Returning Officer's Manual
Chapter 4 – Elections Canada Communications Plan
This Chapter explains the Communications Plan for general elections and how you give electors the information they need to register and vote.
4.1 Public Affairs
Public Affairs develops and implements programs and activities to educate and inform the public about the electoral process. Public Affairs creates and delivers comprehensive communications campaigns for general elections and by-elections. The campaigns inform electors about registration, identification at the polls and ways to vote as defined under the Canada Elections Act. All communication activities for elections are managed under the Electoral Reminder Program.
4.1.1 The Electoral Reminder Program
The Electoral Reminder Program (ERP) is the voter information campaign that promotes and raises awareness of a federal election. Our post-election evaluations show that the program is a success, generating high levels of awareness and knowledge about registration and voting among Canadians. However, there remain a few hard-to-reach segments of the population that require more targeted attention, particularly younger or first-time voters, new Canadians and Aboriginal electors. These electors are more likely to not be registered and not vote. The program strives to reach these electors with coherent and practical information to meet all voters' needs. The program also encourages you, community relations officers (CROs) and field staff to support the national communications approach at the local level.
The program includes a comprehensive advertising campaign broadcasted on television and radio; in print in daily, weekly, community, ethnic and Aboriginal newspapers; and online through the internet, transit stations, billboards and digital screens across Canada. It also informs electors through printed publications, direct mail to their homes, social media, a public enquiries toll-free telephone service, and face-to-face communications through the returning office and the CRO Program. Media relations are also part of the communications effort in reaching the public. A team of regional media advisors (RMAs) join the permanent HQ External Relations team to support you and Field Liaison Officers (FLOs) in communicating with the media. The most important source of information for electors is the website elections.ca; all communications channels and tools used in the campaign direct electors to the site for the services and information they need to register and vote.
4.1.2 Campaign deployment
The campaign to inform electors about when, where and ways to register and vote deploys within a few days after the writ is issued. In some instances, the campaign may deploy prior to the drop of the writ to promote a particular component of the campaign. For example, a communication may be released to boost registration efforts in targeted geographical areas where there may be high mobility rates in certain electoral districts (ED). You will be informed if a pre-writ campaign is deployed in your ED.
The campaign messages are weighted with various themes at different periods during the electoral calendar. The following illustrates the phases and themes.
|Pre-writ (if applicable in certain EDs)||Registration and E-registration||Register to vote at elections.ca/register.|
|Writ – drop||Registration and other ways to vote||Check, update or complete your voter information online.
Away on election day? You can vote by mail.
|Mid-campaign||What to do if you didn't get a VIC
Other ways to vote
Having the right ID to vote
|If you didn't get a VIC, contact Elections Canada now.
There are many ways to vote – find out which is best for you.
Be ready to vote – make sure you have the right ID.
|Prior to and during advance polls||Four advance polling days||You can vote during four days of advance polls.|
|Final 6 days of election calendar||Date of the election
What to do if you didn't get a VIC
|Monday is election day – plan to vote.
Bring your VIC and the right ID.
You can still register and vote at your polling station on election day.
4.2 Communication Resources
4.2.1 Website: the focal point for information
The elections.ca website is the dominant feature on the election communications landscape. Accordingly, Elections Canada (EC) is increasingly focused on making the website a core service and information delivery channel for electors. It has simple designs, snapshot information, intuitive navigation and tools to make sharing information easy. All communication channels will direct electors to the website, where the homepage is dedicated to services and information for voters. It also offers access to pages for media, candidate's parties and third parties, employment, the Voter Information Service (VIS) and the Contact Us section. The employment section is featured prominently at the start of the election to help you recruit your office staff.
Voters can also get answers to their questions or email their questions to EC through the website. You can direct the public to download certain electoral forms, order publications, or send EC their questions, comments or complaints directly from the website. The public can also fill out a feedback/complaint form on polling site accessibility on the website. It is a reference point for the most accurate and up-to-date information on any election topic. The website will also be accessible on mobile devices and designed with sharing tools for both stakeholders and electors.
4.2.2 Direct mail
EC sends two information documents to electors:
- The voter information card (VIC) is sent to all electors who are registered; it tells them when, where and ways they can vote. The card is also sent to every elector who is added to the list of electors during the revision period.
- A brochure is mailed to all households in Canada. It provides information on voting dates (election day and advance polls), other ways to vote, eligibility requirements, acceptable pieces of identification at the poll and registration information. The brochure is also available in braille and audio.
The VIC is mailed on days 26 to 24; the brochure on days 17 to 14. The VIC is named the main source of information by 66% of electors, while 34% of electors recall receiving the reminder brochure (2011 Survey of Electors).
4.2.3 Advertising campaign
The advertising campaign reflects the most important message that EC wants to communicate, which is for voters to be ready to vote. The campaign outlines the key steps, provides the information required and encourages voters to take action to be ready to vote. Priority is given to the messages that equip voters with basic knowledge about registration, voting identification requirements, voting dates and ways to vote. You will receive advance notice of the dates, subjects and placement of advertisements so you can prepare for related enquiries.
4.2.4 Social media
In 2015, EC launched corporate accounts in both official languages on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube:
Facebook (active beginning July 2015)
EC will use these social media accounts to help increase awareness of where, when and ways to register and vote, voter identification requirements and employment opportunities, and to make it easy for followers to share digital communication products.
For information on how you can use social media, see EC's Code of Professional Conduct for Election Administrators.
4.2.5 In-person delivery of information
Voters appreciate it when they interact with familiar faces in their community. Feedback from stakeholders indicates that face-to-face contact from EC representatives, CROs and other field staff is positive and helps hard-to-reach groups of electors better understand when, where and ways to register and vote. Also, when EC representatives hand out communications products and information, it increases the circulation of accurate and trusted information from a reliable source.
4.2.6 Community Relations Officers
The ERP supports the CRO Program by providing the communications tools CROs need on the ground. A CRO toolkit provides guidance, key messaging and tips on how to inform electors on the electoral process, especially hard-to-reach electors. Each toolkit contains a helpful booklet about the most relevant election information and specific information for target groups of electors. It also indicates how electors can obtain EC resources and publications, either in printed format or online at elections.ca. Along with the toolkit, you will receive an assortment of brochures, posters and handouts to support CRO activities.
4.2.7 Publication Services
The Publication Services team produces many publications in a variety of formats aimed at a wide range of audiences on behalf of the rest of the agency. Many of these publications directly support your activities and those of the CRO. They provide event-specific information such as important dates, telephone numbers and locations, and details of procedures to be followed. To obtain materials, please contact Operations Elections Canada Support Network (ECSN).
4.2.8 Other languages and formats
All information products provided to returning offices are available in English and French. EC also provides information in 43 heritage and Aboriginal languages and in accessible formats. These resources can be downloaded at elections.ca, or you can contact Operations ECSN to order copies.
4.2.9 Media relations
The External Relations team provides media relations and issues management support to EC during a federal election. A team of RMAs are available to support you and the FLOs in communicating with the public through the media.
As part of EC's communications efforts, FLOs are the main point of contact if you need to respond to media during the course of a federal election. You may be called upon to answer general information questions from media. You are authorized to give the media basic information, such as poll locations, voting hours and the process for voting by special ballot. You may also direct the media to the EC website at elections.ca.
If you receive a media request for an interview or additional information, you must:
- Take the reporter's information (name, phone number, media outlet, subject and deadline) and advise him or her that the request will be forwarded to an EC media advisor.
- Forward the information to the FLO, who will work with the RMA and the Electoral Media Centre (EMC) to decide whether the interview should proceed, who will conduct it and/or what approved information will be given as a response. FLOs and RMAs are the designated spokespersons for EC and together determine the best approaches to respond to media issues and requests.
You should be aware of the following regarding media relations and issues management:
- Keep your FLO up to date on media requests and/or issues that may be of interest to the media or that require proactive media engagement.
- Read guidelines to implement the Media in the Polls policy; it allows a pool media photographer and videographer access to a polling station to get a visual of a leader of a registered party or a candidate running in the same riding as the party leader voting.
- Allow media to take photographs or video from the doorways of a polling place, as long as they do not impede electors and do not compromise the secrecy of the vote. Please note that media are asked to contact you before taking photographs or video on site. Working ahead with the media for these types of requests can allow you more flexibility in directing media to the best locations for their needs.
- When in doubt, always contact your regional FLO or RMA.
4.2.10 Public Enquiries
During a general election the Public Enquiries Unit (PEU) uses a three-tier service delivery model to manage and respond to public enquiries and complaints. Services are available seven days a week, from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Voters are encouraged to visit elections.ca where they may find the answer to many of their questions. Integrated voice and web systems, supported by a central database, give Canadians access day and night, seven days a week.
A telephone Voice Response System (VRS) provides Tier 1 services offering pre-recorded answers and scripts. Enquiries not answered by the VRS are escalated to Tier 2 agents who provide responses to the most frequently asked questions. Questions beyond the Tier 2 scope of support are escalated to Tier 3 PEU agents at EC Headquarters (ECHQ). Tier 3 PEU agents will triage escalated enquiries or complaints, responding whenever possible or escalating them as required to subject matter experts (SME) at ECHQ.
EC gives the public multiple communication channels to contact the PEU.
4.2.11 Important communications telephone contacts
|Contact||Telephone number||When to use|
|Media Relations, EC||1-877-877-9515||The general number that can be provided to all media. It will connect the journalist to HQ or to an RMA.|
|Media Relations internal support line||1-877-877-8318||For urgent media-related issues if FLOs are not available. This number is only to be used by you, FLOs and RMAs.|
|EC Public Enquiries Centre||1‐800‐463‐6868
|A toll-free line for the general public in Canada and the United States
For translation of electoral information.
|EC Public Enquiries Centre||TTY: 1-800-361-8935||For the general public, deaf or hard of hearing (toll free in Canada and the United States).|
|EC Public Enquiries Centre||001-800-514-6868||A toll free line for the general public calling from Mexico.|
|EC general reception (EC in Gatineau)||1-800-267-7360 or 613-993-2975||A toll-free or regular business line for the general public.|
4.3 Communications Checklist
4.3.1 Before the election
- Become familiar with the timing and themes for the election's communications campaign to prepare for potential related enquiries.
- Become familiar with the communications products and initiatives designed for targeted groups of electors.
- Become familiar with polling site accessibility criteria and commitments that EC has made to ensure that voting sites are barrier-free.
- Become familiar with the CRO toolkit and its contents and the promotional products sent to returning offices for distribution to local organizations and the public in general.
- Determine whether the Media in the Polls policy applies to your ED (if you have a leader of a registered political party in your ED) and become familiar with it.
4.3.2 During the election
- Become familiar with the information on the website and the web services such as the Voter Information Service and E-Registration.
- Contact the FLO (or if not available, the RMA) if you need help with the media.
- Report immediately to the FLO any questions received from media representatives, requests for media visits or interviews, or issues that occur throughout the electoral event that may interest media.
- Be prepared to assist in public relations initiatives designed to increase awareness of and access to the voting process.
- Be prepared to receive requests from the community for assistance in developing and carrying out voter awareness programs.
- If translation of electoral information is required, contact 1-800-463-6868 or fax requests to 1-800-267-8549.
- a Become familiar with official languages requirements and respect them in all the activities. (Refer to Chapter 3, Official Languages.)
- Enquires from the public, candidates, political parties and official agents that are outside your area of responsibility should be referred to Public Enquiries in Gatineau (1-800-463-6868) or to the EC Website (elections.ca).
- Be prepared to receive calls from electors requesting information on the accessibility of their polling place.
- Ensure the distribution of communications tools for assisting the CROs and FLOs in communications activities.
4.3.3 After the election
- Evaluate the success of the Electoral Reminder Program initiatives and materials. Performance indicators and guidance will be provided to evaluate electoral events.