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Report on the Evaluations of the 41st General Election of May 2, 2011

Foreword

The conduct of a general election is a massive undertaking. It involves 24 million electors, 18 political parties and some 1,500 candidates, and requires 235,000 election workers to coordinate the effort. This considerable task is guided by the framework provided by Parliament in the Canada Elections Act.

To assess its performance in conducting the general election and identify areas for improvement, Elections Canada uses evidence stemming from administrative data and 10 key post-event surveys. This report presents and discusses the consolidated findings of these evaluations.

Our post-event surveys indicate that 95% of electors were satisfied with the conduct of the general election. Electors were aware of the election (98%); they knew of the authorized pieces of identification necessary prior to voting (89%); and they were satisfied with the accessibility of the polling sites (98%).

Based on this and other international democracy indexes, Canada has a sound electoral system. On standard indicators of democratic health such as the protection of civil liberties, control of corruption, or a free and accessible electoral process Canadian democracy consistently scores in the top 10.

This, however, is no reason to be complacent.

In my view, there are two areas where the health of our democracy is increasingly under pressure. One of these is citizen engagement; the other is citizens' trust in their electoral system.

First, with respect to citizen engagement, on the most basic democratic indicator voter turnout Canada has been in steady decline for over two decades. The most troubling part is that this decline is in large part attributable to generational replacement; that is, today's young Canadians are much less likely to vote than their parents or grandparents were at the same age, and they are less likely to take up the habit of voting as they age. This means that unless this trend is reversed, fewer and fewer Canadians will be voting in elections.

Elections Canada is working hard to engage young Canadians and is seeking the broad collaboration of civil society partners to mitigate this trend. We have commissioned research to better understand young Canadians' preoccupations and the barriers to voting they face. We are dedicating a full section of this report to youth participation.

Second, certain events may have eroded Canadians' trust in the electoral system. I think here of allegations of fraudulent telephone calls made during the May 2011 general election and of the irregularities at the polls in the riding of Etobicoke Centre.

Elections Canada is taking both of these events, and the various issues they raise, very seriously. We are working diligently to address them before the next general election through clear, tangible and realizable solutions. To this end, we will address each of them in detail in separate reports to Parliament in Spring 2013.

In response to the findings of this evaluations report, Elections Canada is undertaking a series of initiatives to improve its services to electors and candidates for the 42nd general election. Those improvements will be guided by Elections Canada's strategic objectives of engagement, trust and accessibility, and a long-term commitment to providing Canadians with more varied and modern ways to register and vote.

However, administrative actions alone will not be sufficient to properly address a number of issues. Recent events and our post-election evaluations have reiterated the need to take immediate steps to modernize the electoral framework, something I have supported beginning with the report Responding to Changing Needs Recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Following the 40th General Election, which proposed a series of necessary changes to the Canada Elections Act.

The additional reports I will share with Parliament next Spring will present further recommendations for legislative change designed to enhance Canadians' trust in their electoral system and improve the services they receive during an election. My hope is that parliamentarians will consider them and enact appropriate legislation by Spring 2014, so that Elections Canada can fully integrate these changes in time for the 2015 federal election. These changes will ensure that the electoral process continues to meet Canadians' high expectations.

Marc Mayrand
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada

November 2012