Statements and Speeches
Remarks of the Chief Electoral Officer
on Elections Canada's Main Estimates 2019–2020
Standing Senate Committee on National Finance
April 30, 2019
Check against delivery
It is a pleasure to appear before the Committee today to discuss Elections Canada's main estimates and plans for 2019–20.
Elections Canada's Funding Authorities and Main Estimates
Elections Canada is funded by two separate authorities: an annual appropriation that covers the salaries of its indeterminate positions, and a statutory authority that allows it to draw directly from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for all of its other expenses. This allows access to the funds required for elections that may occur at any time and ensures its independence.
Today, the Committee is studying Elections Canada's annual appropriation totaling $39.2 million and representing the salaries of some 440 indeterminate positions. Combined with our other expenditures, our 2019-20 Main Estimates total $493.2 million.
Our Main Estimates include some $398 million for the October 21 election. This represents the direct election costs that will be incurred in this fiscal year.
More recent estimates indicate that total expenditures for the 43rd GE will be some $500 million. The expenditures may vary due to various factors, such as the duration of the campaign.
I note that while preparing our budgets last fall, we estimated the cost of the election at some $470 million. The difference is mainly due to Bill C-76 ($21M), which had not been passed when we were preparing our estimates and, therefore, had not been taken into account.
Agency Priorities for 2019-20
The agency's priority for this fiscal year is the preparation and delivery of the 43rd general election.
Implementation of C-76
This includes the implementation of the legislative changes enacted by Parliament under the Elections Modernization Act.
While the Act provides for a general implementation period of six months, it allows me to bring provisions into force earlier if the necessary preparations are completed.
On May 11, changes for electors residing outside Canada will also come into force; the remaining provisions will come into force in June. All of our guidance materials on the new political financing rules will have been finalized and published prior to the beginning of the pre-writ period on June 30.
Preparations for the Election
With respect to the operational delivery of the election, we are currently in the final stages of our preparations.
We recently completed a simulated election exercise over a period of three weeks in five electoral districts. The objective was to test our new IT systems, updated business processes, manuals and training material in a setting close to that of an actual election.
As a result of the simulation, we will be completing final adjustments this spring. This exercise gave me a high level of confidence in our state of readiness and our tools to deliver the election.
A key priority as part of our final preparations is to further improve the quality of the list of electors.
Every year, some three million Canadians move, 300,000 pass away, 100,000 become citizens, and 400,000 turn 18. This translates into 70,000 changes in any given week. To ensure the accuracy of the register, Elections Canada regularly draws on multiple data sources from over 40 provincial and federal bodies as well as from information provided directly by Canadians. This will be facilitated by recent improvements made to our online registration systems to capture non-standard addresses and upload identification documents.
With the enactment of Bill C-76, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is now able to share information about permanent residents and foreign nationals. This provides Elections Canada with a much needed tool to address the long-recognized issue of non-citizens appearing on the register of electors. This spring, we expect to remove approximately 100,000 records as a result.
We have also recently done a targeted mail out to 250,000 households where we believe we have records that need correction. Efforts to improve the accuracy of the list of electors will continue and be supported by a new pre-writ campaign to encourage Canadians to verify and update their information.
Since 2015, Elections Canada, in collaboration with its security partners, has made important investments to improve the protection of its IT infrastructure and databases. We are also providing IT security training to all our personnel at headquarters and in the field.
To address misinformation about the voting process, we will have a dedicated team and tools to monitor the environment, including social media, to detect inaccurate information and quickly correct it.
Finally, we continue to work with the Commissioner of Canada Elections and security agencies. Together, we are conducting exercises using multiple scenarios to ensure that roles and responsibilities are clear and that proper governance is established to coordinate our actions.
Overall, Mr. Chair, I believe that we are in a good position to deliver the next general election in a way that meets the high expectations of Canadians.