Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 39th General Election of January 23, 2006
What follows is a report on an interesting period of my tenure as Chief Electoral Officer. The time frame it covers – from the wrap-up for the 38th general election of June 28, 2004, through part of the wrap-up for the 39th general election of January 23, 2006 – was marked by unique challenges and distinct opportunities. The recent federal election was the most successful one for Elections Canada in the past 15 years, in terms of smooth delivery and an increase in voter participation. I wish to express my thanks to the tens of thousands of election officers and staff who took up the challenge once again and ensured the best service possible to Canadians in the exercise of their fundamental democratic right.
The June 2004 election had, for the first time in 25 years, placed a minority government in the House of Commons. Most of Elections Canada's resources, over the ensuing months, focused on immediately building up and maintaining constant readiness for the next election call, possible at any time. When the writs were issued, in November 2005, they commenced one of the longest campaigns in recent history – stretching over 55 days instead of the more usual 36 – as well as the first winter election in a quarter-century. In addition to planning around the December holiday season and potentially adverse weather that could interfere with voting, we had to accommodate the needs of a larger than usual number of "snowbirds" – the Canadians who spend their winters in warmer climates.
At the same time, the late January date for election day presented several opportunities. Young people studying at the country's colleges and universities were easier to reach than during the June election of 2004, and early statistics show that youth may have participated in the 39th general election in higher numbers. Meanwhile, the longer campaign, though demanding for Elections Canada staff, gave us extra flexibility for setting up returning offices, allocating resources and putting essential elements of the electoral machinery in place earlier than usual.
Before the election, Elections Canada was also able to conclude landmark agreements with various Aboriginal organizations, to generate stronger interest and participation in the election among First Nations, Métis and Inuit electors.
A number of milestones that have occurred in the year and a half since our last statutory report bear mention here as well.
At my invitation and in accordance with her legal mandate, Auditor General Sheila Fraser conducted a performance audit of our agency in 2005. I am pleased to report that Elections Canada received a clean bill of health – the Auditor General concluded that "through good planning and regular updating of its geographic and voter information databases, Elections Canada stays prepared for an election that can be called at any time." We have already sent a response to the Auditor General's Office outlining our plans to implement the five recommendations she made, such as the need to enhance further our reporting to Parliament and our human resources planning practices. Our plans, over the next few years, include continuing advances in a number of areas in which we are already seen globally as leaders, including information technology, voter registration, political financing and enforcement, civic education, and outreach.
On September 29, 2005, I submitted a report to the Speaker for tabling in Parliament. Completing the Cycle of Electoral Reforms outlined recommendations for improved administration of the Canada Elections Act, building on my previous work as augmented by the experience of the 38th general election. As the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs did not have the chance to review the report before the dissolution of Parliament, there was no opportunity for any of the legislative recommendations to be acted on before the 39th general election.
This document, my statutory report for the 39th general election, is divided into four chapters. The first two describe activities following the 38th general election and preparations for the 39th; the third presents key developments during the 39th general election; the last reviews the results and wrap-up activities for the 39th general election, and also outlines our plans and priorities for the 40th. Given the result of a second consecutive minority government, preparations for the next election are already underway.
Our federal electoral process thrives from the input and participation of a broad range of stakeholders: electors, parties, candidates, other political entities and the media. I am committed to preserving and improving this process and at all times welcome your comments and suggestions.
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada