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2013-2014 Estimates – Report on Plans and Priorities

Chief Electoral Officer's Message

Elections Canada published its Report on the Evaluations of the 41st General Election of May 2, 2011 in November 2012. Our post-event surveys indicate that 95 percent of electors were satisfied with the conduct of the general election. Electors were aware of the election (98 percent); they knew about the authorized pieces of identification that they needed to present before they could vote (89 percent); and they were satisfied with the accessibility of the polling sites (98 percent).

Based on this and other international democracy indexes, Canada has a sound electoral system. This, however, is no reason to be complacent. In my view, there are two areas in which the health of our democracy is increasingly under pressure. One of these is citizen engagement; the other is citizens' trust in their electoral system.

With respect to citizen engagement, voter turnout – the most basic indicator of democracy – has been in steady decline for over two decades. The most troubling thing about this trend is that it is in large part attributable to generational replacement; that is, today's young Canadians are much less likely to vote than their parents or grandparents were at the same age, and they are less likely to take up the habit of voting as they grow older. This means that unless this trend is reversed, fewer and fewer Canadians will vote in future elections. To mitigate this trend, Elections Canada is working hard to engage young Canadians, and it continues to seek the broad collaboration of civil society partners in this effort.

Second, certain events may have eroded Canadians' trust in the electoral system. I think here of allegations of fraudulent telephone calls made during the May 2011 general election as well as irregularities at the polls in the riding of Etobicoke Centre (Ontario).

Elections Canada takes both of these events and the various issues they raise very seriously, and we are working within the current legal framework to develop clear, tangible and realizable solutions to them before the next general election. We will address each event in detail in separate reports to Parliament in spring 2013.

Our other plans and priorities for 2013–2014 will focus on continued support of the electoral boundaries readjustment process. Once that process is complete, which we expect will be in fall 2013, Elections Canada will have seven months to implement the new boundaries. Most of this work will be accomplished by March 2014.

We will also continue to carry out our three-year plan to make administrative improvements to the services we provide to electors. These improvements aim to provide more convenient services to electors; reduce barriers to registration, identification and accessibility; and foster the engagement of young Canadians.

However, administrative actions alone will not be enough to properly address a number of issues. Recent events and our post-election evaluations have reinforced the need to take immediate steps to modernize the electoral framework. This is something that I have supported beginning with my June 2010 report Responding to Changing Needs – Recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Following the 40th General Election, which proposed a series of necessary changes to the Canada Elections Act.

The reports that I will submit to Parliament in spring 2013 will present further recommendations for legislative change. These aim to enhance Canadians' trust in their electoral system, improve the services they receive during an election and strengthen the electoral framework set out in the Canada Elections Act. Elections Canada looks forward to working with Parliament in the coming fiscal year to review these recommendations.

My hope is that parliamentarians will consider these recommendations and enact the appropriate legislation by spring 2014. This will enable Elections Canada to fully integrate these changes in time for the 2015 federal election. These changes will ensure that the electoral system continues to meet Canadians' high expectations.

Marc Mayrand
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada