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Retrospective Report on the 42nd General Election of October 19, 2015

2. Political Entities' Experience

This section describes the key experiences of various political entities: candidates, their official agents and political parties. It presents specific observations about their experiences and outlines a path forward to improved services in the 43rd general election.

2.1. Candidates

Key Findings

  • A total of 1,792 candidates ran in the 42nd general election, compared to 1,587 in 2011 and 1,601 in 2008.
  • While four out of five candidates found it easy to comply with nomination requirements, some continued to indicate challenges in meeting them.
  • Training sessions held before and after the election enhanced the ability of candidates and their agents to fulfill their legal responsibilities. Online training would help to increase participation in these sessions.
  • Overall, the majority of candidates appreciated the services received from returning officers, local offices, the candidates' section of the Elections Canada website and the toll-free hotline.

Context

In the lead-up to the 42nd general election, Elections Canada focused on informing prospective candidates and their official agents about changes to the Canada Elections Act, especially about changes to their specific obligations under the Act. It sought to improve their ease of compliance by providing them with updated training and tools as well as ongoing support.

This section provides information on candidates' experiences with the nomination process and the appointment of official agents and auditors. It also reviews levels of satisfaction with support services and the statement of electors who voted.

Nomination process

In all, 80 percent of candidates found it easy to comply with the nomination requirements under the Act, which is consistent with 2011 (81 percent) and 2008 (79 percent). Of the 18 percent who had difficulties, the most common reasons were difficulty gathering the required signatures, and too much paperwork or bureaucracy. In 2015, fewer candidates (89 percent) were satisfied with their returning officer's timeliness in processing nominations, compared to 97 percent in 2011 and 96 percent in 2008.

The vast majority of candidates (90 percent) downloaded the nomination forms from Elections Canada's website rather than requesting printed versions from returning officers, according to internal monitoring. This is up from 78 percent in 2011.

Appointment of official agents and auditors

The majority of candidates (80 percent) did not have difficulties in finding an official agent, compared to 82 percent in 2011 and 77 percent in 2008. Of those who encountered difficulties, the most common reason, which is similar to previous elections, was trouble finding someone willing or available to take on the role. The next most common reason was trouble finding someone qualified for the work.

Likewise, the majority of candidates (86 percent) did not have difficulties in finding an auditor. Of those who encountered difficulties, the most common reason was trouble finding someone willing or available to take on the role (51 percent), followed by trouble finding someone qualified (39 percent). There is no comparative data from previous elections.

Support to candidates and official agents

Working toward a fixed election date made it easier for Elections Canada to offer just-in-time training for candidates' official agents. Two rounds of political financing training sessions were held in 11 cities across the country: "Getting Started" sessions were held in July and August, and "Closing the Campaign" sessions were held after the election. There were 574 registrations for the former sessions and 785 registrations for the latter.

Almost all participants (99 percent) were satisfied with the "Getting Started" sessions, and just as many (98 percent) were satisfied with the "Closing the Campaign" sessions. Virtually all who participated in a "Getting Started" session (99 percent) found that the session had met its objective. Furthermore, participants had significantly higher levels of confidence in their own ability to fulfill their tasks after the sessions.

During the election, 80 percent of candidates contacted Elections Canada through their local Elections Canada office, 64 percent used the candidates' section of the agency's website and 42 percent used the toll-free hotline for candidates.

The majority of candidates were satisfied with their interactions with Elections Canada. About 74 percent expressed satisfaction with the overall quality of service received. This was somewhat less than in 2011 (81 percent) and 2008 (79 percent).

At the local level, 84 percent of candidates were satisfied with their interactions with the returning officer, and 78 percent were satisfied with the way the returning officer ran the election. These figures are similar to the 41st and 40th general elections.

Distribution of the statement of electors who voted

Since 2008, poll workers have been tasked with filling out a statement of electors who voted at their polling station, which involves circling the voter's identifier number on a "bingo sheet." The poll workers make copies available to candidates' representatives at the end of each advance voting day as well as periodically during election day. At advance polling stations in 2015, once polls closed, Elections Canada allowed candidates' representatives to take a picture of the statements completed during the day on a portable device.

For the 42nd general election, the Canada Elections Act was amended to require that returning officers collect all original statements from all polling stations in the electoral district, photocopy them, and make a set of copies available to each candidate on request after the election.

Providing the statements to candidates, especially collecting and reproducing all originals after election day, was complex and time-consuming. Among candidates, 70 percent found the statements received during or after the election to be useful, according to the Survey of Candidates. After the election, two political parties reported not having received copies of all original statements for 122 and 132 electoral districts, respectively. Meanwhile, many returning officers indicated that no or few candidates actually asked for all the original statements. This means that, in many cases, copies were not requested but nonetheless had to be available.

Producing and distributing statements of electors involves many manual steps and is prone to administrative omissions. Elections Canada recognizes that the provision of statements was not optimal and is committed to exploring solutions for improvement. Enhanced returning officer training and better information for candidates and political parties could make the current system work better, but may not be enough to efficiently address the problems.

Ultimately, the system for providing information on electors who voted should be revisited. The introduction of electronic voters lists at the polls would create opportunities to record and share real-time voter information with political parties in a cheaper, greener and more efficient way.

2.2. Political Parties

Key Findings

  • Political parties were generally satisfied with Elections Canada's services, and they confirmed many of the observations identified elsewhere in this report.
  • Parties were highly satisfied with the process Elections Canada used to issue written opinions, guidelines and interpretation notes (OGIs).
  • Some parties indicated that they did not receive all statements of electors who voted.
  • Parties considered the service provided to them through Elections Canada's legal and general hotlines to be generally good and effective.

Context

Before and after the 42nd general election, Elections Canada asked the Advisory Committee of Political Parties for feedback on how it was preparing for and how it actually conducted the event, respectively. It also collaborated with political parties to implement the new legislative requirements for OGIs.

This section provides information on political parties' views about OGIs in particular, and about the conduct of the 42nd general election more broadly.

Written opinions, guidelines and interpretation notes

As a result of new legislative requirements introduced in 2014, Elections Canada began to issue OGIs on the application of the Canada Elections Act to political entities. This activity allowed the agency to address some of the more complex issues, such as those related to political financing, candidate and leader debates, election advertising on the Internet, the application of election advertising rules to telephone calls, and the use of member of Parliament resources during an election campaign. The process of issuing an OGI is both consultative and transparent. Drafts are sent to all registered parties and to the Commissioner of Canada Elections for comment. Elections Canada responds to these comments and considers them when it formulates the final version. The draft, all comments and responses, and the final OGI are published in an online registry.Footnote 20 The issuance of OGIs helps to make the administration of the Canada Elections Act consistent and predictable.

On June 9, 2015, the OGI Steering Committee (a part of the Advisory Committee of Political Parties) was convened to discuss and provide advice on the new OGI process. Elections Canada received positive comments on the organization of the OGI process in general. Members felt that it contributed to building bridges between Elections Canada and the parties, and to achieving a common understanding of respective viewpoints. They particularly appreciated the 30-day pre-consultation period.

Conduct of the election

Following the election, members of the Advisory Committee of Political Parties reconvened to share their experiences and comments.Footnote 21 Key highlights of their feedback on services to political entities included the following:

Generally consistent with other feedback discussed in this report, the committee's observations on the election itself included the following highlights:

2.3. Conclusion and Next Steps

The number of candidates running in general elections since 2008 continues to increase. As with recent elections, most candidates complied easily with nomination requirements during the 42nd general election and were able to recruit official agents and auditors. The majority of candidates continue to appreciate the services received from Elections Canada, and especially from the returning officer in their electoral district. For the next election, the agency will explore the possibility of creating an online candidates' portal to further improve services and offer new options, such as filing nomination papers online.

Training sessions for candidates' official agents were effective, and the upcoming transition to online formats promises to enhance participation. The moderate level of attendance points to the difficulty of delivering in-person training across a vast country. It was estimated that approximately 48 percent of the target audience lived within 60 km of one of the training sessions. To address this logistical challenge, Elections Canada will need to develop an online training program that complements or replaces the in-person sessions.

Both candidates and political parties confirmed many of the key points outlined in this report and provided additional details. They expressed satisfaction with how Elections Canada responded to the new requirement in the Canada Elections Act to issue OGIs, in particular with the 30-day pre-consultation period. Elections Canada will continue to improve the OGI process in collaboration with political entities prior to the 43rd general election.

Some political entities commented that, during the election, the statements of electors who voted were not always properly completed or available in a timely manner. The agency will review its procedures in this regard. In addition, Elections Canada will explore how to enhance the responsiveness of its general hotline for candidates and parties.


Footnote 20 View the registry of OGIs at elections.ca > Resource Centre > Opinions, Guidelines and Interpretation Notes.

Footnote 21 The full meeting summary is available at elections.ca > About Us > Advisory Groups > Advisory Committee of Political Parties.