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2013-2014 Estimates – Report on Plans and Priorities

Section I: Organizational Overview

Raison d'être

The Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, commonly known as Elections Canada, is an independent, non-partisan agency that reports directly to Parliament. Its mandate is to:


In fulfilling its mandate, Elections Canada appoints, trains and supports returning officers and retains the services of 30 field liaison officers across Canada. It also maintains the National Register of Electors, which is used to prepare preliminary lists of electors at the start of electoral events, as well as electoral geography information, which provides the basis for maps and other geographic products used during electoral events.

The agency also:

In addition, the Chief Electoral Officer appoints the Commissioner of Canada Elections. The role of the Commissioner is to protect the integrity of the electoral process by ensuring that the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act are complied with and enforced. The Commissioner carries out his or her duties independently of any political or government interference and is assisted by investigators, lawyers and administrative personnel. In carrying out the Office's mandate, the Commissioner is guided by the principles of independence, impartiality, fairness and good faith.

The Chief Electoral Officer also appoints the Broadcasting Arbitrator. The Broadcasting Arbitrator is responsible for allocating free and paid broadcasting time among political parties and for arbitrating disputes that may arise between parties and broadcasters.

Strategic Outcome and Program Alignment Architecture

Elections Canada has a single strategic outcome, supported by the following Program Alignment Architecture (PAA):

Elections Canada's Program Alignment Architecture.

Elections Canada's Program Alignment Architecture – Textual description

Organizational Priorities

The tables below summarize how Elections Canada's priorities contribute to its strategic outcome.

Priority 1 Type Programs
Enable the electoral boundaries readjustment process and implement new electoral boundaries Previously committed to
  • Electoral Operations
  • Internal Services
Why is this a priority?

Federal electoral districts and the distribution of seats in the House of Commons are reviewed and adjusted after each decennial (10-year) census to ensure that electoral districts reflect population changes and movement among and within regions. This electoral boundaries readjustment process is mandated by the Constitution Act, 1867, the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act and the Fair Representation Act. The Fair Representation Act, which received royal assent in December 2011, amends the representation formula set out in the Constitution Act, 1867 by creating 30 additional electoral districts. It also shortens the time frame for both the readjustment process and the implementation of the new boundaries.

The readjustment process is led by an independent commission in each province.Footnote i The commissions began their deliberations in early 2012 after the Chief Electoral Officer received the 2011 census population counts from the Chief Statistician of Canada. Elections Canada is responsible for providing support to these commissions. Once this process is finished, Elections Canada has seven months to implement the new electoral boundaries.

Plans for meeting the priority

In 2013–2014, Elections Canada will continue to provide the commissions with all of the professional, financial and administrative services they need to finalize their duties. The readjustment process is expected to finish in fall 2013; the agency then has seven months to implement the new electoral boundaries. This work includes appointing and training returning officers in the new electoral districts, adjusting the lists of electors, producing maps of the new electoral districts and registering the new electoral district associations. Most of these activities will take place in 2013–2014. During this time, we also plan to align the new polling divisions with Statistics Canada's census geographic boundaries; this will save time and reduce costs.

Priority 2 Type Programs
Maintain trust and improve compliance New
  • Electoral Operations
  • Regulation of Electoral Activities
  • Electoral Engagement
  • Internal Services
Why is this a priority?

Certain events that occurred during the 41st general election may have eroded Canadians' trust in the electoral system.

The first event concerned complaints from electors, alleging that they had received various forms of fraudulent telephone calls purporting to be from Elections Canada or a particular candidate or party. The Commissioner of Canada Elections immediately undertook to investigate these allegations and continues to do so.

The second event involved irregularities at the polls in the riding of Etobicoke Centre (Ontario). In response, Elections Canada initiated an independent review of compliance with voting day procedures.

Plans for meeting the priority

While the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the election results in the riding of Etobicoke Centre, Elections Canada is committed to improving compliance with procedures at the polls. The agency will report to Parliament in spring 2013 on the findings of the compliance review of voting day procedures, which it initiated in 2012. In 2013–2014, the agency will begin to implement the resulting Compliance Action Plan.

Elections Canada is also developing a pilot project for the 2015 general election to test a more streamlined way to manage and operate voting at both advance and ordinary polls. This project is expected to result in improved compliance with operational procedures, cost savings, better working conditions for election officers and better services to electors. This project will require parliamentary approval in winter 2014. The agency will engage key stakeholders as this initiative proceeds.

Elections Canada will report to Parliament by the end of March 2013 on the administrative and legal issues concerning privacy and communications with electors in the context of evolving technologies. This report will include a number of recommendations to strengthen the electoral framework. Elections Canada looks forward to working with Parliament in 2013–2014 to review these recommendations.

As a result of its zero-based-budgeting review, Elections Canada has reallocated resources to preserve or enhance the capacity of the political financing program and the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections as well as to establish an operational compliance unit. In 2013–2014, the Commissioner will focus increased attention on priority files, improve the way in which Canadians can bring issues to his Office's attention, and report to Canadians on complaints received. In the medium term, more effective compliance and enforcement will require legislative reforms, and in 2013–2014, Elections Canada will develop recommendations in this regard that will lead to a final report in the spring of 2014.

Priority 3 Type Programs
Improve services and engage youth Previously committed to
  • Electoral Operations
  • Regulation of Electoral Activities
  • Electoral Engagement
  • Internal Services
Why is this a priority?

The needs of electors are evolving: they expect to exercise their democratic right to vote using a modern electoral process that incorporates technological advances and provides more convenient and accessible services. Some groups of electors, particularly youth, continue to face barriers to registration and voting. 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. With the next election fixed at October 2015, Elections Canada has a window of opportunity before returning to election readiness to focus on selected administrative improvements.

Plans for meeting the priority

Elections Canada's business cycle spans the period between two general elections. Thus, its efforts to meet this priority will proceed on a multi-year basis. In 2013–2014, the agency will implement the second year of its three-year plan to improve services to electors. It is focusing on initiatives that are feasible under the current legislative framework.

To provide more convenient services, Elections Canada intends to:
  • modernize the field voter registration system
  • enhance our online enquiries services
To reduce barriers to registration and voting, Elections Canada plans to:
  • extend the use of the voter information card as proof of identity and address to all electors, while adopting a new overall voter identification policy to simplify the administration of the voter identification regime
  • conduct registration drives before the next election is called
  • engage youth by sharing knowledge with key stakeholders
  • extend on-site special ballot voting to additional locations

Risk Analysis

Two main risks will require our attention over the next fiscal year.

Planning Summary

This section summarizes the agency's plans, priorities and expected budgets for the next three fiscal years.

Financial Resources (Planned Spending – $ thousands)
Total Budgetary Expenditures
(Main Estimates)
Planned Spending 2013–2014 Planned Spending 2014–2015 Planned Spending 2015–2016
115,854 115,854 97,115 89,592

Human Resources (Full-Time Equivalents – FTEs)
2013–2014 2014–2015 2015–2016
488 468 458

Planning Summary Table ($ thousands)
Program Actual Spending 2010–2011 Actual Spending 2011–2012 Forecast Spending 2012–2013* Planned Spending
2013–2014 2014–2015 2015–2016
Electoral Operations 52,728 202,833 36,992 36,641 35,246 36,063
Regulation of Electoral Activities** 37,272 102,958 38,073 28,072 19,827 12,304
Electoral Engagement 9,809 7,893 9,314 8,939 9,063 8,246
Subtotal 99,809 313,684 84,379 73,652 64,136 56,613

*Forecast spending for 2012–2013 is significantly lower than actual spending for the last two fiscal years, especially for 2011–2012. This is because a large portion of the expenditures from those years were non-recurrent expenditures for the conduct of the 41st general election, held on May 2, 2011.

**The gradual reduction in planned spending on the Regulation of Electoral Activities program over these three fiscal years is primarily a result of phasing out the quarterly allowances to political parties, as set out in An Act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget as updated on June 6, 2011 and other measures.

Planning Summary Table for Internal Services ($ thousands)
Program Actual Spending 2010–2011 Actual Spending 2011–2012 Forecast Spending 2012–2013 Planned Spending
2013–2014 2014–2015 2015–2016
Internal Services* 47,209 35,668 40,859 42,202 32,979 32,979

*The decrease in actual spending between 2010–2011 and 2011–2012 is partly the result of refocusing resources to deliver the 41st general election (part of the Electoral Operations program). Internal Services for 2012–2013 and 2013–2014 include one-time spending for the Office Consolidation and Relocation project. The project will end in 2013–2014.

Planning Summary Total ($ thousands)
Strategic Outcome Programs and Internal Services Actual Spending 2010–2011 Actual Spending 2011–2012 Forecast Spending 2012–2013 Planned Spending
2013–2014 2014–2015 2015–2016
Total 147,018 349,352 125,238 115,854 97,115 89,592

Expenditure Profile

Departmental Spending Trend

Departmental Spending Trend

Departmental Spending Trend – Textual description

*The significant variances in spending between the 2011–2012 fiscal year and the remaining years are a result of the 41st general election, held in 2011–2012.

Elections Canada's Financial Framework

While Elections Canada performs a number of ongoing functions, a key component of its mandate is to be prepared to conduct general elections, by-elections and referendums. Under our parliamentary system, by-elections can happen at any time. While a fixed date of October 19, 2015, for the 42nd general election facilitates Elections Canada's long-term planning, six provincial and territorial elections are also scheduled to be held in the fall of 2015. These overlapping electoral events will pose challenges to electors, political entities and Elections Canada. Under these circumstances, should a federal election be called earlier than expected, Elections Canada will need to be ready.

The agency's dual funding mechanism and planning practices are a unique characteristic of its mandate. Elections Canada is funded in part by an annual appropriation that covers the salaries of its permanent staff and is not affected by the electoral cycle. Given the unpredictability of electoral events, the agency also has a statutory authority that allows it to draw directly from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

Elections Canada's statutory authority covers all of its other expenses. Some of these expenses are unpredictable and are not included in its planned spending, such as those related to by-elections.

Estimates by Vote

For information on our organizational appropriations, see the 2013–2014 Main EstimatesFootnote 1 publication.

Footnote i Commissions are not needed for Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut because each territory constitutes a single electoral district.

Footnote 1