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Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada
on the 38th General Election Held on June 28, 2004


Foreword

The following is a report on a period of my tenure as Chief Electoral Officer of Canada that has been abundant in both challenges and achievements.

Following the 37th general election of November 27, 2000, we held numerous consultations that provided valuable insights. Based on these consultations, we were able to develop new initiatives to inform and educate, and to put in place administrative and technological measures needed to ensure the efficient administration of the 38th general election, held on June 28, 2004.

This latest election presented its own particular challenges, most of them consequent upon a complex and fluid legislative environment. Far-reaching political financing changes were introduced in early 2004 by Bill C-24, and the readjustment of electoral boundaries came into effect shortly afterwards; both had significant repercussions on the systems and procedures established by Elections Canada to serve electors and the various political entities. Throughout, we also had the obligation to maintain a state of election readiness, a task that involved demanding deadlines based on a range of possible scenarios and assumptions.

Our observations in the field, as well as the preliminary data from post-electoral assessments, show that these challenges were met.

I am, moreover, pleased to find that our outreach work with electors has been productive. Over the last few years, my Office has expended considerable effort to improve communications with the electorate, paying special attention to groups that traditionally have not voted in large numbers – in particular, young people and Aboriginal electors. We are currently analyzing the effectiveness of these initiatives in light of data from the 38th general election.

At this election, the national voter turnout rate of 60.9 percent represented a decline from the rate at the previous general election. Although this result echoes a phenomenon observed in a number of other democracies, it is a matter of great concern to me as Chief Electoral Officer. My Office continues to work on an in-depth analysis, begun a number of years ago, to gain a better understanding of voter turnout and to fine-tune our approach in this area.

From this election we can already draw certain conclusions, which hold lessons important to our pursuit of improvement in the electoral process. In particular, it remains difficult to provide service of uniform quality across the country when the returning officers appointed for this purpose by the Governor in Council are not selected on the basis of merit and still less, it seems, on any test of their ability to carry out their duties. The work of the Chief Electoral Officer becomes all the more challenging when some returning officers do not feel obliged to respect his authority because they owe their appointment to another body.

I will discuss this matter further in a report that I will table in Parliament in the coming months, setting out my recommendations for improving various aspects of the electoral process. I will also present to Parliament a separate report with recommendations on the process for the readjustment of electoral boundaries.

The administration of the 38th general election across the country required the participation of more than 170,000 Canadians – Elections Canada personnel, returning officers, field liaison officers, election officers and office staff. I wish to express my appreciation to those who worked with dedication to make this vast operation a success. Their efforts, and those of our partners, made it possible for Canadian voters to make their voices heard as part of an accessible, fair and transparent electoral process.

I am committed to preserving and further improving this vital process, thanks to which every Canadian, by casting a ballot, can have a say in how our country is governed.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada