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Electoral Insight - Participation In The Electoral Process

Electoral Insight – January  2001

Chief Electoral Officer's Message
Participation in the Electoral Process

Jean-Pierre Kingsley
Jean-Pierre Kingsley
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada

A democracy achieves its potential when the participation of its citizens in the electoral process is strong. Simply put, the higher the participation in the process, the larger the consensus on the credibility and acceptability of its result. At Elections Canada, in 2000, as we put into place the reforms brought by a new Canada Elections Act, conducted Canada's 37th general election and marked the 80th anniversary of the office of Chief Electoral Officer, we sought to make the electoral system as accessible, fair and transparent as possible. These goals are meant to foster, encourage and assist participation in Canada's electoral system.

The new Canada Elections Act (Bill C-2) was passed by Parliament, received royal assent on May 31, 2000, and came into force on September 1, 2000. It marks another step in the constant evolution of our democratic system. The new Act reflects recommendations made by parliamentarians and the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing in 1992, and put forward in reports to Parliament in 1996 and 1997 from this Office. It also addresses decisions by several courts and builds on amendments to the Act that occurred in the past decade. The new Act reorganizes and clarifies the electoral legislation, requires greater disclosure of financial information by registered political parties, brings election advertising by third parties under the ambit of the statute, and makes information about our electoral system more accessible.

At the first election after Elections Canada was created 80 years ago, the lists of electors included the names of slightly more than 50 percent of the population. At recent elections, they have included an average of almost 70 percent of Canadians, largely due to measures implemented over the decades that removed property qualifications, extended the right to vote to women and lowered the voting age. While federal elections once offered a choice of two political parties and candidates, at recent elections they have involved ten or more registered parties and, in some electoral districts, as many candidates among whom to choose.

The fourth edition of Electoral Insight focuses on the participation of electors, candidates and political parties in federal elections and referendums. It particularly explores the challenges facing youth, women and members of ethnocultural communities who may wish to be fuller participants in Canada's electoral and political systems. I trust that readers will find here valuable insights on this matter, which will likely generate significant activity over the next few years.

This edition was prepared just before the 37th general election, which culminated with election day on November 27, and therefore contains minimal information on that election. The next issue of Electoral Insight - Participation In The Electoral Process , to be available in the summer of 2001, will contain more detailed information about the general election.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley


The opinions expressed are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.