Completing the Cycle of Electoral Reforms – Recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 38th General Election
Summary of the Chief Electoral Officer's Recommendations to Parliament
Chapter 1 – Operational Issues
1.1 An Advance Administrative Confirmation Process
The nomination confirmation process should be simplified and be possible to complete before the drop of a writ. This recommendation consists of four interrelated components:
- The nomination process should be reformed into a purely administrative registration process that can confirm an eligible person as a candidate for a given electoral district, in advance of the issue of a writ for the next election. This confirmation should be carried out by Elections Canada, rather than through a local returning officer.
- Confirmation of nomination should be a simple registration process that requires any eligible person seeking candidature to provide only the necessary contact and other administrative information. The individual seeking confirmation would be permitted to file the application himself or herself; there should be no requirement for electors' signatures in support of the nomination.
- Individuals who wish to run as a candidate in the next election should be permitted to confirm their status as a candidate before the drop of the writ. Once confirmed, they would be required to file with the Chief Electoral Officer annual reports of contributions until the year of the election in which they are confirmed as candidates.
- Confirmation as a candidate should be through the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer rather than through the individual returning officers. Where candidates wish, this would also permit the filing of applications by registered parties, including the filing of leaders' endorsements, and the paying of deposits for candidates, with the Chief Electoral Officer.
These individual recommendations should be viewed as components of a single reform.
1.2 Integration of the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer and Returning Officers
The Canada Elections Act should be amended to modify the appointment process for returning officers and to provide for the closer integration of the independent offices and the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer. Specifically, the Act should provide:
- that returning officers be selected and appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer, following a merit-based process, and that they be appointed for a period of 10 years, an appointment that could terminate earlier in case of death, resignation, ceasing to reside in the electoral district or removal from office (reasons for removal from office would be unchanged, except that they would be applied under the authority of the Chief Electoral Officer, following due process)
- that local election officers continue to be selected by the respective returning officers
- that the Chief Electoral Officer have the authority to appoint replacement returning officers to perform all or part of the duties of returning officers when he or she determines that a returning officer is unable for any reason to perform those duties, until such time as the returning officer is able to perform those duties or a new returning officer is appointed
The legal responsibility for the delivery of elections should be imposed upon the Chief Electoral Officer, rather than independently on each of the geographically limited 308 returning officers. This responsibility should be executed by the Chief Electoral Officer in each electoral district, with the assistance of the returning officers, according to who is in the better position to perform those tasks in light of the particular circumstances.
1.3 Expansion of the Statutory Budgetary Authorization
Section 553 of the Canada Elections Act should be amended to provide for statutory authority to pay all of Elections Canada's expenses related to the administration and enforcement of the Act out of the unappropriated funds forming part of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
As a corollary amendment, provision should be made to enhance the review function of the Auditor General as it applies to the operations of Elections Canada. The practice of the Chief Electoral Officer of reporting annually on the use of the statutory payment authority and of appearing before a House of Commons Committee to be examined thereon could also be statutorily codified.
1.4 Extension of the Adaptation Power
The period during which the Chief Electoral Officer is authorized to adapt the Canada Elections Act under section 17 for emergencies or unusual or unforeseen circumstances should be extended from the current period of the election to 90 days past the return of the writ.
1.5 Appointment of the Chief Electoral Officer
Consideration should be given to the Senate having a role in the appointment of the Chief Electoral Officer.
1.6 The Office of Assistant Chief Electoral Officer
The statutory office of Assistant Chief Electoral Officer should be removed from the Canada Elections Act.
1.7 Appointment of Revising Agents
Section 33 of the Canada Elections Act should be amended to remove the requirement that returning officers solicit names from registered parties in the hiring of revising agents.
1.8 The Right of Elections Canada Staff to Strike
Employees of the Chief Electoral Officer should not have the right to strike.
1.9 Hiring and Payment of Temporary Elections Canada Staff Hired Directly for Preparation and Conduct of Elections
Section 20 of the Canada Elections Act deals with the authority of the Chief Electoral Officer to hire additional employees and workers. It should be divided into two subsections: one subsection would deal with the additional individuals that the Chief Electoral Officer considers necessary for the direct preparation for, conduct of and reporting on an election; the second subsection would deal with other additional individuals needed for the exercise of the Chief Electoral Officer's powers, duties and functions under the Act.
The workers required specifically for the direct preparation for, conduct of and reporting on an election would be employed by the Chief Electoral Officer on a casual or temporary basis outside the scope of the Public Service Employment Act, which restricts the length of time for which such workers may be hired to between 90 and 125 days. The proposed approach is the same as that applicable to election officers under the Canada Elections Act.
The Chief Electoral Officer would retain the current authority to hire, on a casual or temporary basis, other additional persons considered necessary for the exercise of his or her powers, duties and functions under the Canada Elections Act, but the hiring of these individuals would remain subject to the applicable provisions of the Public Service Employment Act.
Section 542 should be amended to allow for the payment, under the existing Federal Elections Fees Tariff, of fees to workers hired by the Chief Electoral Officer for the direct preparation for and conduct of an election.
1.10 Greater Flexibility in the Establishment of Advance Polling Stations
It should be possible to establish an advance poll for a single polling division rather than requiring that the advance poll must be for two or more divisions.
1.11 Transfer Certificates and Accessibility
Section 159 of the Canada Elections Act should be amended to remove any time limit for application for a transfer certificate in the event that a polling station lacks level access.
1.12 Provision of Transfer Certificates
The Canada Elections Act should permit the issuance of a transfer certificate to any elector who presents himself or herself at the wrong polling station as a result of a change in the assignment of polling stations or advance polls that took place after the issuance of the original voter information card to the elector.
1.13 Establishment of Mobile Polling Stations
Subsection 538(5) of the Act should be expanded to allow for the creation of mobile polling stations for any institution that serves as the ordinary residence of its residents who, for reason of age, health or other circumstances giving rise to their residence in the institution, may have difficulties in getting to the regular polls.
1.14 Access to Multiple-residence Buildings, Gated Communities and Other Premises
The electoral access rights provided in section 81 of the Canada Elections Act should be expanded.
First, candidates' rights of access to multiple-residence buildings should be expanded beyond single buildings containing multiple residences, to include any collection of residences where access to any particular dwelling is controlled by someone other than the residents of this dwelling. This would encompass the new development of gated communities.
Second, section 81 should be extended to include election officials for electoral purposes during an election.
Third, any person who has control over premises to which the public is generally invited and who has permitted a registered or eligible party or a candidate to conduct election advertising in or on those premises in that year or in that election period, should provide, on request, a similar opportunity to all other registered or eligible parties and all other candidates for election in that electoral district in that same year or election period.
As a corollary, it should be made clear that permitting a registered or eligible party or candidate to conduct election advertising at less than commercial value in or on premises to which the public is generally invited does not constitute a contribution.
1.15 Right to Vote of Inmates Serving Sentences of Two Years or More
Sections 246 and 247 of the Canada Elections Act, which set out the process for voting in provincial correctional institutions, should be amended to provide a similar process for voting in federal institutions. This would ensure the existence of a process through which prisoners serving a sentence of two years or more might exercise their right to vote, pending a legislative response to the striking down of paragraph 4(c) by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2002.
1.16 Voting by Electors Absent from the Country for More Than Five Consecutive Years
The limitation contained in paragraph 11(d) of the Canada Elections Act that prohibits voting by persons who have been absent from Canada for five consecutive years or more, and who intend to return to Canada as residents, should be removed.
The Special Voting Rules for electors temporarily resident outside Canada found in Division 3 of Part 11 of the Act (more particularly sections 222, 223 and 226) should consequently be reviewed to allow these persons to apply for registration or to remain listed in the register of electors absent from Canada, which is maintained by the Chief Electoral Officer.
1.17 Review of the Special Voting Rules
Parliament should review the entire process for electors who do not fall under the specialized circumstances, detailed in Division 4 of the Special Voting Rules (ss. 231–243.1), to vote by special ballot. This should be a far-ranging review that considers whether the right, the process and the protections set out in those rules are appropriate to current needs and technological capabilities, with a view to ensuring that electors are best able to exercise their democratic rights.
1.18 Extension of the Limitation Period for the Prosecution of Offences
Section 514 of the Act should be amended to extend the period in which a prosecution under the Canada Elections Act may be instituted from 7 years to 10 years after the day on which the offence was committed.
1.19 Removing the Sunset Provision in Bill C-3
Section 26 of S.C. 2004, c. 24 (Bill C-3), the provision that automatically repeals, on May 15, 2006, the amendments to the Canada Elections Act made by Bill C-3, should be repealed.
Chapter 2 – Registration of Electors
2.1 Registration Through Income Tax Returns
There should be express statutory authority for electors to communicate with Elections Canada, through their income tax returns, for the purposes of registering with the National Register of Electors or of updating their information in the Register.
2.2 Income Tax Returns as a Source of Information About Deceased Electors
There should be express statutory language to permit the provision to Elections Canada of the names, addresses and dates of birth reported on income tax returns of deceased tax filers, where the deceased elector had consented to the sharing of such information on his or her last filed return.
2.3 Removal of the Need for Signed Certification
Subsections 48(2) and 49(1) of the Canada Elections Act should be amended to replace the existing requirements for an elector's signed certification that he or she is an elector with a general requirement that the Chief Electoral Officer should not add a person to the National Register of Elections unless he or she is satisfied that the person is qualified to be an elector.
2.4 Proof of Identity When Registered at Residence
Paragraphs 101(1)(a) and (b) of the Canada Elections Act should be amended to provide, where a request to add an elector's name to the preliminary list of electors is made by that elector, or by another elector who lives at the same residence, that where evidence of proof of identity is not available, identity may be established by the elector providing a written affirmation in the prescribed form.
2.5 Inter-district Changes of Address
Subsection 101(6) of the Canada Elections Act should be extended to all changes of address by registered electors – both inter- and intra-district changes.
2.6 Authority to Determine When to Send Out Voter Information Cards
The timing of the issuance of the voter information card under section 95 of the Canada Elections Act should be amended to provide that the Chief Electoral Officer should fix the date by which voter information cards must be issued in each electoral district. The Act would further provide that the Chief Electoral Officer must specify the earliest date possible after all of the information that must be set out on the card is known in a given electoral district; in any event, this must be no later than a date sufficient to provide reasonable notice of the advance polls. On that date, the card would be sent to the electors on the list.
2.7 Addition of Year of Birth on Lists of Electors Used on Polling Days
Subsection 107(2) should be amended to add that the revised and official lists of electors, used at the advanced and regular polls, must indicate the year of birth of each elector. This additional information would not be included on copies of these lists provided to candidates.
2.8 Retention of Statutorily Authorized Personal Identifiers for Later Use
Section 46 of the Canada Elections Act should be amended to permit the Chief Electoral Officer to retain and employ, for purposes of updating the National Register of Electors, information that is provided from any source authorized under the Act but which is not incorporated into the Register under section 44.
2.9 Release of Information from the National Register of Electors in the Interests of Public Safety, Health or Security
The Chief Electoral Officer should be authorized to release personal information from the National Register of Electors where, in his opinion, this is necessary in the interests of public safety, health or security.
Any such release should be required to be reported in the next report made by the Chief Electoral Officer under section 534 of the Canada Elections Act to the Speaker of the House of Commons, except to the extent necessary to protect public security.
2.10 Use of Personal Information by Political Parties and Members of Parliament
Parties and members of Parliament, who are provided with lists of electors under section 45 or 109 of the Canada Elections Act, should be permitted to share the personal information recorded therein with other members of Parliament and registered electoral district associations of the same party.
A party, a member of Parliament or a registered electoral district association that receives personal information under the above authority should be able to use it for any electoral purpose, including the solicitation of contributions. However, it should prohibit that the information be used for any commercial purpose.
2.11 Stable, Unique Identifier for Electors
The Canada Elections Act should be amended to permit Elections Canada to assign each individual in the National Register of Electors a randomly generated, unique and stable identifier. This identifier would be included in the generation of any lists of electors under the Act and would be shared with political parties, candidates and members of Parliament, along with other Register information.
As a corollary provision, the Act should be further amended to prohibit the use of the electoral identifier number by any person other than for the purposes of updating the Register or a federal or provincial electoral list.
2.12 Distribution of Lists of Electors to Registered and Eligible Parties
Sections 45 and 109 of the Canada Elections Act should be amended to provide for the distribution of lists of electors to all registered and eligible parties, whether or not they have run a candidate in the previous election in the district for which they are requesting a copy of the list.
2.13 Distribution of Additional Lists of Electors to Candidates on Day 19
Following the close of nominations, returning officers should be directed to provide updated lists of electors, in electronic format, to all candidates by the 19th day preceding polling day.
2.14 Distribution of Preliminary Lists of Electors to Parties at the Issue of Writ
The Canada Elections Act should be amended to authorize the Chief Electoral Officer to provide any registered party or eligigible, on request, at the same time or after the provision of the preliminary list of electors to returning officers, with an electronic copy of the preliminary list of electors for any electoral district in which a writ has been dropped.
2.15 Change in the Date for the Annual Distribution of Lists of Electors
Section 45 of the Canada Elections Act should be amended to provide that the annual lists of electors must be provided to parties and members of Parliament by November 15 each year.
2.16 Exception Period for Production of Annual Lists of Electors
The three-month exception period following an election, during which the October 15 lists need not be produced, should be extended to six months.
2.17 Use of Returning Officers Outside of Elections for Updating Initiatives
The Canada Elections Act should be amended to provide that returning officers may perform tasks relating to the National Register of Electors between election periods, as requested by the Chief Electoral Officer.
2.18 Updating Lists During Elections on the Basis of Information from the National Register of Electors
The Act should expressly provide that returning officers can update lists of electors by adding or deleting electors, or making other relevant changes, on the basis of information provided from the National Register of Electors.
2.19 Provincial Use of Data from the National Register of Electors
The fact that neither sections 55 nor 56 preclude the use of provincial lists of electors according to provincial law should be made clear in the Canada Elections Act.
2.20 Sharing Elector Data with Provincial Electoral Authorities for Updating Purposes
The current authority in section 55 of the Canada Elections Act for the Chief Electoral Officer to enter into agreements with provincial electoral authorities governing the giving of information contained in the National Register of Electors should be expanded to include all information from which the Chief Electoral Officer is authorized to update the Register under sections 46 of the Act.
2.21 Sharing Neutral Address and Geographic Information
The Chief Electoral Officer should be empowered to share, with other federal, provincial and territorial government agencies, geographic data and products and other information prepared in the course of performing his duties, if these do not constitute personal information about identifiable individuals.
2.22 Verification of Eligibility at Polls
Section 144 of the Canada Elections Act should be amended to include the authority to require a written affidavit or solemn affirmation of eligibility by a potential elector where reasonable doubt is raised about that person's eligibility at a poll.
Chapter 3 – Broadcasting
3.1 A Simpler, Fairer Entitlement to Broadcasting Rights
The rules for apportioning paid and free-time political broadcasting should be made simpler and fairer, and allow the electorate adequate access to the views of existing and emerging parties, through the following measures:
- All registered parties should have the right to purchase up to 100 minutes of paid time from each broadcaster at the lowest unit rate.
- Each broadcaster should have a maximum cap of 300 minutes. Where requests of all parties amount to more than 300 minutes for one station, their requests for time at that station should be pro-rated.
- All registered parties should then have the right to purchase additional paid time from each broadcaster at the lowest unit rate, subject to availability.
- Party ability to purchase paid time would be subject to their election expenses limits.
- Each broadcaster (as opposed to network) that accepts advertising should be required to apportion 60 minutes of free time in prime time equally among registered parties.
Chapter 4 – Financial Matters
4.1 Examination and Inquiry Powers for the Chief Electoral Officer
The Canada Elections Act should be amended to provide the Chief Electoral Officer with examination and inquiry powers for purposes relating to the accuracy or completeness of any financial return required under the Act by a registered party, registered association, candidate, nomination or leadership contestant, or third party. Any action, related to such an audit or inquiry, directed at some other person or entity, or involving entry to residential premises, would require advance judicial approval unless the person or entity consents.
4.2 Reports of Volunteer Labour
A registered party that receives an annual allowance under section 435.01 of the Canada Elections Act should minimally be required to submit, as part of its annual financial transactions return described in paragraph 424(1)(a), a statement of the volunteer labour provided to the party.
4.3 Mailing Householders After the Issue of the Writs
It should be made clear in the Canada Elections Act that householders that are issued by members of the House of Commons during an election period, and that have the effect of promoting or opposing a registered party or the election of a candidate, constitute election advertising.
4.4 Extension of Deadline Process for Candidates' Returns
The current extension system for candidates' returns should be replaced by a more flexible one that reduces the need for candidates to seek a court order to be able to file their late or amended returns.
4.5 Candidate Audit Fee Subsidies
Drafting errors that obscure the intent of sections 466 and 467 of the Canada Elections Act should be corrected. Section 466 should be amended to expressly determine the amount of the subsidy for candidates' audit fees as the amount of the audit expense, up to a maximum of the lesser of 3 percent of the candidate's election expenses and $1,500, and a minimum of $250.
Chapter 5 – Technical Amendments
5.1 Condition for Party Names to Appear on Ballots
Paragraph 117(2)(c) should be amended so that a party must have registered status within 48 hours after the close of nominations, if that party's name is to appear on the ballot under the names of candidates endorsed by that party.
5.2 Word and Number Changes
The word "contributions" in paragraphs 497(1)(z.1) and 497(3)(x) should be replaced by "funds" in English and "fonds" in French.
The word "expense" in paragraph 497(3)(s) should be replaced by "return" in the English version.
In section 2, the reference to paragraph 57(1)(c) in the definition of "polling day" should be changed to 57(1.2)(c) in both the French and English versions of the Act.