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Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Following the November 27, 2006, By-elections Held in London North Centre and Repentigny


Foreword

In addition to the by-elections of November 27, 2006, this report covers the activities of Elections Canada during the nine months from the release of the report on the January 23, 2006, general election to February 2007.

Election readiness

For the first time in 40 years and only the second time in the history of Canada's electoral system, Canadian voters elected a second consecutive minority government on January 23, 2006. Accordingly, during the period covered by this report Elections Canada's top priority was to return to a continuous state of readiness to conduct another major electoral event, which could occur at any time in a minority situation. The agency completed post-event activities associated with the closely spaced general elections of 2004 and 2006, and at the same time pursued other activities within its mandate.

Even before polling day for the 39th general election – in case it produced a second minority government – the Chief Electoral Officer made some decisions to initiate preparations for the 40th general election, predicated on the fact that historical averages suggest that another election could occur much sooner than would be the case under a majority government. Key preparatory tasks included:

Ongoing activities

Several pieces of legislation proposed since the beginning of the 39th Parliament have a bearing on the work of Elections Canada. Bill C-4, An Act to amend An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act, received royal assent on May 11, 2006. Other pieces of legislation include:

Also before Parliament are a number of private members' bills, as well as seven bills that propose to change electoral district names.

The Chief Electoral Officer appeared eight times before committees of the House of Commons to discuss such topics as Bill C-2, Bill C-4, Bill C-16, Bill C-31, his report on the 2006 general election, the elections in Haiti and a study of democratic development. He also appeared twice before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs during its studies of Bill C-2 and Bill C-4. Transcripts of all his appearances before parliamentary committees are posted on the Elections Canada Web site.

In his role as chair of the Advisory Committee of Political Parties, the Chief Electoral Officer hosted two meetings. Topics included members' impressions of the 2006 general election, poll site locations, voter registration, the Elections Canada Information Technology Renewal project and other items. Political party registration requirements were changed in 2004, with the result that after the 2006 general election, three newly registered political parties were invited to join the Advisory Committee: the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada, the First Peoples National Party of Canada and the Western Block Party.

As part of the agency's ongoing involvement in international electoral assistance, Elections Canada hosted the worldwide launch of the Administration and Cost of Elections (ACE) Electoral Knowledge Network. The Chief Electoral Officer also participated in meetings with international organizations promoting democracy, took part in professional exchanges and visitors' programs in Mexico and Panama, and welcomed several foreign delegations. During this period, the International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections concluded its activities. To carry on its work, in October 2006 the Canadian Mission for Accompanying Haitian Elections (CMAHE) was established, led by the Chief Electoral Officer. The CMAHE provided information and evaluation to the Conseil Électoral Provisoire for the December 3, 2006, local, municipal and legislative elections in Haiti. Further information about the CMAHE, including its final report, is posted on the Elections Canada Web site.

As part of its youth outreach program, Elections Canada supported three consultations on the subject of youth electoral participation conducted by Canada25 – a youth civic engagement organization targeting 20- to 35-year-olds. Two of the sessions were held in Calgary in February 2006; a third was held in June 2006. In all, some 120 young people of various backgrounds participated.

Throughout 2006, Elections Canada continued to work in partnership with Aboriginal organizations. In January 2006, the agency participated in two events organized by the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation. The organization's "Blueprint for the Future" career fair and the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards gala were staged in Vancouver, and during that time, Elections Canada organized a talking circle on Aboriginal participation in federal elections, which allowed for inclusive and open dialogue among 39 participants. On December 6, 2006, the Chief Electoral Officer and National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Phil Fontaine signed a memorandum of understanding, agreeing on continued co-operation between their organizations to develop a voter education campaign for First Nations electors for the 40th general election. Over the coming months, the two organizations intend to work together to develop information and educational tools and strategies for First Nations people.

To refine its outreach approach and initiatives, Elections Canada commissioned four concept papers to be published in spring 2007. This initiative is a key building and updating process required to build a strategic direction. The papers examine the electoral participation of four groups of electors, as well as outreach practices aimed at them: youth, Aboriginal people, ethnocultural communities and Canadians with special needs. In view of gaps identified in some of the concept papers, Elections Canada formed a partnership with Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN) to prepare three research papers on the political engagement of Canadian youth, including Aboriginal youth. The papers, which are part of CPRN's "Shaping a New Direction for Youth Democratic Participation" project, will be completed by summer 2007.

In June 2006, Elections Canada reviewed its outreach initiatives and created a long-term voter outreach strategy built around leadership, partnership, research, communications and operations.

Throughout the year, Elections Canada was engaged in renewing its strategic plan for 2007–12. The new plan will have a strong focus on results and will be supported by a performance measurement framework, also being developed by the agency.

Closing the cycle of the 2004 and 2006 general elections

By January 15, 2007, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, who is responsible for ensuring compliance with and enforcement of the Canada Elections Act, had received 1,931 complaints stemming from the June 2004 general election. Of these, 1,720 have been resolved and 211 are under review. Compliance agreements have been concluded in 19 cases. Charges have been laid in three cases: two for failure to file the electoral campaign return and documents, and one related to wilfully applying to be included in a list of electors for a polling division while already included in a list for another polling division.

By the same date, the Commissioner had also received 451 complaints arising from the 2006 general election, of which 347 have been resolved. The remainder are under review. Charges have been laid in two cases: for making a false statement of fact in relation to the personal character or conduct of a candidate, and for attempting to vote knowing that one is not qualified to be an elector.

There may be additional referrals to the Commissioner once Elections Canada has finished examining election expenses returns. Under the Canada Elections Act, candidates are required to file a return within four months of the polling date. Details of compliance agreements and sentencing are posted on the Elections Canada Web site.

After the 2006 general election, Elections Canada again conducted the voter turnout study. Initiated after the 2004 general election, this measures elector turnout by age group, cross-referencing actual votes with data from the National Register of Electors. The report on voter-turnout for the 2004 general election is available on the Elections Canada Web site; results of the 2006 study will be published later in 2007. Elections Canada also prepared a special issue of Electoral Insight magazine on the electoral participation of immigrants and ethnocultural communities that was published early in 2007.

Political financing

Since the report on the 2006 general election, Elections Canada has continued to fulfill its mandate of overseeing the financial provisions of the Canada Elections Act. Full details, including returns and statistical tables, are posted in the Election Financing section of the Elections Canada Web site.

Bill C-2 received royal assent on December 12, 2006, and its provisions on political financing came into force on January 1, 2007. In preparation for the new provisions, Elections Canada produced guides, manuals, videos, software and other information tools, and developed forms to help political entities meet their obligations.

Financial reporting

Registered parties

The 15 registered parties in the 2006 general election were required to file their election expenses returns by July 24, 2006. Ten parties filed on time; the other five requested and received extensions under the Canada Elections Act. The extended deadlines were met in all cases.

Registered parties were required to file their fiscal returns for 2005 by June 30, 2006. Of the 15 registered parties in 2005, 6 filed within the original deadline, 6 requested extensions and 3 – the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada, the First Peoples National Party of Canada and the Western Block Party – were not required to file. The three parties had become registered in December 2005; their 2006 returns will cover the period from the date they became registered to December 31, 2006. All 12 registered parties that were required to file met the original or extended deadline.

Any registered party that received 2 percent of the valid votes cast nationwide, or 5 percent of the valid votes cast in electoral districts in which it endorsed a candidate, is eligible to receive a quarterly allowance. Registered parties receiving a quarterly allowance must file quarterly returns on contributions and transfers received in the previous quarter.

All quarterly returns were filed within the filing deadline.

Electoral campaign returns

May 23, 2006, was the deadline for candidates in the 2006 general election to file their electoral campaign returns for contributions, expenses and other financial transactions related to that election. In all, there were 1,636 confirmed candidates.1 Elections Canada received 1,624 complete candidate returns as of January 22, 2007. Some 1,607 of the returns were received within the original filing deadline or an authorized extension period; 17 were filed late.

The remaining 12 candidates (0.7 percent) have not yet filed a complete return, and either did not seek an extension or missed the extended deadline granted by the Chief Electoral Officer or a judge.

Reimbursement of election expenses

Final election expenses reimbursements paid to candidates as of January 22, 2007, totalled $9,442,664; this amount is net of repayments related to initial reimbursement overpayments. When combined with the initial reimbursements, the total election expenses reimbursements paid to date are $19,851,071. Some 630 of the 884 candidates eligible for expenses reimbursements have been paid. Any candidate who submits a return is eligible for an audit subsidy, paid directly to his or her campaign auditor. Audit subsidy payments made as of January 22, 2007, totalled $735,451.

A significant number of campaigns were required to file amended financial returns. As of January 22, 2007, 184 candidates requested authorization to file an amendment in order to correct errors or omissions, and 206 candidates who requested authorization to pay claims after filing their returns were required to file an amendment to reflect those payments.

Registered electoral district associations

Any electoral district association (EDA) registered before July 1, 2005, was required to complete and submit a financial transactions return by May 31, 2006, for the fiscal period ending December 31, 2005. An EDA that accepted contributions or incurred expenses of $5,000 or more during this fiscal period had to submit an auditor's report with the return. A total of 1,096 associations were required to submit a return; of these, 576 met the May 31 deadline and 489 filed later. As of January 22, 2007, 31 EDAs had failed to file a complete return.

Again as of January 22, 2007, $834,256 had been paid to EDA auditors related to the audit of the 2005 fiscal returns.

Leadership contests

Two parties filed notices of leadership contests after the 2006 general election.

The Green Party of Canada held a leadership contest from April 21 through August 26, 2006. Three contestants registered with Elections Canada. Each was required to file six financial reports: one on registration, four in the last four weeks of the contest and one six months after the contest. The three contestants have provided all of the required reports due to date. The final reports for this contest were due on February 26, 2007.

The Liberal Party of Canada held a leadership contest from April 7 through December 3, 2006. Eleven contestants registered with Elections Canada. Three contestants withdrew from the contest and, in accordance with the Canada Elections Act, were not required to file any of the four interim financial reports during the last four weeks of the contest. All reports due on registration and interim reports were submitted on time. The final returns for this contest are due on June 4, 2007.

Third parties

A total of 80 third parties were registered for the 2006 general election. Each was required to file a return for election advertising expenses and related contributions with Elections Canada by May 23, 2006. Of these, 60 filed on time and 13 filed late. As of January 22, 2007, seven had not filed their returns.

No third parties registered for the London North Centre or Repentigny by-elections.

1 For the 2006 general election, 1,636 candidates were confirmed but 2 withdrew after confirmation, leaving 1,634 active candidates.