Process Assessment Report: 2012 Redistribution of Federal Electoral Districts
Elections Canada conducted a process assessment of the 2012 redistribution of federal electoral districts following its completion. This report speaks to the commissions' own assessment of their ability to fulfill their responsibilities and evaluates the effectiveness and efficiency of roles played by the Chief Electoral Officer and Elections Canada.
Elections Canada's assessment of the 2012 redistribution process is based on five key success factors, for which both challenges and opportunities for improvement are identified. Evidence to support this assessment was drawn from responses to an online survey of commissioners and administrative staff, in-depth interviews with commissioners, findings from the closing conference, post-mortem reviews with contributors to the process, records of the public consultation and a variety of website and media statistics.
Factor 1: Preparation level of the commissions for their mandate
The redistribution calendar gave some commissions little time to prepare for both the administrative and legal aspects of their mandate, and to get the necessary offices, personnel and equipment in place. Elections Canada provided assistance to the commissions in this respect, including performing analyses of previous redistributions and organizing a launch conference that helped the commissioners learn about their roles, the technical tools available to them, and the various considerations mandated for them.
Commissioners found the opening conference very useful. Nevertheless, many commissioners noted that the time they had to build the knowledge needed to do their work effectively was too short. The set-up of commission offices before members were appointed also brought its share of difficulties. An earlier establishment of commissions, as provided for in the Fair Representation Act, will alleviate some of these challenges in future redistributions.
Factor 2: Effectiveness and efficiency of Elections Canada's support
Elections Canada offers the commissions a variety of support services to allow them to focus on their mandate and to enhance the efficiency of the redistribution process. Commissions had very little internal capacity for administrative, technical or professional support and relied heavily on Elections Canada for services. Although technical equipment provided by Elections Canada raised some concerns, the assessment found a high level of satisfaction with Elections Canada's support and services, and especially for linguistic and publication services, financial services, operations support, geographic support and map production. In spite of this, some commissions felt that the service offering could have been more responsive to their unique needs.
The potential establishment of commissions earlier in the next redistribution process may afford commissions more time to build internal capacity, which could lead to a more decentralized service model.
Factor 3: Public and parliamentary awareness and participation
To promote awareness and participation among the public and parliamentarians, Elections Canada undertook a variety of initiatives, including creating a redistribution website, promoting media coverage and implementing measures to inform parliamentarians.
While it is difficult to make direct links between these initiatives and public awareness and participation in the redistribution process, some statistics are encouraging: the website received more than 300,000 visits; the number of representations at public hearings more than doubled those of 2002; and the media published more than a thousand articles on the subject of redistribution. Nevertheless, many commissioners felt that the general public, the media and parliamentarians could have been better informed about the process and the roles of those involved. Part of the solution may be in adapting to the considerable change in how Canadians prefer to receive information, with online and social media gaining prominence.
Commissions also expressed concerns that the single round of hearings, as mandated by the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, favours those who object to the proposals. While the Act gives no recourse for this possible shortcoming, several commissions addressed it by adapting the process – for example, by holding additional hearings in targeted areas.
Factor 4: Ability of the commissions to comply with applicable legislation
All 10 commissions took great care to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act as they relate to the process, timelines and criteria for consideration, and with the Official Languages Act. Elections Canada does not enforce compliance by the independent commissions, but does offer support, such as the launch conference, to help them understand their duties and legal requirements. The assessment revealed that the commissions did face several challenges in meeting their obligations, and that the process could be improved in the following areas:
- Time constraints – It was especially difficult to meet the 10-month deadline to submit reports, and the 30-day deadline for responding to objections from members of Parliament (MPs). The two largest provinces required the full two-month extension to complete their reports.
- Population equality – Some commissions felt it was justifiable to establish a lower deviation from the electoral quotient than is mandated under the Act or to take projected population growth into account.
- Boundary descriptions – The use of textual boundary descriptions is onerous and time-consuming. Alternative approaches might afford greater efficiency in the future.
Factor 5: Cost-effectiveness of the redistribution exercise
The assessment suggests that the process was cost-effective. The total expenditures for the 2012 redistribution were $10.5 million, or 15 percent less than the adjusted cost of the previous redistribution. Major cost savings were realized through efficiencies in locating and setting up commission offices and in reduced printing requirements; the shorter redistribution time frame is also a likely factor.
The results measured against the five success factors confirm that the process for the 2012 redistribution of federal electoral boundaries was a success. Nevertheless, the opportunities for improvement identified in this report warrant further analysis and discussion – and possible change. Some measures can be achieved within the existing authorities of the Chief Electoral Officer or the commissions, while others would require amendments to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act.