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Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Following the May 24, 2005, By-election Held in Labrador


Foreword

Note: A more detailed account of the Chief Electoral Officer's activities since the June 28, 2004, general election will be included in the report following the January 23, 2006, general election, which will be submitted to the Speaker of the House of Commons within 90 days after the return of the writs.

Closing the cycle of the 2004 general election

This section highlights three post-electoral activities: enforcement of the Canada Elections Act, evaluation of the Field Liaison Officer Program and the production of reports.

By January 13, 2006, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, who is responsible for ensuring compliance with and enforcement of the Canada Elections Act, had received 1,393 complaints regarding the June 2004 general election. Of these complaints, 1,004 have been resolved and 389 are under review. Compliance agreements have been concluded in 14 cases.

Following the 2004 general election, evaluation of the new Field Liaison Officer Program, an initiative to support returning officers, demonstrated that it was an added asset to the level of support provided to field staff during and between election periods. Field liaison officers were also able to provide Elections Canada's Executive Committee with insight into the conduct of the election at the local level.

The Chief Electoral Officer of Canada has submitted five reports to Parliament since the last general election:

Ongoing activities

What follows is a brief description of our key ongoing activities, which include initiatives to update the National Register of Electors, the Electoral Technology Accord, parliamentary and international activities, and outreach initiatives targeting Aboriginal people and youth.

In 2005, Elections Canada sent a mailing to more than 620,000 potential electors, asking them to confirm their citizenship and to consent to be added to the National Register of Electors. To date, over 100,000 names have been added to the Register. The Chief Electoral Officer is working with the Canada Revenue Agency to modify the income tax form to include a separate check box for confirming citizenship; this would allow Elections Canada to add new consenting electors – young people in particular – to the Register directly. In addition, new agreements concluded with the Canada Revenue Agency and Citizenship and Immigration Canada enable us to gather the information of consenting tax filers and new citizens on a monthly basis. In addition, Elections Canada provided data and assistance to a number of electoral agencies.

Between November 2003 and spring 2004, Canada's federal, provincial and territorial electoral agencies signed an accord to develop a system for sharing information technology knowledge and resources. The working group formed as a result of the accord created a shared model for collecting voter, address and electoral event data, which include information on candidates, polling sites and election results.

Since the 38th general election, Elections Canada has had a number of meetings with the representatives of registered political parties (e.g. the Advisory Committee of Political Parties), and the Chief Electoral Officer has appeared before various committees of the House of Commons. Some 20 amendments to the Act have been proposed or adopted since the 2004 general election.

As part of its involvement in international missions, Elections Canada provides review and advice to countries making a transition to democracy. In this regard, the Chief Electoral Officer chairs the International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections and the International Mission for Iraqi Elections, both composed of independent electoral commissions from around the world. The Chief Electoral Officer also participated in various meetings with international organizations that promote democracy.

The Assembly of First Nations and Elections Canada entered into a partnership on voter education in First Nations communities. Moreover, an information kiosk about First Nations' participation in the Canadian electoral system was developed for various events. Elections Canada also revamped its Web site to better serve Aboriginal electors. In addition, a DVD version of the television show Seekers aimed at Aboriginal youth was produced, in English and in French, to ensure as broad a distribution as possible.

To encourage young people to vote, Elections Canada supported the Historica Foundation in the development of the educational Voices YouthLinks module, and is currently working with the Dominion Institute on The Democracy Project, an education and research program. Elections Canada has further renewed its support for the Student Vote program.

Election preparation

In 2005, Canada's political landscape was marked by the imminent possibility of a general election. Returning officers were asked, in accordance with election preparation plans, to participate in a series of pre-writ tasks related to logistics (finding an office for the returning officer, recruiting an additional assistant returning officer, if required, and finding an office for him or her, assessing polling station accessibility, hiring staff, training election workers and community relations officers, and organizing Aboriginal Elder and Youth Program activities), targeted revision planning, improvement of voter registration and advance polling.

On May 19, 2005, members of the House of Commons voted on a confidence motion that could have dissolved Parliament and launched a general election. Subsection 31(3) of the Parliament of Canada Act provides that, if Parliament is dissolved after the issue of a writ, the writ is deemed to have been superseded and withdrawn. Since the date of the by-election had been set for May 24, 2005, Elections Canada had to devise a contingency plan to halt the by-election in Labrador and simultaneously prepare the general election. Elections Canada was therefore ready to run special communication programs to apprise electors of the situation. Furthermore, the materials and computer hardware required for an election had already been delivered to various regions across the country; in Labrador City, they were stored in the office of the returning officer. Finally, Elections Canada had also planned to deploy specialists to Labrador to assist the returning officer for that district.