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Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Following the November 29, 2010, By-elections Held in Dauphin–Swan River–Marquette, Vaughan and Winnipeg North

2. Conduct of the November 2010 By-elections

2.1 Launch of the by-elections

The November 2010 by-elections were called to replace three members of Parliament who had resigned their seats in the House of Commons during the year:

In view of the date on which the Member of Parliament for Winnipeg North resigned, the deadline for calling an election in this riding was October 27, 2010.

Writs issued on October 24, 2010, ordered that by-elections be held on November 29, 2010, in Dauphin–Swan River–Marquette, Vaughan and Winnipeg North. On October 29, the Chief Electoral Officer held a teleconference with the members of the Advisory Committee of Political Parties to discuss various topics, particularly the new measures that Elections Canada planned to implement in connection with these elections.

House of Commons seat distribution

On October 24, 2010, the seat distribution in the House of Commons was as follows:

Returning officers

The returning officers tasked with conducting the 2010 by-elections in the three electoral districts in question were: Ron Clement in Dauphin–Swan River–Marquette; Jill Medley in Vaughan; and Erlinda Dionisio in Winnipeg North.

Recruitment of election officers

In the three electoral districts where the by-elections took place, 2,112 election officers were hired to work at polling stations during advance polls and on election day. However, the candidates in the three ridings submitted a total of only four names of election officers to the returning officers.

Recruitment of election officers continues to pose a serious challenge to returning officers. With that in mind, the Chief Electoral Officer, in his recommendations report tabled in June 2010, recommended that the Act be amended in such a way that responsibility for recommending people for election officer positions be transferred from the candidates to the riding associations or, failing that, to the registered parties. He also recommended that the period during which political entities have priority to submit names be shortened, which would enable returning officers to appoint election officers in a more timely fashion.

"Need pocket money?"

For these by-elections, Elections Canada launched a new campaign aimed at hiring youth as election officers who would be assigned specifically to help young electors register and vote. This initiative had the dual objective of broadening the range of election officers recruited while encouraging voter turnout among young Canadians.

With an eye-catching design, the campaign displayed the following message: "Need pocket money? Work on election day and make at least $160." The idea was to pique young people’s interest and steer them toward the Elections Canada Web site, where they could fill out an on-line employment application form. In all, 379 people completed the on-line form.

This campaign had a definite impact, particularly among youth aged 16 to 17. For the three electoral districts in question, the number of election officers aged 16 to 17 went from 3 in the 2008 general election to 46 in the November 2010 by-elections. Overall, the number of election officers aged 16 to 25 increased slightly, from 211 in 2008 to 226 in these by-elections. The campaign will be repeated during the next general election.

The candidates

From the time the returning officers published the Notice of Election, prospective candidates in the by-elections had until 2:00 p.m. on November 8, 2010, to file their nomination papers. The candidates had until 5:00 p.m. on the same day to withdraw or make corrections to the name, address or occupation indicated on their nomination papers. None of the candidates withdrew. Table 8 (page 26) presents in detail the political parties and candidates who participated in these elections.

Elections Canada posted the names of candidates on its Web site as they were confirmed, and posted the final lists of confirmed candidates once nominations closed. It also provided the official lists to Canadian diplomatic missions and consular posts through the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and to Canadian Forces bases through the Department of National Defence.

Wireless technology

The November 2010 by-elections gave Elections Canada an opportunity to equip its local offices with the wireless technology first tested during the November 2009 by-elections. Cellular phones are now used for about 10 days at the start of an event, up until land lines are installed. Also, computers in the local offices communicate with Elections Canada in Ottawa via a wireless high-speed connection, which is considerably faster than our previous dial-up connections.

These two upgrades enable our local offices to serve electors in the first few hours after the issue of the writ. They also generate savings in the order of $1.5 million a year, as cellular phone and wireless connection services can be suspended at little cost between elections, thus eliminating the need to rent a large number of land lines (billed monthly) in advance in order to guarantee service availability.

The new technology was greatly appreciated by the returning officers during the November 2010 by-elections and will be implemented nationally during the next general election.

2.2 Milestones of the electoral process

Table 1 is an overview of the milestones in the electoral process, from the issue of the writs to election day, for the by-elections held in 2010.

Table 1 – Key dates
Date Election calendar day Event
October 24 Day 36 Issue of the writs; voting by special ballot begins; local Elections Canada offices open to the public
October 26 Day 34 Preliminary lists of electors sent to returning officers
October 27 Day 33 Revision of lists of electors begins
October 28 Day 32 (or before) Notice of Election published – candidates may file nomination papers
October 28 Day 32 Preliminary lists of electors sent to candidates as they are confirmed
October 31 Day 29 Targeted revision begins
November 3 to 5 Days 26 to 24 Voter information cards mailed to all registered electors
November 8 Day 21 (2:00 p.m.) Close of nominations
November 10 Day 19 (2:00 p.m.) Confirmation of nominated candidates
November 10 to 12 Days 19 to 17 Reminder brochures distributed
November 18 Day 11 Revised lists of electors sent to candidates
November 19, 20
and 22
Days 10, 9 and 7 Advance polls
November 22 Day 7 Final spending limits announced for candidates and parties
November 23 Day 6 (6:00 p.m.) Revision ends; deadline for special ballot registration
November 29 Day 0 Deadline for special ballot voting; election day
November 30 to December 6 Days –1 to –7 Validation of results by returning officers

2.3 Communicating with electors

During all electoral events, Elections Canada strives to promote awareness among electors about their right to vote, requirements to be met, key dates, as well as changes to the registration and voting processes. For the November 2010 by-elections, in addition to the regular campaign, we organized an awareness campaign for Winnipeg North electors concerning the assistive voting device pilot project carried out in their electoral district. The aim was to inform electors that the device was available, explain how it worked and promote use of the device among persons with disabilities (see Annex).

Advertising and media relations

The key messages of our advertising campaign for the November 2010 by-elections focused primarily on drawing electors' attention to the voting dates, identification requirements and different voting options. The campaign included two print ads and two radio announcements.

Within the context of our testing the use of the voter information card as proof of identity and address at some polling sites (see section 1.3), a document was mailed out to the electors concerned and special posters were put up at the polling sites in question.

Moreover, advertisements were produced in Tagalog (the national language of the Philippines) for the electoral district of Winnipeg North, which has a sizeable Tagalog-speaking community, and in Italian, Portuguese, Punjabi and Spanish for the electoral district of Vaughan. In Winnipeg North and Dauphin–Swan River–Marquette, which are among the 24 electoral districts in which Aboriginal electors account for at least 10 percent of the electorate, we developed a targeted campaign that included an Aboriginal radio announcement, the distribution of information in friendship centres and other Aboriginal organizations, as well as a search engine optimization strategy using Google AdWords, the Internet advertising system whereby small ads are displayed along with search results when someone uses the Google search engine.

Following the by-elections, we conducted a survey among persons eligible to vote in the three electoral districts concerned. The vast majority of respondents (90 percent) indicated that they were aware of the by-election in their electoral district. Nearly half (48 percent) indicated that they had read about it in the newspapers, 44 percent had heard about it on television, and 31 percent, on the radio. Other sources of information included the Elections Canada reminder brochure (17 percent), posters and signs (15 percent) and word of mouth (15 percent). This is similar to what has been observed in by-elections since Elections Canada began to collect these data in 2008.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents also indicated having noticed Elections Canada advertising in the media.

With regard to media relations, Elections Canada received 50 calls from the media, made 91 proactive calls to the media, granted 5 official interviews and produced 18 news releases. Questions from the media primarily involved the registration of third parties, voter turnout at advance polls, contribution limits and the assistive voting device pilot project.

Targeted campaigns

Following its general practice, Elections Canada took special measures to encourage the participation of groups likely to experience difficulty in exercising their right to vote or not reached as easily via mainstream advertising campaigns. Outreach in individual electoral districts is assured by one or more community relations officers responsible for specific groups or, when no officers are available, by other election officers designated by the returning officer. The targeted campaigns carried out for the November 2010 by-elections varied from one electoral district to another, depending on local needs:

Voter information card

As prescribed by the Act, Elections Canada mailed out voter information cards, confirming registration and indicating where and when to vote, to all electors on the preliminary lists of electors and all electors who had their names added to the lists during the revision period.

Eighty-one percent of electors surveyed recalled receiving such a card, and nearly 98 percent of those electors reported no errors in the name or address. This is consistent with the rate normally observed in past elections.

Information sources consulted by electors

Over half (53 percent) of the electors surveyed indicated that they had obtained their information on registration and voting from their voter information card. Newspaper advertising, the second most common information source, was cited by 17 percent of respondents, while 14 percent cited the Elections Canada reminder brochure. Electors could also obtain information by contacting their local Elections Canada office, contacting Elections Canada directly or using the Voter Information Service on our Web site.

During the election period, the bilingual staff at the Public Enquiries Unit answered 460 calls and 41 e-mails from the public, and provided information material upon request.

An image displayed prominently on our Web site's home page directed anyone interested in working as an election officer in the November 2010 by-elections to an updated and improved module on employment. On polling night, results were posted on the Web as they became available, and a total of 31,938 visits were made to the site – a record for by-elections.

2.4 Communicating with candidates, official agents and auditors

Returning officers supplied documentation to candidates as well as their official agents and auditors for the November 2010 by-elections. They met with the candidates and/or their representatives to ensure that everyone received the same information on issues such as election day rules, the election officer positions for which candidates could recommend applicants, and certain initiatives that Elections Canada planned to implement during the elections.

2.5 Revising the lists of electors

As usual, Elections Canada used the information from the National Register of Electors to produce the preliminary lists of electors. The revision period ran from October 27 to November 23, 2010. The national target for currency of the lists, that is, the percentage of electors both included on the lists of electors and listed at the correct address, has been established by Elections Canada at 80 percent.

Table 2 lists the types of revision transactions.

Table 2 – Lists of electors: Revision transactions during the by-elections
Electoral district Dauphin–Swan River–Marquette Vaughan Winnipeg North
Preliminary lists of electors, including Special Voting Rules (SVR) 52,862 120,606 50,833
Moves between electoral districts1 330 329 493
Electors added2 967 900 1,117
Moves within the electoral district3 2,501 347 439
Other corrections4 1,322 309 499
Electors removed from lists5 542 250 767
SVR Group 1 updates6 43 1 10
Electors on the final lists 53,660 121,586 51,686
  1. Electors who moved into the electoral district before the beginning of the revision period but were not included in the last release from the National Register of Electors before the by-elections were called.
  2. Electors who did not appear on any lists at the beginning of the by-election and were added during the event.
  3. Electors who appeared on a list for their electoral district at the beginning of the by-election but at the wrong address. These figures also include administrative changes made by the returning officer to elector records during the event.
  4. Electors who appeared on a list of electors with the correct address and requested a correction to their name or mailing address during the event.
  5. Electors who appeared on a list of electors but were removed for one of the following reasons: the elector was deceased; the elector asked to be removed; the elector had moved; the individual was not qualified to be on the list (for example, under 18 years of age or a non-citizen); or the elector had a duplicate record on the list. This figure also reflects elector records removed as a result of elector moves to another electoral district during the event and duplicates removed during the preparation of the final lists of electors.
  6. Indicates the increase in the number of Group 1 electors registered under the Special Voting Rules (Canadian electors temporarily residing outside Canada, Canadian Forces electors and incarcerated electors) during the event.

2.6 Ordinary polls and advance polls

On election day, electors could vote at the ordinary polls from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (Central Time) in Dauphin–Swan River–Marquette and Winnipeg North, and from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (Eastern Time) in Vaughan. Electors could also vote at the advance polls on November 19, 20 and 22, from noon to 8:00 p.m. Table 3 lists the types of polling sites (each of which may include several polling stations).

Table 3 – Types of polling sites1
Facility type Ordinary poll2 Advance poll
No. % No. %
Dauphin–Swan River–Marquette
Band office 4 5 1 4
Parish hall 2 3 3 12
Commercial site 1 1 2 8
Community centre 47 64 10 40
School 3 4 2 8
Fire hall 2 3 3 12
Municipal building 2 3 3 12
Recreation centre 4 5
Royal Canadian Legion 8 11
Other 1 4
Total 73 100 25 100
Vaughan
Community centre 4 9 4 100
School 40 85
Seniors' residence 3 6
Total 47 100 4 100
Winnipeg North
Community centre 5 16 1 17
School 22 69 5 83
Municipal building 1 3
Seniors' residence 4 13
Total 32 100 6 100
  1. Because the percentages have been rounded, there may be some discrepancies in the totals.
  2. Excludes mobile polls.

Elections Canada provided a number of mobile polls to assist people in seniors' residences and long-term care facilities. Table 4 shows the types of polling stations used in the three electoral districts.

Table 4 – Types of polling stations
Electoral district Ordinary polls Advance polls Total
Stationary Mobile
Dauphin–Swan River–Marquette 179 15 25 219
Vaughan 267 3 12 282
Winnipeg North 136 6 8 150

Table 5 shows the polling sites with level access during the November 2010 by-elections.

Table 5 – Polling sites with level access (excluding institutions visited by mobile polls)1
Electoral district Accessible
without modification
Accessible after modification Total
Dauphin–Swan River–Marquette 86 0 86
Vaughan 49 0 49
Winnipeg North 32 0 32
  1. According to the information contained in the inventory of polling sites.

Our post-election survey revealed that the vast majority of electors had no difficulty in finding the location of their polling station. The main reason given by the roughly 3 percent of respondents who indicated having difficulty was bad weather. When asked about the accessibility of the building, four respondents reported problems, including the presence of stairs and a lack of parking space. In addition, 9 percent of respondents noted problems with outside signage, and 4 percent, with inside signage. Finally, 39 percent recalled seeing a sign indicating that the building had level access, and most (82 percent) felt that the level access signs were prominently displayed.

2.7 Voting by special ballot

As in any election, electors could vote by mail or at the local Elections Canada office via special ballot under the Special Voting Rules (SVR). Canadians abroad could obtain information about voting by special ballot by contacting any of the diplomatic missions or consular posts of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, or by visiting the Elections Canada Web site. Members of the Canadian Forces, whether based in Canada or abroad, were informed of their voting rights by the Department of National Defence. When the writs were issued, special ballot voting kits were sent to all Canadian Forces electors and electors residing outside Canada whose names appeared on the lists established for Dauphin–Swan River–Marquette, Vaughan and Winnipeg North.

Elections Canada made arrangements to ensure that electors hospitalized in acute care facilities during the by-elections were able to register and vote by special ballot by the deadline authorized for this type of voting. Registration and voting in acute care hospitals took place on November 21, 22 and 23, 2010.

New Special Voting Rules System

Our new Special Voting Rules System (SVRS) was used for the first time in the November 2010 by-elections, with success. The SVRS, which replaced obsolete technology, has modernized certain business processes for managing registrations to vote by special ballot.  

In the by-elections, the Web component of the SVRS assisted electors in identifying their electoral district and completing the registration form for voting by special ballot. Our observations indicate that this electronic process has made it easier to process registrations and mail out voting kits, and has helped enquiries officers respond to elector queries more quickly and effectively. There are still performance tests to conduct to ensure that the system can handle the large number of registrations expected in a general election.

Table 6 shows the number of registrations for voting by special ballot, by group and category.

Table  6 – Registrations for voting by special ballot (Special Voting Rules)
Groups and categories of electors registering to vote by special ballot Number of ballots issued
Dauphin–Swan River–Marquette Vaughan Winnipeg North
Group 11
Canadian Forces members 58 27 70
Incarcerated electors 24 1 11
Electors temporarily residing outside Canada 4 12 0
Group 1 subtotal 86 40 81
Group 22
Electors temporarily residing outside their electoral district 8 19 10
Electors voting in their electoral district 138 404 778
Group 2 subtotal 146 423 788
Total number of registrations for electors voting by special ballot 232 463 869
  1. Electors in Special Voting Rules Group 1 are not included in the local lists of electors that are revised by the returning officer during an event.
  2. Electors in Special Voting Rules Group 2 are included in the local lists of electors.

2.8 Voter turnout

Table 7 shows the numbers of ballots cast and the overall voter turnout.

Table 7 – Number of ballots cast by voting method and voter turnout1
Electoral district Dauphin–Swan River–Marquette Vaughan Winnipeg North
Number of electors on final lists 53,660 121,586 51,686
Ordinary polls 12,8112 34,8802 12,9952
89.7% 88.3% 82.0%
Advance polls 1,306 4,206 2,057
9.1% 10.6% 13.0%
Voting by special ballot (SVR) 166 430 804
0.2% 1.1% 5.0%
Rejected ballots 61 231 91
0.4% 0.6% 0.6%
Total valid ballots 14,222 39,285 15,765
99.9% 99.4% 99.4%
Total votes cast 14,283 39,516 15,856
Voter turnout in the November 2010 by-elections 26.6% 32.5% 30.7%
Voter turnout in the 2008 general election 54.7% 51.9% 42.8%
  1. The percentages have been rounded.
  2. Includes electors who voted at mobile polls.

In our post-election survey, 62 percent of non-voters surveyed said day-to-day obligations kept them away from the polls, 28 percent gave political reasons and 7 percent cited administrative factors or factors related to the electoral process (respondents were allowed to give more than one reason for not voting).

2.9 By-election results

On election night, each returning officer's Event Results System (ERS) was linked to Elections Canada's central computer. At the end of the count at each polling station, the deputy returning officer called in the results to the local Elections Canada office, where totals were entered into the ERS by a staff member, then transmitted to Elections Canada in Ottawa for posting on the Elections Canada Web site. Ballots cast under the Special Voting Rules by incarcerated and Canadian Forces electors and by Canadians voting outside their electoral districts were counted at Elections Canada in Ottawa on election night and during the preceding week.

Table 8 identifies each candidate by political affiliation and shows the number and proportion of valid votes obtained.

Table 8 – Valid votes obtained, by candidate1
Candidate Political affiliation Place of residence Occupation Valid votes obtained Percentage of valid
votes (%)
Dauphin–Swan River–Marquette
Robert Sopuck Conservative Party of Canada Sandy Lake Consultant 8,034 56.5
Denise Harder New Democratic Party Portage la Prairie CUPE Staff Representative 3,762 26.5
Christopher Scott Sarna Liberal Party of Canada Onanole Chief Operations Officer 1,468 10.3
Kate Storey Green Party of Canada Grandview Farmer 799 5.6
Jerome Dondo Christian Heritage Party of Canada Treherne Accountant 159 1.1
Total       14,222 100
Vaughan
Julian Fantino Conservative Party of Canada Vaughan Retired 19,290 49.1
Tony Genco Liberal Party of Canada Vaughan Consultant 18,326 46.6
Kevin Bordian New Democratic Party Woodbridge Customer Service 661 1.7
Claudia Rodriguez-Larrain Green Party of Canada Vaughan CEO 481 1.2
Paolo Fabrizio Libertarian Party of Canada Barrie Baker 251 0.6
Leslie Bory Independent Waterford Unemployed 111 0.3
Dorian Baxter Progressive Canadian Party Newmarket Anglican Priest 110 0.3
Brian Jedan United Party of Canada East York National Sales Representative 55 0.1
Total       39,285 100
Winnipeg North
Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Party of Canada Winnipeg Provincial Politician 7,303 46.3
Kevin Chief New Democratic Party Winnipeg Executive Director, WASAC 6,490 41.2
Julie C. Javier Conservative Party of Canada Winnipeg Critical Care Monitoring Equipment Specialist 1,647 10.4
John T. Harvie Green Party of Canada Winnipeg Consultant 114 0.7
Jeff Coleman Pirate Party of Canada Winnipeg 3D Printing Designer 94 0.6
Frank Komarniski Communist Party of Canada Winnipeg Operator 71 0.5
Eric Truijen Christian Heritage Party of Canada West St. Paul Firefighter Paramedic 46 0.3
Total       15,765 100
  1. Because the percentages have been rounded, there may be some discrepancies in the totals.

Returning officers validate the results as soon as possible after election day. Validation was done on November 30 in Vaughan and Winnipeg North, and on December 2 in Dauphin– Swan River–Marquette.

The official voting results for the November 2010 by-elections, including poll-by-poll results, are available on the Elections Canada Web site at www.elections.ca under Resource Centre > Reports > Elections Canada's Official Reports > Official Voting Results.

2.10 Adaptations

In accordance with subsection 17(1) of the Canada Elections Act, the Chief Electoral Officer may adapt any provision of the Act to deal with an emergency, an error, or an unusual or unforeseen circumstance. Such adaptations cease to be in effect 30 days following the election. During the November 2010 by-elections, the Chief Electoral Officer used this authority for the following reasons:

Additionally, in accordance with section 179 of the Special Voting Rules as Adapted for the Purposes of a By-election (Regulations (by-election)), the Chief Electoral Officer may issue any instructions that he considers necessary in order to apply or adapt these regulations to a particular circumstance. The adaptations made under section 179 of the Regulations (by-election) remain in effect for all subsequent by-elections unless the Chief Electoral Officer decides otherwise. The adaptations currently in effect can be found on the Elections Canada Web site under Resource Centre > Legislation > Instructions to adapt the Special Voting Rules as Adapted for the Purposes of a By-election made pursuant to section 179 of these Special Voting Rules.

No new adaptation was established under section 179 of the Regulations (by-election) during the November 2010 by-elections.

2.11 Enforcement of the Canada Elections Act

The Commissioner of Canada Elections received six complaints regarding the November 2010 by-elections. All the complaints involved acts that took place during the election period, and most of them were related to election advertising. All of the files have been closed.

2.12 Candidates' election expenses

All candidates in a federal election are bound by the Act to report their election expenses. The 20 candidates in the November 2010 by-elections had until March 29, 2011, to submit the Candidate's Electoral Campaign Return.

Any candidate who is elected or who receives at least 10 percent of the valid votes cast is eligible to receive election expenses reimbursements equal to 60 percent of paid election expenses and paid candidate personal expenses. In addition, any candidate who submits a return is eligible for an audit subsidy (paid directly to the campaign auditor) equal to the lesser of $1,500 or 3 percent of the candidate's election expenses, with a minimum of $250.

Following the November 2010 by-elections, eight candidates are eligible for reimbursements. Partial reimbursements already paid for these by-elections total $112,851.

2.13 Estimated cost of the by-elections

Table 9 presents the estimated cost of the November 2010 by-elections.

Table 9 – Estimated cost of the by-elections
Activity Estimated cost ($ thousands)
Conduct of elections in the electoral districts, including expenses related to election workers at the office of the returning officer and the polling stations, printing lists of electors and voter information cards, leasing local Elections Canada offices and polling sites, and telephony 1,326
Preparations for and conduct of the election at Elections Canada in Ottawa and support to the returning officers, including training returning officers and other key employees, advertising and awareness campaigns, the Support Network, and information technology1 910
Post-election studies and consultations, including surveys conducted by Elections Canada and post-mortem sessions with returning officers 60
Subtotal 2,296
Reimbursement of election expenses to candidates (projected cost)2 180
Total estimated cost 2,476
  1. The cost of $144,795 for the assistive voting device pilot project is included.
  2. Real expenditures will not be known until Elections Canada has received and audited the candidates' election expenses records.