open Secondary menu

Performance Report – For the period ending March 31, 2012

Section I: Agency Overview

Raison d'κtre

The Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, commonly known as Elections Canada, is an independent, non-partisan agency that reports directly to Parliament. Its mandate is to:


In fulfilling its mandate, Elections Canada appoints, trains and supports returning officers and retains the services of 30 field liaison officers across Canada. It also maintains the National Register of Electors, which is used to prepare preliminary lists of electors at the start of electoral events, as well as electoral geography information, which provides the basis for maps and other geographic products used during electoral events.

The agency also:

In addition, the Chief Electoral Officer appoints the Commissioner of Canada Elections. The role of the Commissioner is to protect the integrity of the electoral process by ensuring that the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act are complied with and enforced. The Commissioner carries out his or her duties independent of any political or government interference and is assisted by investigators, lawyers and administrative personnel. In carrying out the Office of the Commissioner's mandate, the Commissioner is guided by the principles of independence, impartiality, fairness and good faith.

The Chief Electoral Officer also appoints the Broadcasting Arbitrator. The Broadcasting Arbitrator is responsible for allocating free and paid broadcasting time among political parties and for arbitrating disputes that may arise between parties and broadcasters.

Strategic Outcome and Program Activity Architecture

Elections Canada has a single strategic outcome supported by the following Program Activity Architecture (PAA):1

Strategic Outcome and Program Activity Architecture

Program Activity Architecture – Text version

Organizational Priorities

Priority Type Program Activity
Maintain readiness to deliver electoral events Previously committed to ALL
In the period following the 40th general election on October 14, 2008, the agency improved and conducted various readiness activities. These ensured that:
  • returning officers felt better prepared and ready to conduct the election
  • the agency could better realize efficiencies while maintaining an adequate level of readiness
  • the National Register of Electors was continually updated
Leading up to the 41st general election on May 2, 2011, Elections Canada maintained a high level of preparedness at all times, while reducing readiness costs, which were $4.7 million less than those for the previous general election.

The overall quality of the National Register of Electors continued to be very high. The agency estimates that 92.5 percent of eligible electors were on the preliminary lists and that 83 percent were registered at their current address. These estimates exceeded its targets of 92 percent and 80 percent, respectively, and were almost identical to those for the previous election.

Priority Type Program Activity
Continue to work toward our strategic objectives Previously committed to ALL
In response to the ruling in the case of Hughes v. Elections Canada, the agency provided improved accessibility training for all election workers, implemented measures to ensure that polling sites remained accessible throughout election day and implemented an accessibility feedback process.

For the 41st general election, the Chief Electoral Officer approved the use of 20 polling sites with no level access, compared to 40 for the 40th general election. Post-election surveys found that virtually all voters, including those with disabilities, found their polling site to be physically accessible. As with the 39th and 40th general elections, almost all voters in the 41st general election reported that the distance to their voting location2 was convenient.

One administrative change facilitated proof of identification, particularly for seniors: it allowed the use of the voter information card (VIC), in combination with another piece of authorized identification, to facilitate proof of identity and address for specific categories of electors, including students on campus, Aboriginal electors on reserves and electors in seniors' residences. This initiative, in addition to the agency's new outreach efforts targeted at seniors living in residences and long-term care facilities, helped to reduce the barriers to voting faced by these groups.

Elections Canada provided support and technical expertise to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs as it reviewed the report Responding to Changing Needs – Recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Following the 40th General Election. It attended Committee meetings, responded to questions from members and provided additional information and analysis as requested by the Committee. On February 27, 2012, the Committee tabled its report on legislative change to modernize the electoral process, and it endorsed the vast majority of the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations.

Priority Type Program Activity
Enable the electoral boundaries readjustment process to be launched Previously committed to Electoral Operations
The planning and preparatory phase of the electoral boundaries readjustment process was successfully completed in 2011–2012. This included providing support to Parliament during the legislative reform of the process, creating a website and developing specialized geographic software applications for use by the 10 independent commissions.

Key stakeholders were informed of the process during parliamentary caucus briefings, and the Library of Parliament disseminated information to members of Parliament and their staff.

The 10 electoral boundaries commissions were established by the Governor in Council on February 21, 2012. That day, the Chief Electoral Officer provided the census returns to the commission chairs, thereby launching the readjustment process.

These activities coincided with the redistribution launch conference, held on February 21 and 22, 2012. The conference acquainted the commissions with the redistribution process, outlined the administrative and technical support in place at Elections Canada to enable the process and provided an opportunity to exchange information about the process.

Priority Type Program Activity
Support excellence in talent management New Internal Services
Elections Canada completed the second year of its four-year human resources strategy. It gave its employees opportunities for professional and skills development, language training and health and safety training. Its recognition program honoured employees through instant awards, long service awards and the Chief Electoral Officer's Merit Awards. Efforts continued to increase the representation of designated groups, particularly women. Analysis of human resources and health and safety trends, completed mid-year and at year-end, showed that no major issues needed to be addressed. The agency will continue to focus on professional development to ensure that employees are able to meet the evolving challenges of their positions.

Priority Type Program Activity
Improve internal processes and consolidate agency offices New Internal Services
Elections Canada created a cross-sector committee structure to oversee corporate IT projects, with a particular focus on interdependencies, and developed a project management methodology to meet the needs of project teams and adopt best practices. It also continued to reinforce the governance of major internal initiatives to renew program infrastructure as well as carry out projects aimed at improving the preparation, administration and conduct of electoral events. As planned, the agency implemented a new corporate directive on managing projects that is aligned with recent Treasury Board policies on managing projects and investments. These initiatives allowed us to optimize resources and achieve significant cost savings.

Elections Canada continued the planning required to consolidate its offices into a new facility in Gatineau in the summer of 2013. This project achieved all of its planned milestones in 2011–2012, including delivering budget estimates, space requirements and floor plans; determining IT infrastructure requirements; and holding discussions with other tenants to identify opportunities for shared services.

Priority Type Program Activity
Make full and optimal use of our resources Previously committed to Internal Services
In response to the need for fiscal restraint, Elections Canada took measures in 2011–2012 to reduce its annual operating budget by 8 percent starting in 2012–2013. These reductions do not include expenditures that fall outside its annual operating budget – namely, those related to:
  • transfer payments required by statute
  • delivery of electoral events
  • readjustment of electoral boundaries
  • relocation of its offices to Gatineau in 2013
  • compliance and enforcement activities of the Commissioner of Canada Elections
The agency achieved these reductions by:
  • reducing the budget available to time-limited initiatives
  • requiring programs to take a variety of measures to achieve efficiencies and absorb maintenance costs for recently delivered IT applications
  • extending the time frame for the development and delivery of various programs and corporate initiatives and reviewing all programs to ensure that resources are focused on the highest priorities linked to its mandate
Elections Canada has also maximized use of its resources through a strategic alliance with Elections Ontario.

Together with Elections Ontario, Elections Canada developed and launched Voting Rules! This civic education pilot program teaches students about democracy, voting, elections, government and active citizenship through experiential lessons in an engaging graphic-novel format.

The coincidence of a majority federal government and a minority provincial government in Ontario has significantly altered the agency's plans to coordinate polling sites. Analysis has shown that the most effective approach at present is to share polling site address and accessibility data.

Elections Canada remains committed to collaborating with electoral agencies in other jurisdictions.

Risk Analysis

Elections Canada's 2011–2012 Report on Plans and Priorities identified two main risks: pursuing longer-term changes in the context of a minority government and further fiscal restraint measures. Following is a brief overview of how it managed these risks and what the implications are for its performance.

Previously Identified Risks

Pursuing Longer-Term Changes in the Context of a Minority Government

The 41st general election required Elections Canada to temporarily suspend longer-term improvements to the electoral framework. However, it is pleased that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs restarted and completed its review of the recommendations for legislative change submitted by the Chief Electoral Officer to Parliament in 2010. The Committee endorsed the vast majority of those recommendations.

With the current majority government, a fixed date for the next general election of October 2015 and a return to election readiness scheduled for the spring of 2015, the agency now has a window of opportunity to pursue longer-term improvements to its services and the electoral framework.

Further Fiscal Restraint Measures

Elections Canada has responded to the spirit of the federal government's deficit reduction action plan. It took steps in 2011–2012 to reduce its annual operating budget beginning in 2012–2013, as outlined in the Chief Electoral Officer's January 2012 letter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and in his appearance before the Committee on May 29, 2012.

New for the Reporting Period

Elections Canada's focus in 2011–2012 was conducting the 41st general election, held on May 2, 2011, and carrying out post-election activities. The two following issues arose from that election and required the agency to exert significant efforts over that period.

Alleged Fraudulent Telephone Calls

During and following the election, Elections Canada received numerous complaints about both automated and live telephone calls. Some complaints alleged that callers, falsely claiming to be from Elections Canada, reported changes in poll location when in fact there were no such changes. Other complaints alleged that electors felt harassed by calls falsely purporting to be from a particular candidate or party, either because of the time or recurrence of the calls or because of their tone.

An investigation was launched into these complaints, and it remains a priority for the Commissioner of Canada Elections. Elections Canada will submit a report on this issue to Parliament by the end of the 2012–2013 fiscal year. This report will examine some of the challenges posed by the use of new information and communications technology by participants in the electoral process, and it will suggest improvements to the legal framework to help address these challenges.

Etobicoke Centre Contested Election

The Conservative candidate in Etobicoke Centre (Ontario) was elected by a margin of only 26 votes, and a judicial recount confirmed his election. In June 2011, the Liberal candidate filed an application in court, asking that the election be declared null and void and that a by-election be called within six months of the date of the court's decision. The judge hearing the application noted that the "election was conducted by responsible public officials and well-intentioned individuals, who were motivated by nothing less than a desire to do the job properly." He also stated, "Given the complexity of a federal election, [...] it is understandable that mistakes will be made." The mistakes in this case led the judge to discount 79 votes and overturn the election.

An appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was launched, and a special hearing was conducted on July 10. Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, Elections Canada is placing a high priority on strengthening measures to improve compliance with the procedures and standards applicable on election day.

Summary of Performance

2011–2012 Financial Resources ($ thousands)
Planned Spending Total Authorities Actual Spending*
122,351 352,138 349,352

*Refer to the Agency Spending Trend section on the next page for an explanation of the variance between planned and actual spending.

2011–2012 Human Resources (Full-Time Equivalents, or FTEs)
Planned Actual Difference
506 572 66

Performance Summary, Excluding Internal Services
Program Activity 2010–2011
Actual Spending
($ thousands)
2011–2012 ($ thousands)
Main Estimates Planned Spending Total Authorities Actual Spending*
Electoral Operations 52,728 35,030 35,030 204,824 202,833
Regulation of Electoral Activities 37,272 38,399 38,399 103,477 102,958
Electoral Engagement 9,809 8,583 8,583 7,947 7,893
Total 99,809 82,012 82,012 316,248 313,684

*Refer to the Agency Spending Trend section on the next page for an explanation of the variance between planned and actual spending.

Performance Summary for Internal Services
Program Activity 2010–2011
Actual Spending
($ thousands)
2011–2012 ($ thousands)
Main Estimates Planned Spending Total Authorities Actual Spending*
Internal Services 47,209 40,339 40,339 35,890 35,668

*The decrease in actual spending between 2010–2011 and 2011–2012 is partly the result of refocusing resources to deliver the 41st general election (part of the Electoral Operations program activity). In addition, some expenditures were classified to the program activity they specifically supported in 2011–2012.

Expenditure Profile

Elections Canada's Financial Framework

The agency's dual funding mechanism and planning practices reflect its unique mandate. Elections Canada is funded in part by an annual appropriation that covers the salaries of its permanent staff and is not affected by the electoral cycle. Given the unpredictability of electoral events, it also has a statutory authority that allows it to draw directly from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

Elections Canada's statutory authority covers all of its other expenses, including the additional expenses incurred in conducting elections, reimbursing election expenses to eligible candidates and parties, and enforcing the Canada Elections Act. These election expenses are not included in its planned spending.

Agency Spending Trend

Agency Spending Trend

Agency Spending Trend – Text version

The graph above shows the spending trend for the last five fiscal years. For 2011–2012, the variance between actual spending ($349.4 million) and planned spending ($122.4 million) is largely a result of conducting and administering the 41st general election. Additional expenses were funded from the statutory authority that allows the agency to draw directly from the Consolidated Revenue Fund; they were not included in Elections Canada's initial estimates because when those estimates were drawn up, the timing of the election was unknown.

Expenditures in 2011–2012 show a net increase of $202.4 million over 2010–2011, largely as a result of delivering the 41st general election. While spending related to a general election spans several fiscal years, the bulk of the costs of the election were incurred in 2011–2012. Excluding election costs, the agency reduced expenditures in 2011–2012 to $21.9 million less than in 2010–2011. This decrease is mainly a result of reducing the cost of electoral readiness activities, transformative projects, and operation and maintenance expenditures at Elections Canada in Ottawa.

Cost of the 41st General Election

At the time of submitting this report to Parliament, the estimated cost of delivering the 41st general election was $289 million or $11.91 for each registered elector.

Approximately half of this cost ($144.6 million) went toward paying 226,000 workers – returning officers, staff at local Elections Canada offices and poll workers – and toward paying for goods and services required in the 308 electoral districts across Canada, including printing, renting approximately 15,000 polling sites and leasing furniture and equipment.

It is projected that another large amount ($60.9 million) will be paid to eligible political parties and candidates for the partial reimbursement of their election expenses.

A third category of costs is split into two subcategories:

Estimates by Vote

For information on Elections Canada's organizational votes and/or statutory expenditures, please see the publication Public Accounts of Canada 2011 (Volume II).3

1 On August 6, 2010, Elections Canada received approval from Treasury Board to modify its PAA for 2011–2012. For a comparison of the old architecture with the new, see the PAA Crosswalk, included in the 2011–2012 Report on Plans and Priorities, at rep/dpr/rpp2011&document=paa&lang=e.

2 In the Survey of Electors Following the 41st General Election, the term "voting location" applies to polling stations, advance polling stations, and local Elections Canada offices.

3 An electronic version can be downloaded from the Public Works and Government Services Canada website at