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The March 1996 By-Elections – Technological Innovation – Reaping the Rewards


FIRST PAST THE POST

The final (post-election) list of electors, including polling day registrants and electors registered to vote by special ballot, contained a total of 294 796 names. A total of 139 777 ballots were cast in the six electoral districts. Voter turnout tends to be lower in by-elections than in general elections, and this was the case here. In the 1993 general election, turnout was 70.9%; for these by-elections, it averaged 47.41%. Turnout was highest (54.87%) in the Lac-Saint-Jean riding, followed by Labrador (52.81%) and Papineau - Saint-Michel (52.31%). The lowest turnout was in Humber - St. Barbe - Baie Verte, where 40.49% of electors came to the polls.

From the beginning of the count to the end of the evening, each returning officer's office was linked by modem to the central Election Results System computer, which electronically swept the local systems at about 45-second intervals. As soon as the electronic files were received and consolidated in Ottawa, they were immediately relayed to the server, which posted them at the Elections Canada web site. Barely two minutes elapsed from the time the data were retrieved from a riding computer to posting on the Internet. The public and the media showed considerable interest in the results displayed on the Internet: in the three hours following the closing of the polls, close to 8 500 accesses to the Elections Canada home page were recorded, originating on every continent except Asia. Between March 26 and April 25, 14 952 additional accesses were recorded.

Canadian Press correspondents in each of the six returning offices received the preliminary results and phoned them in to the agency head office for immediate dissemination to local and national media via their wire service.

When the count was completed, five Liberal candidates had won, with the Lac-Saint-Jean seat going to the Bloc Québécois candidate.

STILL MORE TO DO

For the public and the journalists, the six by-elections were now in the past. For Elections Canada and the returning officers, as well as the candidates, the work continued.

On March 26, four of the six returning officers carried out an official addition, adding up the numbers from each polling station to verify the election-night tallies. The two other returning officers proceeded with their official additions on March 31. No judicial recount was requested. On the seventh day following the official addition in each riding, the returning officer declared the winner in that riding by signing the back of the writ and returning it to the Chief Electoral Officer in Ottawa, who published the results in the Canada Gazette between April 4 and April 12, 1996.

Table 2: List of candidates and individual results for March 1996 by-elections

Candidate Political affiliation Place of
residence
Occupation Votes
obtained
Percentage
of valid
votes
Etobicoke North
Roy Cullen
Joe Peschisolido
Mario Annecchini
Maxine Caron
Ron Gray
Sylvie Charbin
John C. Turmel
Liberal Party of Canada
Reform Party of Canada
Progressive Conservative Party of Canada
New Democratic Party
Christian Heritage Party of Canada
No affiliation
Abolitionnist Party of Canada
Toronto
Etobicoke
Brampton
Mississauga
Abbotsford
Toronto
Ottawa
Chartered Accountant
Businessman
Businessman
Retail
Writer
Electronics Assembler
Engineer
12 290
9 563
2 812
1 400
284
96
75
46.34
36.06
10.60
5.28
1.07
0.36
0.28
Humber - St. Barbe - Baie Verte
Gerry Byrne
Danny Kane
Deon Hancock
Coleen Dingwell-Corbin
Liberal Party of Canada
Progressive Conservative Party of Canada
Reform Party of Canada
New Democratic Party
Corner Brook
Corner Brook
Steady Brook
St. John's
Political Assistant
Radio Personality, Sales
Marketing Director
Volunteer, Unemployed
12 453
5 253
4 099
554
55.70
23.49
18.33
2.48
Labrador
Lawrence D. O'Brien
John Michael McGrath
Randy Collins
Darlene Gear-White
Alain Roy
Liberal Party of Canada
Reform Party of Canada
New Democratic Party
Progressive Conservative Party of Canada
Independant
Happy Valley -
Goose Bay
Happy Valley - Goose Bay
Labrador City
Happy Valley
Labrador
Councillor
Consultant
Staff Representative
Businesswoman
Industrial Electrician
4 032
3 027
1 974
867
63
40.47
30.38
19.81
8.70
0.63
Lac-Saint-Jean
Stéphan Tremblay
Clément Lajoie
Philippe Harris
Denis Simard
Karl Bélanger
Bloc Québécois
Liberal Party of Canada
Progressive Conservative Party of Canada
Reform Party of Canada
New Democratic Party
Alma
Saint-Bruno
Montréal
Repentigny
Québec
Bush Pilot
Transit Controller
Student
Lawyer
Student
20 777
5 846
205
175
136
76.56
21.54
0.76
0.64
0.50
Papineau - Saint-Michel
Pierre S. Pettigrew
Daniel Turp
Raymond Laurent
Nicole Roy-Arcelin
Martin Masse
Liberal Party of Canada
Bloc Québécois
New Democratic Party
Progressive Conservative Party of Canada
Reform Party of Canada
Outremont
Westmount
Montréal
Montréal
Montréal
Minister
Professor
Organizer
Nurse
Newswriter
15 330
8 787
899
608
272
59.20
33.93
3.47
2.35
1.05
Saint-Laurent - Cartierville
Stéphane Dion
Michel Sarra-Bournet
G. Garo Toubi
Shaul Petel
Carole Caron
Sara Mayo
Liberal Party of Canada
Bloc Québécois
Progressive Conservative Party of Canada
Reform Party of Canada
No affiliation
New Democratic Party
Montréal
Laval
Laval
Dollard-des-Ormeaux
Montréal
Montréal
Professor
Historian
Contractor
Teacher
Aircraft Electrician
Student
21 336
4 000
699
441
229
212
79.27
14.86
2.60
1.64
0.85
0.79

Returning officers also sent to Ottawa for payment all their remaining invoices for election expenses and office accounts. Elections Canada's Finance staff processed some 4 800 accounts related to by-election expenses. Cheques were issued for the rental of office space, for various suppliers and to some 4 100 Canadians who worked as election officials.

The official agent for each candidate has until four months after polling day (July 25, 1996) to submit a report of the candidate's campaign expenses and contributions. During the coming months, those 32 reports will be audited by Finance staff. Registered political parties will report on money spent by or on behalf of the party during the by-elections with their 1996 fiscal returns, to be filed within the first six months of 1997.

The Commissioner of Canada Elections began to investigate four complaints about infractions of the Canada Elections Act. The complaints related to absence of the official agent's name on campaign printed matter, destruction of a sign, campaign advertising during the blackout and an election sign that did not meet the rules.

Staff in Ottawa now turned their attention to preparing Elections Canada's statutory reports to Parliament. The final poll-by-poll results for each electoral district were verified and tabled. Returning officers and staff attended post-election evaluation sessions, to review programs and procedures and discuss changes which will improve their effectiveness for the next event.