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Electoral Insight – New Ways of Building Democracy

Electoral Insight – November 1999

Electoral News in Brief

Electoral Reform

On October 18, 1999, at the Olympic Plaza in Calgary, Their Excellencies Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, and John Ralston Saul unveiled a monument to honour Canada's Famous Five women on the 70th anniversary of the Persons Case.
On October 18, 1999, at the Olympic Plaza in Calgary, Their Excellencies Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, and John Ralston Saul unveiled a monument to honour Canada's Famous Five women on the 70th anniversary of the Persons Case. Twelve-year-old student Shawnee Price was chosen for the honour of being the first to sit in the chair next to the statue of Famous Five leader Emily Murphy. (For more on the Famous Five, see Electoral Insight, June 1999.)

On October 14, 1999, the Honourable Don Boudria, Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, tabled Bill C-2, An Act respecting the election of members of the House of Commons, repealing other Acts relating to elections and making consequential amendments to other Acts.Footnote 1

This Bill represents the Government's response to the 35th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs which had undertaken an in-depth review of electoral law. The Committee, which began its review on November 20, 1997, examined various reports, including those of the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing of 1991, the Special Committee of the House of Commons on Electoral Reform in 1993, and the 1996 and 1997 reports of the Chief Electoral Officer. The Committee tabled its report on June 11, 1998.

Bill C-2 proposes a number of changes. Notably, it introduces a clearer structure and modernizes the original Act's language. For instance, the Bill incorporates provisions dealing with disputed elections, which were formerly embodied in legislation dating from the turn of the century, namely, the Dominion Controverted Elections Act. Furthermore, certain Acts concerning disqualification from voting that were judged obsolete are to be repealed: the Disfranchising Act and the Corrupt Practices Inquiries Act.

Bill C-2 also proposes changes in the provisions governing the financing of political parties and candidates during elections. It includes new provisions dealing with publicity during elections and election opinion polls, to address recent court decisions on these subjects. Finally, it should be noted that the Bill creates a system for regulating the election advertising expenses of third party intervenors.

Following its first reading, Bill C-2 was referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

National register of electors

Advisory committee established for the national register of electors

During the summer of 1999, the Chief Electoral Officer established a forum for discussing best practices in database management and use, in the form of an Advisory Committee to the National Register of Electors that involves key Canadian stakeholders at the provincial, territorial and municipal levels. The committee met for the first time on September 8, 1999, at Elections Canada's office in Ottawa.

Since the establishment of the National Register of Electors in 1997, more than 20 agreements have been negotiated with registrars of motor vehicles and vital statistics, and with provincial electoral agencies having permanent voters lists, for the provision of data to maintain the Register. In return, federal electoral data has been shared with some 60 jurisdictions to produce lists of electors.

Elections Canada recognizes the importance of ongoing consultation with both data suppliers and other electoral agencies about the challenges of maintaining electoral databases, and the manner in which electoral lists produced from these databases are used during electoral events.

The Mandate of the Advisory Committee
Membership and Activities

The membership of the Advisory Committee is drawn from national organizations representing the supplier community, the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (motor vehicle registrars) and the Vital Statistics Council for Canada (vital statistics registrars); and from the user community, including representatives from provincial/territorial electoral agencies and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

At the inaugural meeting, members of the Committee introduced their organizations, with particular reference to their role in managing client databases, discussed the Committee's mandate and suggested topics and issues for discussion at future meetings. There was a presentation and discussion about Elections Canada's proposed corporate policy on sharing initiatives, which emerged from experience to date and addresses Elections Canada's proposed approach to the scope, policy-making, working definitions, operations, accountability, and financial practices for data sharing and data supply involving other jurisdictions.

The Advisory Committee will meet twice yearly, with the next meeting scheduled for the spring of 2000. Between formal meetings, Elections Canada's Interjurisdictional Co-operation Unit will support the business of the Committee.

annual list of electors to members of parliament and registered political parties

On October 15, 1999, in accordance with section 71.013 of the Canada Elections Act, the 1999 annual list of electors produced from the National Register of Electors was sent to members of Parliament and registered political parties. This list of electors' names and addresses reflected updates from federal, provincial and territorial data sources, as well as elector-initiated requests for registrations, changes and opt-outs. It also included the most current lists available to Elections Canada at this time of Canadian Forces electors, Canadian citizens temporarily residing outside Canada, and incarcerated electors. The information can only be used for electoral purposes.

revenue canada consent rate climbs

The percentage of taxfilers consenting on their 1998 tax returns to the transfer of their names, addresses and dates of birth to Elections Canada for updating the National Register of Electors has risen to 83 percent. This compares to just under 80 percent for the 1997 tax year, which was the first year of the joint Elections Canada-Revenue Canada initiative.

national election for the rights of youth

This autumn, thousands of Canadian students had an unprecedented experience, learning about their rights and voting as they participated in the first National Election for the Rights of Youth. UNICEF Canada and Elections Canada invited every primary and secondary school in the country to register, using the Internet. Students under the age of eighteen voted in their schools during the third week of November. The election marked the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Ten rights drawn from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child appeared, in alphabetical order, as "candidates" on the ballot. The students each voted for the one right that they feel is the most important to them, as individuals and as members of their families and their communities. The "candidates" included the rights to: education, family, food and shelter, health, name and nationality, non-discrimination, own culture, protection from harm, rest and play, and share opinions.

UNICEF Canada's key aims for the election were to heighten understanding of and commitment to children's rights, and to offer Canadian children an opportunity to speak out about them. Elections Canada has a legislated mandate to provide public education and information programs. It sought to promote an understanding of Canada's electoral process among youth, to help prepare them to vote in elections when they reach the legislated voting age. "This historic experience will give them a greater sense of the democratic process and the responsibilities that go along with it," said Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley.

The election included its own Web site, which provided background information and a teachers guide. All registered schools also received a kit of election materials, which included a ballot box, ballots and voting screen.

The results of the youth vote were submitted to Elections Canada in Ottawa for counting. Anyone interested in seeing the students' preferences may visit the Web site at www.itsyourvoice.com.

georeferencing: putting electors' addresses on the map

Elections Canada and Statistics Canada have developed a digital national road network, the National Geographic Database (NGD), for electoral and census purposes. With this database, Elections Canada will be able to use electors' addresses to determine their electoral district and polling division. The new database will also make the National Register of Electors more accessible to other electoral jurisdictions in Canada that have different electoral boundaries. They will be able to superimpose their own electoral districts on the road network and relate these to elector data from the Register. Using National Register of Electors data in place of enumeration can generate significant savings for electoral agencies in the provinces and municipalities.

The geographic database itself, without the data from the National Register of Electors, will be more widely available also to other levels of government. Provincial and municipal agencies will be able to adapt data from the digital road network to reflect their own "service/business areas", such as school districts, evacuation zones or social service areas. Sharing this data has the potential to provide large savings for public and private agencies throughout Canada.

The recent work has merged Statistics Canada's Street Network File and boundaries, Elections Canada's electoral map files, and thousands of new roads, road names and address ranges. This merged data has been fitted to Natural Resources Canada's National Topographic Data Base, which is the Canadian standard for geographical information.

As new electors are added to the National Register of Electors or as electors move to new addresses, Elections Canada will be able to identify where each elector's address is located on the national road network and, in turn, which electoral district and polling division contains the elector's residence. These processes are known as georeferencing and geo-coding. Elections Canada is currently georeferencing the addresses already in the National Register of Electors and will do so with new addresses as they are added.

A HISTORY OF THE VOTE IN CANADA ON THE INTERNET

On October 28, 1999, Elections Canada, in co-operation with the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec, launched a presentation on the Internet about the history of the vote in Canada. The Web site tells the fascinating story of some of the main events and people that influenced the development of democracy in Canada. The site's contents are based on a book published by Elections Canada in 1997, entitled A History of the Vote in Canada. The book, which was prepared by a team of historians, political scientists and other electoral experts, traces the historical development of the right to vote during more than two centuries in this country. The Web module is available for the public to view on the Museum's Web site at http://www.civilization.ca/membrs/canhist/progrese.html. It is also displayed for visitors to the museum on monitors in the Social Progress Web Gallery located in the Canada Hall.

political party fiscal period returns for 1998

Elections Canada has published a searchable database of the contributions received and expenses incurred by the registered political parties for the 1998 fiscal year. The data is available from the Elections Canada Web site at http://www.elections.ca/gen_info/finance_e.html and is drawn from the parties' returns for last year, as reported to the Chief Electoral Officer.

All ten federal political parties registered during 1998 submitted returns. They are: Bloc Québécois, Canadian Action Party, Christian Heritage Party of Canada, The Green Party of Canada, Liberal Party of Canada, Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada, Natural Law Party of Canada, New Democratic Party, Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, and Reform Party of Canada.

Users may search the data on-line or download the full list of contributors for each party. The contributions listed are those that exceed $100. Searches can be based on the name of the contributor or the political party. Of all the contributions to political parties, the highest amount was almost $115 000 and the average was $513.

There is no limit to the amount of money a registered party may receive as a contribution. However, the Canada Elections Act stipulates that contributions may be accepted only from Canadian citizens or permanent residents, corporations or associations doing business in Canada and trade unions that hold bargaining rights for employees in Canada.

The registered political parties' fiscal period returns for 1997 are also available in downloadable form from the Elections Canada Web site at http://www.elections.ca/gen_info/fiscals/1997/index_e.html.

many provincial and territorial elections

1999 has been an unusually busy year for provincial and territorial elections in Canada. Voters went to the polls in six provinces. Add to that the April election in the new eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut and this December's general election in the geographically reduced Northwest Territories, the first since Nunavut was created.

The most recent provincial election saw the New Democrats led by Gary Doer capture a majority of the 57 seats and replace the Conservatives as the Government in Manitoba. Gary Filmon had been the Premier for eleven years. Also in September, Premier Roy Romanow's Saskatchewan New Democrats were reduced from a majority to a minority position in the 58-seat legislature.

Earlier in the year, provincial elections were held in June in Ontario and New Brunswick, and in February in Newfoundland.

A July election in Nova Scotia produced a new Conservative government and an unusual result in one electoral district. After several counts in Shelburne, there was a tie between two candidates, which the returning officer was required to break. One of the two names was picked out of a cardboard box. The Tory candidate was the winner and a Liberal Cabinet minister was the unlucky loser.

four november by-elections

By-elections were held in four federal electoral districts on Monday, November 15, 1999. All four seats in the House of Commons were retained by the political parties that previously held them. Candidates for the Liberal Party of Canada won three of the by-elections by large margins, while the New Democratic Party candidate was victorious in the fourth riding. It was the largest number of by-elections on the same day since six occurred simultaneously in March of 1996. (Since the last general election in 1997, there have been three other by-elections, each held on different dates.)

Two of the recent by-elections were in Quebec. Liberal Irwin Cotler was victorious in Mount Royal, while Liberal Marcel Proulx won in Hull–Aylmer. The Ontario district of York West elected Liberal Judy Sgro. New Democrat Dennis Gruending won the by-election in the Saskatchewan district of Saskatoon–Rosetown–Biggar. The voting results returned the Liberals to their previous position, holding 157 of the 301 seats in Parliament.

No enumeration was required for these by-elections, because of the creation of the National Register of Electors in 1997.

Footnote 1 First tabled under number C-83 during the first session of the 36th Parliament.


Note: 

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