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Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 41st general election of May 2, 2011

Foreword

The 41st general election was the fourth within a seven-year period. Overall, I can say with confidence that the election proceeded smoothly and that Canadians were presented with an accessible electoral framework that they could trust and use.

We implemented a number of administrative changes during this election, including a new recruitment initiative for field staff; improvements to ensure greater accessibility of polling sites; the introduction of wireless technology, which enabled local offices to serve electors very soon after the election was called; the addition of advance polls in rural areas; and the use of the voter information card to facilitate proof of identity and address for specific categories of electors.

Before we can build on these improvements, however, we need to take stock and complete a detailed evaluation in light of our wider experience with this election. Section 3 of this report notes a number of challenges pointing to the need to modernize the legislation. As a first step, my office is completing a series of evaluations, including surveys, focus groups and individual consultations aimed at assessing our performance, measuring the impact of the most recent changes to the electoral framework and identifying areas for improvement. Our conclusions will be documented in the evaluations report to be presented to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in 2012.

The 41st general election confirmed the fact that the needs and expectations of Canadians are evolving. They live in a world replete with electronic services and increasingly expect a range of options that provide them with more flexibility and accommodate their busy schedules. Responding to these changing needs was the focus of my report on recommended changes to the Canada Elections Act following the 40th general election, which was tabled in Parliament in June 2010. This report is available on the Elections Canada Web site.

A number of the report's recommendations are aimed at making our electoral framework more flexible and responsive for example, by allowing electronic signatures, which would permit the agency to conduct its business with political entities and electors electronically, or by providing for pilot projects to test initiatives such as new approaches to the voting process at polling sites. The 41st general election confirmed the relevance of these recommendations and the need for a more flexible framework. I would hope that the Committee has the opportunity to return to its study of these recommendations in the near future.

Conducting a general election in a large and diverse country like Canada over a 37‑day period is a daunting task that would not be possible without the efforts and goodwill of many participants, including candidates and political parties. I am grateful for the assistance and services of government agencies and private sector organizations, which did a great deal to facilitate the administration of the 41st general election. I also wish to express my appreciation to my provincial and territorial counterparts, who once again provided their co-operation and support.

Lastly, and most importantly, I offer my sincere thanks to the staff of Elections Canada in Ottawa, the 308 returning officers across the country and the small army of over 200,000 election workers who deserve the credit for making this election a success.

Marc Mayrand
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada