Meeting Summary – Annual General Meeting – June 19 and 20, 2017
Triennial Verification of Party Membership
Mr. Perrault provided an overview of the triennial verification of party membership, which was completed on June 30, 2016, and answered members' questions about the process. Mr. Perrault explained that to register, parties must provide the names and addresses of 250 electors who sign declarations that they are members and support the registration, as stipulated in the Canada Elections Act (the Act). The Act further requires parties to have 250 members to maintain their registered status. At the request of the CEO, parties must also provide evidence of their membership. Every three years, parties must submit the names and addresses of 250 electors and their declarations that they are members.
Prior to 2016, the CEO verified declarations upon registration but not as part of the triennial exercise. Verification was done by way of follow-up letters and was limited to declarations from individuals not in the Register. If those verifications raised concerns, EC conducted further verification. In a number of cases, persons contacted did not write back or communicated with EC to say that the declaration was either forged or made under pressure. There were other indicators of potential abuse of the regime.
In 2016, a three-tier approach based on level of electoral support was used to verify party submissions. For parties represented in the House of Commons, EC took the 250 declarations at face value. For parties that were not represented but that received 1,000 votes or more, EC checked the names against the Register and validated electors not in the Register through a mail-in. For parties that were not represented and that received fewer than 1,000 votes, EC systematically confirmed every name.
In terms of lessons learned, EC underestimated the impact on parties of the new approach in the sense that there were a large number of non-responses. Mr. Perrault also agreed that the agency should have been more transparent at the outset in terms of the verification approach. At the same time, the 2016 exercise showed the need for EC to perform verifications to preserve the integrity of the regime. For the next verification, the Act requires that parties provide information to EC in 2019, no later than June 30, 2019 (can be as early as January 1, 2019). However, since EC will accept signatures from the last 12 months, political parties can start collecting signatures as of January 2, 2018.
Round Table Discussion
First, ACPP members noted that the administrative processes associated with the verification and the reliance on regular mail is cumbersome for their membership. ACPP members noted that requiring 250 people to confirm their membership twice (once to the party and a second time to EC) will never produce a 100% response rate. They found that the "double verification" process may discriminate against some small parties as some of their members, specifically young people, renters and low-income electors, are less likely to be on the list of electors. In some cases, individuals do not want to disclose their party affiliation to verify their signatures. The second mailing is sometimes perceived as threatening.
Second, ACPP members wanted to know which members did not confirm membership and questioned why parties cannot have the unaccepted/unverifiable forms sent back to them. Mr. Perrault responded that EC cannot disclose information to parties as there may be cases where potential members were threatened to sign (EC has received complaints in the past of individuals who had felt threatened).
Third, ACPP members provided recommendations on the current process. They wanted the current form to be simplified and reformatted to advise people that a second verification will be required. Other recommendations include using spot checking for those who did not confirm, as well as having returning officers verify signatures. The last suggestion was having EC, rather than political entities, make initial contact with individuals to confirm that they are members of a certain party.
In his wrap-up, Mr. Perrault reminded members that the process requires that signatories be electors. It would be helpful if parties verified that their members are on the voters list, or encouraged them to register. Mr. Perrault mentioned that EC is open to ideas about auditing, such as having a sample verified. Mr. Perrault will re-evaluate the format of verification forms. He will also review the possibility of electronic submissions, especially with the online portal. EC will clearly communicate how membership will be verified prior to the next verification date.