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Retrospective Report on the 42nd General Election of October 19, 2015


Overall, the 42nd general election was run very successfully. This conclusion is supported by multiple lines of evidence, including survey results, administrative reviews, the first independent audit of poll worker performance, focus groups held with field administrators across the country, direct feedback from electors and various stakeholders, and the election assessment report of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.Footnote 25

The success of this event, however, does not diminish the fact that there are lessons to be learned and areas for improvement. The 42nd general election confirmed that Canadians' voting habits are shifting in fundamental ways. Canadians expect service options that align with their lifestyles, personal and family situations, geographic settings, and health circumstances. Simply stated, electors increasingly want to vote when and where it suits them—no longer just on election day at a designated polling station. They want information that is easily accessible, useful and provided through information channels they use in their daily lives. They want to communicate seamlessly with Elections Canada and receive real-time responses to their questions and concerns. Most importantly, Canadians want convenient, accessible and modern election services.

Given this shift and the number of years between elections, it is essential to recognize that the success of the 42nd general election is no guarantee of favourable outcomes in the future. This is not the time for complacency. In Elections Canada's estimation, federal electoral administration has reached a tipping point and action is required now. The transformation in elector behaviours and service preferences is significant, and a new baseline must be set in terms of meeting, and hopefully exceeding, electors' service needs.

Since the end of the 42nd general election, Elections Canada has been busy designing and beginning to implement a modernization agenda aimed at improving Canadians' voting experience at the next federal general election in 2019. This agenda will streamline voting operations, automate various elements of the voting process, provide additional online self-service options, and increase and enhance service offerings to electors who choose to vote by mail. It will also focus on improving support services for specific groups of electors, as well as candidates.

Elections Canada's modernization agenda recognizes that service improvements can no longer depend, as they have in the past, on increasing the number of election workers at polling locations to ensure consistent and timely service. The agency must take greater advantage of technology if it is to align modern electoral management with Canadians' evolving service expectations.

To fully move ahead with these changes, Elections Canada will require additional flexibility under the Canada Elections Act. In the coming weeks, the Chief Electoral Officer will submit a report to Parliament recommending legislative changes that will enable modernization while maintaining the integrity of the electoral process.

Finally, Elections Canada will adapt its modernization program to support any electoral reform that may be undertaken by Parliament. The agency's initiatives are designed to be compatible with, and to complement, other changes to Canada's electoral system that may be introduced as a result of the parliamentary process.

Footnote 25 See the election assessment mission's final report at