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Electoral Insight – Review of Electoral Systems

Electoral Insight – June 1999

Electoral News in Brief

International Conference Hosted By Elections Canada

Photo credit: Dennis Lecuyer
Participants at the Global Electoral Organization (GEO)
Network Conference in Ottawa included Don Boudria, Leader
of the Government in the House of Commons, and
Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Chief Electoral Officer of Canada
(front row, fourth and fifth from left).

Elections Canada has hosted a major conference of officials of election management bodies from around the world. Almost 100 delegates, representing 25 countries and 35 organizations, attended the first meeting of the Global Electoral Organization (GEO) Network which was held in Ottawa, April 11-14, 1999. Participants included representatives of 12 associations of election management bodies and more than 15 bilateral development agencies, foreign ministries and international financial institutions.

The GEO Network Conference's major objectives were:

The GEO Network Conference was sponsored by the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), and the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division (UN-EAD).

The Honourable Don Boudria, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, opened the conference, along with Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Chief Electoral Officer of Canada; Bengt Säve-Söderbergh, Secretary-General, International IDEA; Carina Perelli, Director, United Nations Electoral Assistance Division; and Richard W. Soudriette, President, International Foundation for Election Systems.

Mr. Boudria's speech is available on the Internet at


Between federal electoral events, the National Register of Electors must be kept as up-to-date and accurate as possible, so that it is ready at any time to generate reliable preliminary lists of electors for general elections, by-elections, and referendums. The Register is continually updated with data received from Revenue Canada and Citizenship and Immigration Canada, from provincial and territorial motor vehicle and vital statistics registrars and from electoral agencies in British Columbia and Quebec, which maintain provincial registers of electors.

In March and April 1999, two new initiatives were launched as part of the Register's comprehensive maintenance program.

Some 270 000 verification notices were sent to electors whose information appears to be incorrect or to have been added more than once to the National Register of Electors. Electors were asked to confirm or correct their information and mail back the notice.

Elections Canada also wrote to some 150 000 people who have turned 18 since the June 1997 federal election, to advise them they are now of legal age to vote, and to obtain their permission to add their names to the National Register of Electors. Recipients were asked to confirm, at the same time, that they are Canadian citizens.

The letters to 18-year-olds were not mailed in Ontario, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut or Newfoundland, to avoid potential confusion because of recent or expected provincial or territorial elections. The chief electoral officers in those jurisidictions will provide Elections Canada with electoral lists, including recent 18-year-olds who registered to vote, to update the national Register. The letters were not mailed in Quebec either, since Elections Canada has an agreement with the Directeur général des élections du Québec providing for quarterly updates from Élections Québec which include the names of 18-year-olds to be added to the national Register.

sharing register data

Forging data-sharing partnerships is a corporate priority for Elections Canada. Since 1997, Elections Canada has signed data-sharing agreements with 60 electoral agencies at the provincial, territorial and municipal levels, including agreements to supply Register data to municipalities in Nova Scotia, Manitoba and New Brunswick, as well as to some in Ontario. Considerable cost savings have resulted for jurisdictions that have used national Register data to produce preliminary electoral lists. The City of Winnipeg, for instance, which used the Register data in place of enumeration to compile the list of electors for its municipal elections in October 1998, saved about $600 000.

On April 6, 1999, an historic agreement was announced between Elections Canada and Elections Ontario for the provision of National Register of Electors data to build Ontario's new Permanent Register of Electors. Use of the permanent register virtually eliminated the need for enumeration in the June 3, 1999, provincial election, and was projected to save Ontario some $10 million. Federal data were provided by Elections Canada at cost.

The agreement also provides Elections Canada with the reciprocal opportunity to update the national Register with data that Elections Ontario will provide from lists revised for the provincial election.

research partnership

Elections Canada will contribute to a project, sponsored by the Centre of Election Studies (University of Waterloo), that will establish an electronic database of federal election results. The database will include data related to general elections from 1867 to 1999, sorted by electoral district, and socio-demographic information on each candidate. Once completed, the database will be in the public domain and available on the Internet. The Centre for Election Studies is directed by Professor John M. Wilson of the Department of Political Science, University of Waterloo.

court ruling

On March 10, 1999, the Ontario Court (General Division), ruled unconstitutional several provisions of the Canada Elections Act relating to the following principles:

The case was brought to court by the leader of the Communist Party of Canada, Miguel Figueroa, after his party was required to liquidate its assets after the 1993 federal general election. The party had failed to field 50 candidates in that election. The Government of Canada has appealed the court decision except for the parts of the ruling dealing with liquidation and the candidate's deposit.

cd-rom – over 12 000 and counting

Elections Canada's interactive, informative CD-ROM, Exploring Canada's Electoral System, has been enthusiastically received by users across Canada. Over 12 000 copies of the bilingual program have been ordered from Elections Canada since the disc was released one year ago. Many have been requested by schools, particularly in Ontario, which has changed its curriculum to include an electoral studies component at the grades five and six level. The CD-ROM guides users to explore a polling station, the office of a returning officer, Elections Canada's offices, a campaign headquarters and the Chamber of the House of Commons. It was designed for students, but can be used by anyone interested in learning about Canada's federal electoral system. One free copy can be ordered by calling Elections Canada at 1 800 INFO-VOTE (1 800 463-6868) or by visiting the Elections Canada Web site at and clicking on "general information."

contributions and expenses

Elections Canada has published a searchable database of the contributions and expenses reported by candidates and registered political parties. The information is available from the Elections Canada Web site at and can be easily searched, printed or downloaded. This electronic publication includes information from the June 1997 general election and subsequent by-elections, and also the receipts and expenses of registered political parties by fiscal period from 1994 to 1997.

ace project

Three international organizations are assisting new democracies by assembling the first global information bank on the administration and cost of elections, now easily accessible on the Internet and on CD-ROM. The Administration and Cost of Elections (ACE) Project is an ongoing partnership venture of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA). Elections Canada produced the French version of this huge resource for election administrators, legislators, multinational assistance agencies, academics and the media. The information can be viewed on-line at

Note: The opinions expressed are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.