Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada following the May 13 and December 9, 2002 by-elections
I am pleased to present this report to Parliament and Canadians on the administration of the nine federal by-elections held in 2002.
The Canada Elections Act of 2000 requires that I consolidate our report on all by-elections into a single document at the end of any year in which at least one by-election has been held, and this is my first report to do so.
Along with my annual Report on Plans and Priorities and Performance Report, this document is one of a trio of reports providing accountability to Parliament.
This statutory report describes some new, streamlined procedures used in the nine by-elections. We have reaped the benefits of work done since the last general election to improve the quality of electoral information in the National Register of Electors. The Register is used to prepare lists of electors and the voter information cards sent to all registered electors.
Elections Canada must also provide public education and information on electoral matters, especially during electoral events. In the 2002 by-elections, we improved our communications and tested new products, such as a "reminder card." We also tested changes to the voter information card, which now displays eligibility criteria. Each innovation, no matter how small, is a step toward ensuring that Canadians will be better informed about electoral events and will have faster and easier access to essential voting information.
Following a decision by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, I did not apply the third party advertising rules in the Canada Elections Act to the 2002 by-elections. A Supreme Court of Canada decision allowing all inmates of federal penitentiaries to vote in federal elections was applied in the two December by-elections.
The Commissioner of Canada Elections, appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer, is responsible to ensure that the Canada Elections Act is complied with and enforced. Since the 2000 general election, of the 933 complaints received by the Commissioner, 896 have been settled and 37 are still being investigated.
Our experience during the 2000 general election made it clear that we needed to review our public enquiry system. I am pleased to report that we are in the process of designing an enquiry system that Canadians will be able to access via telephone or the Web 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Most citizens will be able to get the answers to the two most frequently asked questions: “Am I on the list?” and “Where do I vote?” For more complex questions, callers will be routed seamlessly to either an enquiry officer or a returning officer. Our advertising strategy is being designed with the help of younger and older voters and non-voters who attended focus groups across the country. Voter turnout among young people has been falling. Research we have commissioned confirms this problem and we are developing an action plan to address it.
During 2002, we supported the work of the ten independent federal electoral boundaries commissions by providing professional, financial, legal, technical and administrative services, including assistance with mapping, census data, publications, advertising, and the Federal Representation 2004 section of our Web site.
I have made nine appearances before parliamentary committees to speak on topics ranging from my office’s estimates, to Aboriginal electoral matters and Elections Canada’s support of the boundaries commissions.
In September 2002, in Sigtuna, Sweden I had the pleasure of signing the Bill of Electoral Rights for Citizens with Disabilities. Canada is one of eleven countries whose work on making elections accessible to persons with disabilities is highlighted on the Web site of the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES). Elections Canada hosted the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws in September in Ottawa, and the Inter-American Forum on Political Parties in Vancouver in December. Several meetings of the various advisory committees (returning officers, political parties, National Register of Electors) have been held.
The sharing of information and resources among the federal, provincial and municipal electoral agencies in Canada is increasingly frequent and I welcome all opportunities to join forces in making voting more accessible to all eligible Canadians.
Our aim is to remain the most modern and innovative electoral agency in the world, and I am personally committed to the continuing process of electoral reform that has earned Canada its reputation around the world as a model of electoral democracy. It is a privilege for me to serve Parliament and the Canadian people, and to lead a dynamic, multi-talented team whose dedication to strengthening and upholding Canada’s electoral system is exceptional.
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada