expected that a new bill will be introduced by the end of this calendar year to reflect the CEO's recommendations that have been endorsed by PROC. Some of these recommendations are key to supporting EC's modernization agenda.


Members discussed the progression of the projects, the potential impact of the legislative timeframe and associated contingency plans.

Members discussed EC's communications plans to reassure Canadians about the potential introduction of technology at the polls in relation to safeguarding the integrity of elections and emphasizing that the voting and counting processes would still be accomplished manually.

Emerging Issues on Electoral Integrity


The Board was provided with an overview of the issue of disinformation or fake news as it relates to its potential impact on the electoral process in Canada. Members were reminded that disinformation is not a new electoral strategy, but that the capabilities offered by social media have brought it to new levels.

Reference was made to the report of the Communication Security Establishment indicating that disinformation is highly likely to impact future elections and identifying the key threats.


Members discussed the challenges of and need for a campaign to educate people on authoritative sources of information on the electoral process.

Members are of the opinion that people may turn to EC to play a role on the issue of disinformation that could go beyond its mandate. To this end, a strong communications strategy is required in order to frame EC authorities.

It was reiterated that EC is a convener on this issue, not an arbiter of the truth.

Early Voting Opportunities in 2019


Members were referred to an issue sheet that was distributed ahead of the meeting, which described the special ballot voting process and proposed questions to discuss how EC should promote and review its offer of service to make early voting options more available.

Three possibilities were presented to members:

1) Improving special ballot voting services and expanding their promotion at local EC offices, where absentee voters from anywhere can vote;

2) Significantly increasing the number of post-secondary institutions offering special ballot voting services the week before election day; and

3) Setting up special ballot voting booths at locations where travellers are most likely to congregate, such as transportation hubs and hotel lobbies.


Members discussed that early voting options are primarily intended for electors who cannot vote at their designated advance or regular polling station.

Members agreed that voting at the EC local office should be better promoted, with evidence suggesting that the current level of awareness for this option stands at 3%. There was also consensus that the service offered to students could be expanded. However, members cautioned against taking the special ballot service to additional locations, with a general sense that it could take the service offer beyond the spirit of the Act.

Members also discussed the way and the timing in which early voting options should be promoted. There was consensus that promotion of early voting options should remain minimal until the list of candidates in all ridings closes. Particular consideration should be given to the effects a potential shift from election day voting could have, especially when considering that the most informed voting decision is usually made on election day.

Reaching Out and Serving Remote Indigenous Communities


Members were reminded that on-reserve turnout significantly increased during the last general election. This resulted in polling places experiencing a service interruption on election day due to ballot shortages, and electors, all at one polling location, being unable to vote. A post-election administrative review revealed other challenges, such as difficulties meeting voter identification requirements, a lack of understanding of the federal election process among electors living on reserves, and more complex logistics for the recruitment and training of election officers and distribution of supplies to voting locations.

While Indigenous electors in general face more barriers to the electoral process, the administrative review showed that these barriers are more pronounced than previously thought. EC's analysis revealed that Indigenous electors in remote communities have:

  1. Lower registration rates
  2. Less access to advance voting services
  3. Less awareness or access to information on the electoral process

In addition to services designed to meet the needs of Indigenous electors as a whole, EC is proposing a pilot project that:


Members recognized that voter turnout for Indigenous communities was better in 2015 than for past elections. Specifically, they acknowledged the collaborative work that was done with communities (especially with community staff) to inform Indigenous electors.

However, members believed that more work needs to be done with chiefs and band executives to inform them of the electoral services and employment opportunities offered by EC. There was general support for increasing efforts to address the barriers identified, and members encouraged EC to look at additional opportunities for urban Indigenous electors, who make up about 50 percent of the Indigenous population.

EC noted that the success of campaigns in Indigenous communities during the last general election varied across regions. EC held information sessions on reserves and made arrangements to have polling stations in Indigenous communities. This strategy seemed to fare better in Western Canada, with a more mixed level of success in communities in Quebec and the Maritimes.

Members suggested recruiting Indigenous returning officers to help establish better relations with Indigenous communities. They noted that outreach in Indigenous communities should be done by Indigenous people and that EC could make presentations to national organizations. EC stated that, as a general rule, it tries to recruit from the communities being served to provide election and information services, but the uptake from some communities is not as strong. Part of the pilot project will look at how recruitment efforts can be improved to encourage more Indigenous workers.

Round Table Discussion

Members discussed the necessity of future meetings. It was agreed that ECAB meetings would be suspended pending the appointment of the next CEO.

Appendix A: Agenda


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

6:307:30 p.m.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

9:009:05 a.m.

Welcome from Co-chairs and Adoption of Agenda

9:059:30 a.m.

Update since the Previous Meeting

9:30 a.m.12:00 p.m.

Emerging Issues on Electoral Integrity

12:001:00 p.m.


1:002:30 p.m.

Early Voting Opportunities in 2019

2:303:00 p.m.

Reaching Out and Serving Remote Indigenous Communities

3:003:30 p.m.

Recap and Summary of the Meeting

3:304:00 p.m.

Round Table Discussion

Appendix B: Meeting Participants

Mr. Ian Binnie, Co-chair

Ms. Sheila Fraser, Co-chair

Ms. Lise Bissonnette

Ms. Wendy Grant-John

Mr. Paul Thomas

Ms. Cathy Wong