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Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 37th General Election Held on November 27, 2000


More to do after election day

For most voters, hearing the results late on election night or early the next day probably marked the end of the event – a right exercised, a duty done. But for thousands of election officers, candidates and their official agents and auditors, the work was far from over.

Validation of the results

In each riding, the returning officer had to validate the results of the election as soon as possible after he or she received all the ballot boxes.

In the past, this process was known as the official addition of the votes, and took approximately eight hours. After the polls closed, the deputy returning officer for each polling station would count the ballots, write down the totals on a Statement of the Vote form, seal the form with the ballots in the ballot box, and return the ballot box to the returning officer. The returning officer then had to open each ballot box, retrieve the original Statement of the Vote form completed by the deputy returning officer, verify each polling station's results (mainly looking for mistakes in addition), and add up all the numbers from all of the polling stations.

Under the provisions of the new Act, the returning officer only has to check the Statement of the Vote, which is now returned separately with the ballot boxes. The boxes need only be opened if there is a problem with the Statement of the Vote or it is missing. The new process was much less time-consuming for the returning officer, the assistant returning officer and any candidates or representatives present.

Recounts

Judicial recounts of the ballots were completed in five ridings after election day. In all cases, the candidates initially declared elected were confirmed.

In two ridings, recounts were automatically called for under the Canada Elections Act, because the margin between the first- and second-place candidates was less than one one-thousandth of the votes cast. In the riding of Champlain, Quebec, after validation of the results, the Bloc Québécois candidate, Marcel Gagnon, had a majority of seven votes over the Liberal Party of Canada candidate, Julie Boulet. The recount was completed on December 7, and increased the majority won by Marcel Gagnon to 15 votes. In Laval Centre, Quebec, after validation of the results, the Bloc Québécois candidate, Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral, had a majority of 32 votes over the Liberal Party of Canada candidate, Pierre Lafleur. As a result of the recount completed on December 6, Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral's majority increased to 42 votes.

In three ridings where the margin between the first two candidates exceeded one one-thousandth of the votes cast, one or more candidates requested a judicial recount. In Saskatoon–Rosetown–Biggar, Saskatchewan, after validation of the results, the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance candidate, Carol Skelton, had a majority of 73 votes over the New Democratic Party candidate, Dennis Gruending. The results of the recount, completed on December 9, reduced the majority won by Carol Skelton to 68 votes. In Leeds–Grenville, Ontario, after validation of the results, the Liberal Party of Canada candidate, Joe Jordan, had a majority of 63 votes over the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance candidate, Gord Brown. The recount, which was completed on December 6, reduced the majority won by Joe Jordan to 55 votes. And in Matapédia–Matane, Quebec, after validation of the results, the Bloc Québécois candidate, Jean-Yves Roy, had a majority of 282 votes over the Liberal Party of Canada candidate, Marc Bélanger. The recount was completed on December 7, and reduced the majority won by Jean-Yves Roy to 276 votes.

Recounts were requested in three other ridings, but the requests were rescinded either before the recount began (Regina–Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan) or before it was completed (Palliser and Regina–Lumsden–Lake Centre, both in Saskatchewan). In Regina–Qu'Appelle and Palliser, the results of the validation were the final results, and in Regina–Lumsden–Lake Centre, the winning candidate's margin increased from 160 votes to 161 before the recount was discontinued.

Return of the writs

Winning candidates might have thought that they were elected on election day but, strictly speaking, they were not elected until the returning officer declared a winner. Six days after each returning officer validated the results, he or she declared the winning candidate elected by completing what is called the return of the writ, a form on the back of the writ sent to the returning officer by the Chief Electoral Officer at the start of the election period. If there was a recount in the riding, before declaring a candidate elected, the returning officer had to wait for a certificate from the judge, setting out the number of votes cast for each candidate.

Then the returning officer sent a copy of the return of the writ to each candidate, and returned the writ itself – and all other election documents – to the Chief Electoral Officer. In the order that he received each writ, the Chief Electoral Officer recorded it, and published in the Canada Gazette the names of the candidates that the returning officers declared elected. The candidates' names appeared in the Canada Gazette for December 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 15, 18 and 19, 2000 (volume 134, numbers 12–20).

Of the elected candidates, 45 were new members and 256 were re-elected members of the House of Commons, three of whom were not sitting members at the dissolution of the 36th Parliament. The final number of seats won by each party after election day, and held by the parties and an independent MP 36 days earlier at the dissolution of Parliament, are shown in Table 6.

Table 6
Number of seats in the House of Commons, by political affiliation
Political affiliation After election day, November 27, 2000 At the dissolution of Parliament,
October 22, 2000
Liberal Party of Canada 172 161
Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance 66 58
Bloc Québécois 38 44
New Democratic Party 13 19
Progressive Conservative Party of Canada 12 15
Independent 4

As a final task, returning officers packed up their materials and equipment and had them delivered to Elections Canada's Distribution Centre or to their suppliers, ready for the next electoral event. But even then, their work was not quite finished, because they still had to undertake their post-election analysis and review. They would be attending meetings with their senior staff (and, in some cases, in Ottawa) to share their experiences, and making written suggestions for improvements and changes.

Final voters lists

Immediately after the election, the returning officers sent back to Elections Canada their REVISE databases with the voters lists for each riding. In addition to the preliminary lists supplied by Elections Canada at the beginning of the election, these databases now recorded all the elector registration information gathered during revision and at the polls – address changes, corrections of various kinds, new registrations, and deletions. Elections Canada staff integrate the elector information of incarcerated electors, Canadian Forces electors and Canadian citizens temporarily residing outside Canada who registered to vote under the Special Voting Rules with the information in the 301 databases, and generate the final voters lists. The total number of registered electors was 21 243 473; the comprehensive final lists will be completed by the end of March 2001, when registered political parties and members of Parliament will receive electronic copies.

National Register of Electors

The 301 REVISE databases have another important use: to update the National Register of Electors with data provided by electors during the election. Before the new elector information can be integrated into the Register database, a complex and time-consuming process of data standardization and analysis must be carried out. Register staff will be working on this task before adding information from the customary update cycle, and then producing the new voters lists that the Act requires them to send to members of Parliament and registered political parties each year on October 15.

With the help of specialized software, Register staff will review the more than 3.6 million changes made to the voters lists during the election, to ensure that only correct and verified data is added to the Register, and that we have an accurate understanding of what these changes were, and when and why they were made. This includes verifying codes assigned by returning officers against the type of changes actually made; reviewing the deletions of deceased electors to identify cases that were not correctly matched with vital statistics data, to improve matching rules; checking for other irregularities and standardizing addresses; and finding and dealing with duplications of elector information.

There were very few duplicate records on the preliminary voters lists, since the Register maintenance system is designed to avoid introducing them. Some duplicates were introduced during revision, when new electors were registered at more than one address (for example, some students were registered at a school address as well as a home address). Duplicates on the final lists most commonly stem from moves between ridings. Electors on the preliminary lists who asked to be registered at a new address in a different riding were removed from the lists at their old addresses only if the new occupants requested the removal.

Duplicates will be identified and removed in three phases. First, we will deal with duplicates that can be readily identified using currently available information because the name, address and date of birth are the same. The second phase will involve comparisons against updates from our data suppliers, like the 2001 file that the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency will release to Elections Canada later this year. These sources will help link some pairs of elector records with the same name and date of birth and different addresses. In the third phase, letters will be sent to electors who are listed at two addresses, and who cannot be precisely matched during the update cycle. The Canada Elections Act requires Elections Canada to write to these electors, requesting confirmation of their registration information, before removing them from the Register. Electors have 60 days to respond. A similar three-phase process after the 1997 general election resulted in the removal of some 229 000 duplicate records, despite the fact that an enumeration was conducted immediately before the election. Of the 229 000 duplicates, 195 000 were removed in response to the phase three mail-out.

Using post-mortem information, combined with analyses of the changes made to the lists in the ridings and their quality, the Register staff will develop recommendations for improvements in elector registration and Register maintenance and update procedures. They will also assess the coverage of the final lists by age group (with particular attention to youth), estimate the number of electors not currently registered, and determine the post-election quality level of the Register so that measurement of quality can continue after the normal maintenance cycle has resumed.

Preliminary information about some of these issues is available now. Table 7 shows figures for the past five federal general elections, comparing factors in the quality of voters lists with voter turnout. Register staff estimate that some 4.8 percent of citizens of voting age are not currently registered, consistent with figures for the four preceding elections. The numbers of Canadian citizens shown in the table are estimated, based on Statistics Canada census data. The numbers of duplicates on the final voters lists for 1993 and 2000 have been estimated, while the 1997 figure represents the number of duplicates removed from the National Register of Electors after the final list data for the 1997 election were added to the Register.

Table 7
General elections, 1984–2000
Comparison of number of Canadian citizens of voting age and
number of electors on final lists
Event Canadian citizens of voting age Final lists Total ballots cast Voter turnout Duplicates
1984 17 573 000 16 775 011 12 638 424 75.3% unknown
1988 18 527 000 17 639 001 13 281 191 75.3% unknown
1993 19 893 000 19 906 796 13 863 135 69.6% 703 000
1997 20 428 000 19 663 478 13 174 698 67.0% 229 000
2000 21 481 000 21 243 473 12 997 185 61.2%* 614 000

* The turnout of 61.2% in 2000 was adjusted to arrive at the final turnout of 64.1%, after our normal maintenance of the National Register of Electors to remove the names of deceased electors and duplicates arising from moves. The Chief Electoral Officer of Canada explained the adjustment during his appearance before the Subcommittee on Electoral Boundaries Readjustment on October 6, 2003, and his appearance to discuss the 2004 Main Estimates before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on March 5, 2004.

Event Deceased Number
of registered voters
Citizens of voting
age not
registered
Type of registration system
1984 unknown 16 775 011 4.5% enumeration
1988 unknown 17 639 001 4.8% enumeration
1993 133 000 19 070 796 4.1% reused list
1997 9 000 19 425 478 4.9% enumeration
2000 177 000 20 452 473 4.8% Register

 

Enforcement

Before the new Canada Elections Act came into effect on September 1, 2000, the Act could only be enforced through the criminal courts. Although prosecution remains the ultimate enforcement tool, the changes give the Commissioner of Canada Elections two new tools: the ability to seek an injunction during an electoral event, and the power to enter into compliance agreements. These new provisions can act as effectively to prevent breaches of the Act as to stop those breaches after the fact.

The injunction power allows the Commissioner to apply to a court for an order requiring a person to do something that person is required to do under the Act, or prohibiting a person from doing something that is prohibited by the Act. The power can be used only during an election period, and under circumstances warranting its use. The Commissioner must take into account the nature and seriousness of the act or omission, the need to ensure the fairness of the electoral process, and the public interest, and he must have reasonable grounds to believe a person is likely to commit, is about to commit, or has committed, an act or omission contrary to the Act.

Although the Commissioner did not use his new authority to seek an injunction during the election, he was prepared to do so. A law firm had been selected to secure an injunction, if appropriate, and all the likely courts before which an application for an injunction might have been brought were advised of the new authority and its potential use during the election.

As an alternative to prosecution, the Commissioner can now enter into a compliance agreement, if he believes on reasonable grounds that a person has committed, is likely to commit, or is about to commit, an offence under the Act. These agreements are based on the voluntary agreement of the offender or potential offender to comply with the Act, and require the consent of that person to the publication of the agreement. The authority can be used both during and between elections. The Commissioner is currently reviewing all incidents of non-compliance brought to his attention as a result of the election, in light of this new power.

By March 5, 2001, 382 complaints related to the 37th general election had been brought to the attention of the Commissioner; 251 cases have been resolved, 131 remain open, and investigations are underway. Generally, the offences relate to failure to indicate the authority for election advertising, removal of election advertising, television and radio advertising, voting rules, third party advertising, and complaints regarding administrative matters. The new third party advertising and registration provisions of the Act have been the source of 14 complaints so far. The Commissioner has given his consent to four prosecutions relating to voting and obstruction of the electoral process.

Although some offences occurred during the election period, many may occur months after the election. Additional complaints may be filed following the deadline for submitting candidates' and third parties' financial returns, four months after election day. Complaints may be filed up to six months after the commission of the offence. As the cases progress, updated statistics on complaints, investigations and prosecutions appear in the Chief Electoral Officer's periodic reports and publications.

The Commissioner's office will continue to evaluate the full impact of the Act's new and amended provisions.

Reimbursements and election expenses

Within three weeks of election day, we issued the initial reimbursement cheques for election expenses to the 685 candidates (about 38 percent of all candidates) who were elected or who received 15 percent or more of the valid votes cast. The average reimbursement was approximately $10 180.00.

All candidates must file their election expenses returns by March 27, 2001. Registered parties have until May 28 to file their election expenses reports. Based on these returns, further reimbursements will be made to those parties and candidates who qualify. The 48 registered third parties must file their reports by March 27, and we will finish their audits by the end of April.