2013-2014 Estimates – Report on Plans and Priorities
Section I: Organizational Overview
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:
- be prepared to conduct a federal general election, by-election or referendum
- administer the political financing provisions of the Canada Elections Act
- monitor compliance with and enforce electoral legislation
- carry out investigations into allegations that would amount to offences under the Act
- conduct voter education and information programs
- provide support to the independent commissions in charge of adjusting the boundaries of federal electoral districts following each decennial census
- carry out studies on alternative voting methods and, with the approval of parliamentarians, test electronic voting processes for future use during electoral events
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:
- registers political entities, including political parties, electoral district associations, candidates, leadership contestants, third parties that engage in election advertising and referendum committees
- administers the allowances, reimbursements and subsidies paid to eligible candidates, registered political parties and auditors
- monitors compliance with the Canada Elections Act, including compliance with political financing rules, during and between elections
- discloses information on registered parties and electoral district associations, registered parties' nomination and leadership contestants, candidates, third parties and referendum committees, including their financial returns
- recommends to Parliament amendments for the better administration of the Canada Elections Act. It does this by submitting a recommendations report after a general election as well as by providing expert advice when Parliament studies electoral reform.
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.
Elections Canada has a single strategic outcome, supported by the following Program Alignment Architecture (PAA):
The tables below summarize how Elections Canada's priorities contribute to its strategic outcome.
|Enable the electoral boundaries readjustment process and implement new electoral boundaries||Previously committed to||
|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.
|Maintain trust and improve compliance||New||
|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.
|Improve services and engage youth||Previously committed to||
|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:
Two main risks will require our attention over the next fiscal year.
- Any legislative improvements need to be enacted by spring 2014 to give Elections Canada enough time to fully integrate them in time for the 2015 general election. In 2010, the Chief Electoral Officer made recommendations to Parliament to modernize the electoral framework, and these were well received. Further recommendations to strengthen the electoral framework will be made in spring 2013 in the Chief Electoral Officer's reports on communications with electors and compliance with voting day procedures. Elections Canada is prepared to assist parliamentarians by facilitating their review of its recommendations and proposed changes to legislation. The agency is also prepared to adjust its plans for the 2015 election as required to factor in any legislative change that Parliament enacts in time.
- Fiscal restraint measures affect Elections Canada's ability to continue to deliver and enhance its programs. To address these pressures, the agency completed a zero-based-budgeting review in 2012–2013. While the agency can reallocate some resources to its highest priorities, the review confirmed that Elections Canada lacks the funds required to continue to finance a number of indeterminate positions going forward. As a result, in 2012–2013, we began implementing workforce adjustment measures and informed employees, on January 15, 2013, that 32 encumbered positions would be eliminated.
This section summarizes the agency's plans, priorities and expected budgets for the next three fiscal years.
|Total Budgetary Expenditures
|Planned Spending 2013–2014||Planned Spending 2014–2015||Planned Spending 2015–2016|
|Program||Actual Spending 2010–2011||Actual Spending 2011–2012||Forecast Spending 2012–2013*||Planned Spending|
|Regulation of Electoral Activities**||37,272||102,958||38,073||28,072||19,827||12,304|
*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.
|Program||Actual Spending 2010–2011||Actual Spending 2011–2012||Forecast Spending 2012–2013||Planned Spending|
*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.
|Strategic Outcome Programs and Internal Services||Actual Spending 2010–2011||Actual Spending 2011–2012||Forecast Spending 2012–2013||Planned Spending|
Departmental Spending Trend
*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.
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.
Return to source of Footnote i Commissions are not needed for Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut because each territory constitutes a single electoral district.
Return to source of Footnote 1 www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/ems-sgd/esp-pbc/me-bpd-eng.asp