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Meeting Summary – Knowledge Exchange Day – March 31, 2022

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Knowledge Exchange Day Summary


On March 31, 2022, Consultation Services and Stakeholder Mobilization convened Elections Canada's key stakeholders to GE44 Knowledge Exchange Day (KE Day) in a virtual setting. The objectives of the event were:

  • to facilitate knowledge exchange between stakeholders and Elections Canada (EC) staff
  • to build stronger relationships between EC and its stakeholders
  • to consult stakeholders on specific issues, including recruitment of returning officers and Vote on Campus at GE45

This event marked the second iteration of a post–general election consultation day with all contracted stakeholders. KE Day 2022 featured four sessions:

  • a Stakeholder Voices session
  • a Vote on Campus consultation
  • a Recruitment of Returning Officers consultation
  • an Ask Me Anything session with Elections Canada's Chief Electoral Officer

Summaries of Sessions

Introductory Remarks

Presenter: Miriam Lapp, Senior Director, Research, Consultations and Civic Education

Ms. Lapp's introductory remarks had three points of focus:

  • to offer a memory refresher on some of the major challenges and successes of the pandemic general election (GE) in 2021
  • to thank stakeholders for their great work during the last GE
  • to review some highlights of feedback that stakeholders offered after the event

Highlights of stakeholder feedback are found in the Appendix.

Stakeholder Voices Session

Presenter: Miriam Lapp, Senior Director, Research, Consultations and Civic Education

Ms. Lapp opened this session by inviting stakeholders to showcase the stakeholder outreach activities they conducted for GE44, discuss the value and areas for improvement, and identify networks and opportunities for collaboration among stakeholders in the future. Participants were engaged on the question of how Elections Canada (EC) can better inform stakeholders on important initiatives that are relevant to their audiences.

Question: What do you view as successes from the last general election (GE44)? What went well in your outreach?

  • Generally, stakeholders felt they were well supported by EC staff and appreciated the team's availability and engagement. Participants valued the help EC offered in the creation and review of their resource for their specific audiences. Stakeholders felt that EC's infographics, toolkits and visuals were very useful. A shout-out was offered to EC for the digital campaign. EC heard that outreach efforts contributed to a reduction in the level of stress of voters, particularly for youth, Indigenous youth and first-time voters. It was also mentioned that Indigenous voters, especially Elders, appreciated the use of plain language in communications.
  • EC's contracted stakeholders were clearly creative in their outreach. Their successful initiatives included providing leadership workshops, hosting meaningful engagement sessions with their partner organizations across the country, running social media campaigns, producing short videos for social media where members spoke and encouraged each other, hiring social media communicators and even creating microsites or apps that provided voter notifications (by text and email) with reminders of various deadlines and election information (mail-in ballots, returning officer [RO] office, etc.).
  • Some organizations that have been contractors over longer periods shared that the long-term relationship has been helpful, as it allows for building bigger and better collaborations and networks, at times even coinciding with funding from other sources. Generally, stakeholders said they appreciated the quality and diversity of the Inspire Democracy network.

Question: What are your suggestions for improvements in the next general election (GE45)?

  • Stakeholders said that despite providing greatly appreciated information about accommodations, EC's on-site accommodations can be lacking. They feel there is a disconnect between headquarters/communications and local services. The communications and the service on the ground should be better synchronized. As an example, some poll workers did not know about the accessibility services that were available to electors. In this case, electors were well informed but did not get adequate service at the polls. Stakeholders said that better staff training is required on accessibility tools and asked that service at the polls be more consistent from coast to coast to coast.
  • Other stakeholders said that EC should work to make it clearer to electors with disabilities which services are available at polling places without needing to plan or reserve them in advance and which services are available only if voters arrange them in advance. Stakeholders also asked that EC do more to clarify for electors with disabilities which services are available only on election day and which services are available during advance voting periods.
  • Transportation was raised as a significant issue. Though stakeholders understand that EC has limitations in this domain, they suggested that bus route maps to polling places would be helpful. They also mentioned a need to revise the Canada Elections Act to improve accessibility, while recognizing that this would take time. Until then, they suggest that EC work to make service changes for accessibility that don't require legislative changes.
  • Stakeholders asked that EC consider displaying images of candidate names associated with colours inside polling stations to make it easier to identify who's who. This would be especially helpful for electors with neurological disabilities.
  • Stakeholders who work with electors experiencing homelessness shared with EC that allowing vouching for more than one person would be really helpful for their audiences.
  • Finally, stakeholders asked that EC look at creating more accessible communications content and educate younger people and people with disabilities on the importance of voting.
  • Some stakeholders expressed difficulties related to outreach due to COVID-19. It was pointed out that online engagement is great, but it has limits in attracting new or infrequent voters. They suggest more in-person engagement, when possible. They also suggested that EC extend outreach and educational programming beyond the election period.
  • Stakeholders said that EC could include broader media campaigns that engage with influencers and create videos to attract and inform voters.
  • Stakeholders shared that they would like EC to develop more communications products specifically for youth (GIFs, videos, memes) and for seniors (larger print and more traditional products).
  • EC heard that the visual journey in Toolkits could be made simpler and clearer – it was difficult for some people to follow visually and made things seem more complicated, which is the opposite of the desired effect.
  • Regarding rules and guidelines related to communications, stakeholders asked EC to clarify the rules for impartiality of Tweets and social media posts, as they felt there were discrepancies throughout the election (similar posts being treated differently).
  • Stakeholders observed that trust in the integrity of elections was eroded by misinformation. They suggest providing more tools to help inform voters, especially youth, about the integrity of the electoral process.
  • Stakeholders said that, when asking them to spread the word about recruitment, EC should tell stakeholders who has already been hired or contacted in their communities.
Outreach to Indigenous communities
  • EC was asked to provide more products in Indigenous languages. While many Indigenous youth don't have an Indigenous mother tongue, they appreciate the number of languages available. Stakeholders said that content in Indigenous languages needs to be updated and revised sooner for information campaigns to run appropriately.
  • Regarding outreach to Indigenous communities, stakeholders made it clear that there is more awareness and outreach needed with urban Indigenous people on how and where to vote, working during elections, rights as a voter, how the electoral process works, etc. These sessions need to consider varying levels of engagement, addressing barriers to participation, providing wraparound supports for participants to attend and compensating youth for their time. Stakeholders suggested hosting talking/sharing circles, focus groups, in-person or virtual workshops, and drop-in Q&A sessions.
  • EC was urged to strongly consider mandating/encouraging ROs to hire more community relations officers (CROs) from colleges and universities (staff and students). Stakeholders also recommended offering specialized training so that CROs can serve the groups they are directed toward. Stakeholders asked that CROs be selected judiciously.
Logistics and coordination
  • Stakeholders asked EC to expand the functionality of the product ordering site and to make it possible to order sets of products that would reach certain audiences best.

Vote on Campus

Presenter: Danielle Duquette, Director, Alternative Voting Methods

The objective of this consultation session was to get feedback from stakeholders on how to best ensure the successful rollout of the Vote on Campus (VoC) program in the next general election (GE).

Ms. Duquette opened with a short presentation to give background context to the Vote on Campus program. She explained that it started as a pilot project in 2015, with the goal of addressing barriers that youth face in exercising their right to vote by providing registration and voting services at 39 campuses, 13 Indigenous friendship centres and 2 YMCAs across Canada. She noted that over 70,000 electors voted during the pilot project in 2015. Campus polling stations proved to have the greatest uptake during the pilot. As such, Elections Canada (EC) refocused its services to students and increased the number of selected campuses to 109 for the 2019 GE. Over 110,000 Canadians were able to cast their ballot at 119 EC on-campus offices across the country. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the suspension of in-person learning at most post-secondary institutions in March 2020, and the reallocation of VoC equipment intended to aid in supporting the projected increase of Vote by Mail, EC was not able to deploy the program for GE44.

She pointed out that, during the election, EC remained committed to addressing barriers faced by students by offering them other voting options, such as Vote by Mail. EC heard that stakeholders were very supportive of the Vote on Campus program and were disappointed that the program was suspended for the 44th general election. Stakeholders were pleased to learn that the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) has committed to ensuring Vote on Campus is restored for GE45, even despite the minority government context. The consultation questions and the feedback received were as follows:

Question: What are new ways in which you can help in the promotion of services, facilitation of leasing office spaces on campus and recruitment of poll workers for the deployment of Vote on Campus in GE45, which has no fixed date?

  • Stakeholders were very positive about the return of VoC. Stakeholders representing students communicated that Vote on Campus is a significant improvement for their audiences over traditional Vote by Mail. Stakeholders also indicated that EC's VoC program is admired from abroad. Other countries wish they had this program.
  • EC heard that student unions are crucial in mobilizing VoC and that most have their own offices on campus. Stakeholders suggested identifying permanent staff leads within every university and college administration who are responsible for working with students and Elections Canada to coordinate preparation and promotion for elections.
  • Stakeholders said that they may be able to help with finding polling locations, recruiting poll workers (alumni networks could be useful), facilitating meetings with local networks to help respond to EC enquiries about office spaces, communication to student associations, and promoting the program through their communications channels with a focus on educating youth about the advantages of different ways of voting (voting at advanced polls, in EC offices and on campus).
  • Stakeholders said that the sooner they can share information with their networks, the better positioned they will be to assist EC in ensuring that the program is a success. Stakeholders expressed understanding for the impact the current minority government can have on EC's ability to prepare documents in advance.
  • Stakeholders expressed support for a student-specific version of a voting guidebook, creating informational posters for use specifically on campuses and videos to distribute on social media for student voters, running e-campaigns to schools to share information about hosting on-campus polling, and integrating a wider commitment to a vote plan approach and sending reminders.
  • Stakeholders suggested that EC review how VoC is promoted and improve training for staff delivering VoC. They recommended that EC connect early with university communication and marketing departments.

Question: In your experience, do students understand that they don't need a local address to vote and that they can vote for a candidate back home?

  • Stakeholders said that significant information barriers remain around the question of which electoral district electors can cast their ballot in when using VoC services. EC heard that some students in GE44 didn't understand that it was just the VoC program that was suspended due to the pandemic, but that there would still be advance or ordinary polls in and around campuses. Stakeholders also said that some students had misunderstood in GE43 that VoC offices were regular polls. Also, EC heard from stakeholders that many students are still confused about proof of ID and where they can vote.
  • As such, stakeholders said that EC needs to increase its efforts to communicate to students to help make them aware of the different voting options. Stakeholders proposed branding changes to help clarify what VoC is and to emphasize students' capacity to "vote anywhere."
  • Stakeholders observed that the other potential for branding confusion comes from the (mis)perception that only students can use Vote on Campus. While students are the main intended audience, the program is open to other community members as well, including professors and individuals who work on campus.
  • Stakeholders are aware that communications around VoC will remain a challenge because of inconsistencies between services offered by different levels of elections. They expressed that much clarification will be needed around this issue.

Recruitment of Returning Officers Consultation

Presenter: Lisa Drouillard, Director of Field Governance and Personnel Readiness

This consultation session was geared to how to recruit diverse candidates for the returning officer (RO) position. Ms. Drouillard opened with a presentation to provide context.

She said that while EC often focuses on poll worker recruitment broadly speaking, for the purposes of this session she wanted to focus the discussion more specifically on RO recruitment. EC estimates that it will need to hire 50 to 100 new ROs in the next year. Ms. Drouillard identified three barriers EC faces in the recruitment of ROs: the limited pool of potential ROs with both the skills and the availability to do the job, the working conditions not being optimal for everyone in terms of uneven distribution of level of effort, and the variable compensation.

Ms. Drouillard said that EC is taking concrete measures to bolster diversity of ROs by using a mechanism to prioritize the appointment of competent and diverse candidates. She noted that, to date, EC relied heavily on advertising and referrals from existing ROs; EC is seeking to broaden this approach. The following questions were asked to stakeholders. Their answers follow.

Question: Who do you think would be great candidates in your network or community? How can we reach out to them?

  • Stakeholders identified some of the barriers they see to recruiting ROs in their communities, including uncertainty of the timing of the election (as no fixed date of election under a minority government makes it difficult for people to commit), the requirements for experienced managers and leaders, the requirements to be bilingual in areas where there are very few or no official language minorities, the requirement to be a Canadian citizen, the potentially inherent inaccessibility of the RO's actual working environment, the inaccessibility of RO training, the time commitment for ROs, the lack of flexibility for people who have another reliable job, the lack of awareness of what an RO actually does. Some stakeholders also noted that the application process can be difficult and inaccessible for some.
  • Stakeholders said that if EC wants to include communities like youth and people with disabilities, the job likely needs to change. They asked probing questions for consideration, such as: Are there sensory-safe positions? Can there be shorter shifts? Can the workload be shared? Do certain requirements need to be there?
  • Stakeholders then provided ideas for potential candidates, including university students, professors, leaders within the sports community, literacy practitioners, community leaders, and managers or coordinators in the not-for-profit sector.
  • Several suggestions were offered for new ways to recruit ROs, including attending job fairs (virtual and in person); using LinkedIn and other online applications; reaching out to university faculty associations; targeting previous poll workers below the RO level; reaching out through digital networks; advertising and soliciting in seniors' centres, group homes and community living centres; working with organizations that have good Indigenous networks and relations; reaching out to other government organizations for casual or term workers; projecting an image of inclusivity; speaking directly with the target diversity groups; getting in front of the public to describe the role and how to apply.
  • Finally, stakeholders suggested improvements to training so that ROs have a more positive experience. EC was encouraged to consider a structured "scouting program" for ROs, community relations officers (CROs) and assistant returning officers (AROs) within each riding.

Ask Me Anything Session with the Chief Electoral Officer

Presenter: Stéphane Perrault, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada

Mr. Perrault began by presenting brief remarks and making himself available to answer stakeholders' questions, submitted live or in advance.

His prepared remarks focused on looking ahead and were themed around EC's growing emphasis on user centricity. He underlined the importance of understanding user needs through data and the subsequent link that consultation practices and relations have with the strategic plan. The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) spoke of user centricity being expressed through priority areas, outlining examples such as the First Nations Program Review, the Accessibility Plan and the Digital Transformation Strategy.

The CEO continued by speaking briefly about the recommendations report he was preparing to present to Parliament. While he was not able to share specific details, he did say that the recommendations would touch on some themes stakeholders had heard him discuss in the past. He said that these recommendations set out the Agency's best advice on how to improve the Canada Elections Act.

Finally, the CEO discussed the so-called minimum viable product (MVP) for the next election. He noted that, since the next election has no fixed date, the MVP will be very similar to the last GE but with two important exceptions: it will include VoC and enhanced advance voting services in remote communities. The CEO then opened the floor to questions from stakeholders, answering a wide range of questions on the following topics:

  • First-time voters and the information barriers they face
    • The CEO said that EC has been working with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to ensure that information is shared during the citizenship ceremony and that EC will be looking at improving information sharing for youth.
  • Whether EC will continue to recommend a longer election period
    • The CEO said that because the public's expectations have increased, a longer election period would enable Elections Canada to meet the increased expectations.
  • What EC is doing to improve the accessibility of elections for voters with disabilities, particularly voters who are blind or partially sighted
    • The CEO stressed that EC would continue to work to reduce barriers of all kinds. He mentioned that EC has been working on a prototype that will allow blind and partially sighted electors to verify their ballot independently; he is committed to looking for improvements to the special ballot that will make it easier for people facing barriers, including those with visual impairments. Regarding uneven accessibility across the country, the CEO said that EC needed to make better use of the limited training time for poll workers to better train people to accommodate electors with disabilities.
  • Electoral integrity and foreign influence in Canadian elections
    • The CEO responded by noting that disinformation and misinformation are currently a larger concern than foreign intervention and that EC is committed to ensuring that verifiable information and facts about the election are widely shared with Canadians.
  • Whether EC has any plans to move to a more environmentally friendly set of processes that use less paper
    • The CEO said that a large part of Elections Canada's digital transformation strategy is to make more efficient use of our resources, saying that paper processes in particular are generally not the most efficient. He did caution, however, that online voting is not currently permitted under the Canada Elections Act.
  • What, if anything, EC can do to address declining voter participation
    • The CEO noted that this is a complex issue with multiple facets. He committed that EC will continue to work to reduce barriers to electoral participation and familiarize people with the electoral process through outreach to stakeholder groups and civic education initiatives.
  • Whether EC is able to introduce changes to the ballot design to incorporate pictures of candidates or party logos
    • The CEO said that while other jurisdictions have experimented with this, Elections Canada cannot put pictures on the ballots without changes to the Canada Elections Act. He did note, however, that Elections Canada does have the ability to create posters or facsimile ballots with pictures to be displayed on polling location walls or in voting booths.
  • What the CEO perceives as the greatest threat to Canada's electoral democracy
    • The CEO said that he is of the opinion that, since trust is fragile by its nature, one of the greatest threats would be if Canadians were to lose trust in elections. He pointed out that one of EC's most important roles is to ensure that people continue to have this trust. He closed by saying that, according to recent data, 91% of Canadians trust EC "fully" or "a lot" to deliver fair elections and that it is important we not take that for granted.
  • What does the CEO do on election day since he cannot vote?
    • Mr. Perrault said that election day is in some ways the least important day in the year for the CEO because all of the difficult preparation work that took place in the months and years before is done. He noted that there are issues that arise on polling day, but that he gets good advice from his teams, which enables him to keep his focus largely on what comes next: the next election.
  • Forward Calendar and Closing Remarks

    Presenter: Miriam Lapp, Senior Director, Research, Consultations and Civic Education

    Ms. Lapp thanked participants for their valuable feedback. She summarized what was heard by multiple staff members throughout the event. Participants were made aware of EC's consultations taking place in the coming months.


    Meeting Agenda

    Thursday, March 31, 2022

    • 10:00 – 10:30 Setting up AV, interpreters, captions
    • 10:30 – 10:55 Sound/tech check with internal and external participants
    • 10:55 – 11:00 All participants will be let into the meeting
    • 11:00 – 11:10 Welcome, logistics, housekeeping
    • 11:10 – 11:25 Introductory remarks by Miriam Lapp
    • 11:25 – 12:30 Stakeholder Voices Session
    • 12:30 – 13:30 Break
    • 13:30 – 14:20 Vote on Campus
    • 14:20 – 15:00 Recruitment
    • 15:00 – 15:20 Break
    • 15:20 – 16:10 Ask Me Anything Session with the CEO
    • 16:10 – 16:30 Forward Calendar and Adjournment

    List of Participants

    Inspire Democracy stakeholders present for the duration or part of the meeting

    • ABC Life Literacy (ABC LL);
    • Apathy is Boring (AiB);
    • Assembly of First Nations (AFN);
    • BGC Canada (Boys & Girls Club);
    • Brain Injury Canada;
    • Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA);
    • Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB);
    • Citoyenneté jeunesse;
    • Democratic Engagement Exchange (DEE);
    • EMBERS/East Side Works;
    • Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française (FJCF);
    • Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada;
    • Frontier College;
    • ilinniapaa Skills Development Centre (iSDC);
    • Indspire;
    • Institute for Canadian Citizenship;
    • Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy (IFSD);
    • Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD);
    • National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC);
    • People First of Canada;
    • Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN);
    • Special Olympics Canada; Sterling Creations

    Elections Canada staff present for the duration or part of the meeting

    • Bennett, Victoria;
    • Biswas-Mistry, Sharmila;
    • Canning, Mariann;
    • Drouillard, Lisa;
    • Duquette, Danielle;
    • Fournier-Sylvester, Nicole;
    • Henley, Cyntia;
    • Honeyman, Chelsea;
    • Jorgenson, Paul;
    • Lapp, Miriam;
    • Martineau, Jérémie;
    • McPeake, Zoe;
    • Melara-Pineda, Juan;
    • Mendez, Jennifer;
    • Nigro, Mallorie;
    • Péloquin-Hopfner, Joseph;
    • Perrault, Stéphane;
    • Roussel, Michel

    Meeting facilitator

    Alain Rabeau, Senior Consultant, Facilitator and Trainer, Intersol Group

    Highlights of Post-GE Stakeholder Feedback

    Stakeholders gave Elections Canada crucial support during the 44th general election (GE44), which took place in less-than-ideal circumstances. Working in a minority government context during the pandemic was especially challenging. Elections Canada understands the challenges this posed for stakeholders and greatly appreciates your cooperation and help throughout the election cycle. We want to continue to work with you to identify ways to improve our services to stakeholder groups.

    Important note: Certain themes stood out in the stakeholder feedback for GE44. While some of the issues related to these themes were raised during GE43, they remain, either due to constraints imposed by the Canada Elections Act or because of the impact of the pandemic on operations.

    Here are some of the themes and ideas that stood out:

    The importance of relationships

    • Clear desire for more in-person outreach
    • Desire for more sustained outreach between elections
    • More connection with Elections Canada between election periods (digital and in person)–constant dialogue is important

    Comments on election services

    • Better access to returning officers during and outside of election periods
    • Greater use of community relations officers, especially in remote communities
    • More creativity needed with polling locations: for example, bringing polling stations to places where electors facing barriers are most likely to feel comfortable
    • Options to allow for shorter advance polls in remote communities
    • More response options for communities in emergency situations (wildfires, flooding)
    • Need to continue improving the accessibility of the electoral process

    Communication and products

    • Need to disseminate information in a plain and manageable way, even within a short election period, so as to avoid information overload
    • More digital products
    • More printed products
    • More communication products catered to the specific needs of certain stakeholder groups
    • Need for resources that could be used throughout an election cycle
    • Great appreciation for the Inspire Democracy email series
    • Requests for more Inspire Democracy sessions
    • Insights on how to improve our toolkits