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Meeting of the Advisory Committee of Political Parties – October 19, 2007

Holiday Inn Plaza la Chaudière, Gatineau, Quebec

Summary of Proceedings

This document provides a summary of the comments made at the October 19, 2007, meeting. This summary follows the same order as the agenda (Appendix 1). For the list of participants, see Appendix 2.

Welcoming and Opening Remarks

The intention was expressed to continue to develop Elections Canada's relationship with the ACPP in order to share analysis and obtain input and advice. Ongoing business was addressed, including the implementation of recent legislation, the likelihood of bills being re-introduced before Parliament, the appointment of returning officers, the progress of the Information Technology renewal initiative, and the wrap-up of the recent by-elections in Quebec. An updated organizational chart of Elections Canada's senior management structure was made available.

Bill C-31 and September By-elections: Preliminary Results of the Voter Identification Requirements Evaluation

Members were informed that Elections Canada had recently received preliminary results of an evaluation of the voter identification requirements for the three September by-elections in Quebec. It was pointed out that Quebec already requires voter identification (but not proof of address) in provincial elections, and caution was expressed in extrapolating those results to a general election situation.

The face-coverings issue that arose during the September by-elections was addressed. Members were informed that some 70 electors presented themselves at the polls with face coverings; of those, 17 uncovered, 50 read the prescribed oath, and three neither uncovered nor read the prescribed oath. It was added that face coverings were not an issue during the recent provincial election in Ontario, or during the recent municipal election in Calgary.

Environics, which was commissioned to synthesize the evaluation of voter identification requirements, presented the preliminary findings. A copy of the presentation was provided to members at the meeting.

Several issues about the survey results were discussed afterwards. Members raised concerns regarding the reported use by respondents of the voter information cards (VICs) as a piece of identification. In response, it was pointed out that the VICs distributed for the by-elections clearly indicated that electors must prove their identity and residential address when voting, and that the VIC cannot be used as proof of identity or residential address.

Members also expressed concerns that the new requirements would affect voter turnout and encouraged Elections Canada to continue to protect electors' right to vote.

Members also suggested to conduct a similar evaluation at future electoral events and several topics were suggested for further analysis, including the study of the reasons for not voting. In this regard, members were reminded that studying the reasons for not voting is usually part of the general election evaluations. Members also suggested to prepare television advertisements about the new identification requirements at future electoral events.

Bill C-31 Implementation and Upcoming Electoral Events: Challenges to Providing Documentary Evidence of Residence for Electors Residing in Rural and Northern Areas

Members were informed that based on meetings with provincial and territorial chief electoral officers in the late summer, as well as feedback from regional training sessions with returning officers, electors in rural and northern areas could encounter some problems providing evidence of their residence. It was pointed out that Elections Canada conducted further analysis and established that many electors in rural and northern Canada have an incomplete or non-civic address; for many of those who do have a civic address, it does not commonly appear on their identification documents. Thus, it is difficult for them to prove their residential address.

Elections Canada made a presentation outlining the issue and setting out the scope of the challenge, both nationally and in Saskatchewan. For more details, please see a copy of the presentation slides that were provided at the meeting.

The presentation pointed out that the full extent of the issue, more specifically, the geographic concentration, had not been anticipated during the consideration of Bill C-31. While the issue was raised recently with the Minister, the Privy Council Office, and the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, it was noted that it was also desirable to gather input and advice from the ACPP.

Members agreed that this was an important matter requiring an immediate solution, given the likelihood of by-elections and a general election in the near future.

Members made several suggestions (administrative and legislative) to address the matter. In response to a suggestion that Elections Canada accept the VIC as a piece of identification, Elections Canada indicated that it is the general opinion that VICs should not be used as a piece of identification, in part because of the potential for them to fall into the wrong hands and be used fraudulently. Members were advised by Elections Canada that an agreement was in place with Canada Post to collect VICs discarded in apartment buildings and the possibility of mailing them in envelopes would be looked into. It was added that a procedure exists to collect them at the entry to the polling site.

Members suggested that the solution should be statutory and that the CEO remain committed to the spirit of the law.

Elections Canada pointed out that it has not yet formulated a recommendation on this matter and was of the opinion that the Act would likely need to be amended to resolve this problem. It was added that the CEO expected to appear before Parliament on the matter in the coming weeks.

Bill C-31 Implementation and Upcoming Electoral Events: CEO's List of Authorized Pieces of Identification at the Polls

Elections Canada pointed out that following the September by-elections, minor modifications were made to the CEO's list of authorized pieces of identification at the polls. A revised list of Pieces of Identification Authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada was provided to members and a presentation was made to outline how it had been compiled and formatted, including the inclusion of Attestations of Residence to be obtained by electors from the responsible authority.

Members shared some concerns about the potential abuse of the Attestations of Residence as well as the administrative burden placed on the responsible authority. Elections Canada pointed out that privacy considerations made access to lists of residents problematic.

Members stressed that training for election officers must be thorough and clear, in part because of the different proof of identification requirements at the federal and provincial/territorial levels.

Elections Canada pointed out that the Act allows the CEO to authorize identification cards issued by an organization other than a government. It was also clarified that hospital bracelets if added to the list would be accepted only for voting at mobile polling stations. It was added that the list is continually under review and that at the next ACPP meeting, members would receive a progress report.

Bill C-31 Implementation and Upcoming Electoral Events: Updates on Changes to the Lists of Electors and the "Bingo Card"

Members were provided an update on changes to the National Register of Electors and the lists of electors as a result of Bill C-31. The presentation emphasized the need for political parties to begin changing their systems to take advantage of the new unique identifier, as well as the importance of matching data to ensure a correct link from the unique identifier to the correct record. It was pointed out that provisions will come into force on April 22, 2008, and members were invited to contact Elections Canada with any questions.

Concerning the "bingo card" system, Elections Canada indicated that provisions will come into force on December 22, 2007, and that about three million forms will be necessary for a general election. Members were invited to submit their comments about the format and design by November 1, 2007. It was clarified to members that if there are more than four candidates, the poll official will have to mark more than one form at a time.

Other Matters

Members made a number of suggestions about the structure and approach of the ACPP, including publishing the proceedings of ACPP meetings on the Elections Canada Web site.

Members suggested that Elections Canada prepare written interpretations on some provisions of the Act and the procedures candidates and political parties must perform during an event to ensure that all players follow the law.

Closing Remarks

Members were informed that the next regular meeting of the ACPP will be held on February 22, 2008, and that proposed potential items for discussion could include a forward agenda for the ACPP, as well as its structure and mandate going forward; Elections Canada's Strategic Plan 2008–2013; and legislation of the day pertaining to the electoral process.

Appendix 1: Agenda

08:30 – 09:00 Breakfast
09:00 – 09:45 Welcome and opening remarks by the Chief Electoral Officer
09:45 – 10:30 Bill C-31 and September by-elections
  • Preliminary results of the voter identification requirements evaluation
10:30 – 10:45 Health break
10:45 – 12:00 Bill C-31 implementation and upcoming electoral events
  • Challenges to providing documentary evidence of residence for electors residing in rural and northern areas
12:00 – 13:00 Lunch
13:00 – 15:00 Bill C-31 implementation and upcoming electoral events
  • CEO's list of authorized pieces of identification at the polls
  • Changes to the list of electors (date of birth and unique identifier)
  • Bingo cards
14:15 – 14:30 Health break
15:00 – 15:30 Closing remarks
  • Forward agenda
  • Next meeting date

Appendix 2: List of participants

Committee members (in alphabetical order by political party name)

Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada Ms. Liz White, Leader
Bloc Québécois Mr. Gilbert Gardner, Directeur général
Mr. Martin Carpentier, Directeur de l'organisation
Canadian Action Party Mr. Will Arlow, Representative
Christian Heritage Party of Canada Mr. Ron Gray, Leader
Mr. Steven Downey, Executive Director
Communist Party of Canada Ms. Elizabeth Rowley, Member of Central Executive Committee
Conservative Party of Canada Ms. Susan Kehoe, Executive Director
Ms. Ann O'Grady, Chief Financial Officer
Mr. Jeff Donald, Political Operations Officer, British Columbia
First Peoples National Party of Canada Ms. Noeline Villebrun, Leader, North Division
Liberal Party of Canada Mr. Jack Siegel, Legal Counsel
Mr. Harry Mortimer, Controller and Provincial and Territorial Financial Services Manager
Libertarian Party of Canada Mr. Jean-Serge Brisson, Leader Marijuana Party
Mr. Blair Longley, Leader
Mr. John Akpata, Member
Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada Ms. Anna DiCarlo, Secretary Mr. Jean Patrick Berthiaume, Directeur du Laboratoire des sciences pour députable
New Democratic Party Ms. Heather Fraser, Director of Organization
Ms. Jess Turk-Browne, Assistant Federal Secretary
Progressive Canadian Party Ms. Tracy Parsons, Leader
Mr. Jim Love, President

Elections Canada staff

Mr. Marc Mayrand Chief Electoral Officer
Ms. Diane Davidson Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Chief Legal Counsel and Regulatory Affairs
Mr. Rennie Molnar Associate Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral Events
Mr. Stéphane Perrault Senior General Counsel and Senior Director, Legal Services
Mr. Belaineh Deguefé Director General, Outreach, Communications and Research
Ms. Michèle René de Cotret General Counsel and Director, Legislative Policy and Analysis
Mr. Maurice Bastarache Senior Director, Electoral Data Management and Readiness
Mr. Michel Roussel Senior Director, Field Readiness and Event Management
Mr. Alain Pelletier Assistant Director, Corporate and Parliamentary Research
Mr. Paul Laronde Analyst, Corporate and Parliamentary Research