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Voting at Select Campuses, Friendship Centres and Community Centres, 42nd General Election

3. Stakeholder Engagement

Elections Canada consulted with community, student and Indigenous groups such as the National Association of Friendship Centres, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (since renamed Universities Canada), YMCA Canada and Elections Canada's Advisory Committee of Political Parties before rolling out the pilot project. There were several purposes for this engagement:

  • Since this was a pilot project at the federal level, it was important to gain stakeholders' perspectives on it, both to alleviate concerns about how it would be rolled out and for Elections Canada to adjust the path forward accordingly.
  • Stakeholders were made aware of the pilot project in advance to allow them to prepare for its roll out, which in some cases included helping to communicate the initiative to target groups of electors.
  • The involvement of some stakeholders was logistically necessary to setting up these offices.

3.1. Post-secondary organizations

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (since renamed Universities Canada) is an advocate for 97 post-secondary institutions across all provinces. Elections Canada met with the association's representatives in summer 2013 to discuss plans to open offices on post-secondary campuses, seek their feedback on potential issues and explore avenues for their participation.

The Association representatives showed an interest in the initiative and in helping to increase youth turnout. They expressed concerns about the availability of appropriate spaces at post-secondary institutions and suggested that Elections Canada begin talking to potential tenant institutions in 2014, which the agency did. They also recommended that Elections Canada consider targeting post-secondary institutions with large concentrations of Indigenous youth.Footnote 2

Elections Canada then contacted the post-secondary institutions that fit the selection criteria established for the project, and asked for their participation in the pilot project. The agency also communicated with student associations, including the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec, the Canadian Federation of Students and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.

Feedback was generally positive. Student organizations were especially receptive, with some of them expressing a desire that offices be established at all post-secondary institutions, which was out of the scope and budget for this pilot.

3.2. National Association of Friendship Centres

The National Association of Friendship Centres is a network of 118 Friendship Centres and seven provincial and territorial associations. Friendship Centres, located in both urban and rural areas, offer services to Indigenous people living off-reserve.

Elections Canada met with the association's representatives in June 2013 to discuss the plan for Indigenous people's access to the pilot project, to seek feedback on potential issues and to explore avenues for the association's participation.

The representatives expressed support for the initiative and stated that increasing youth voting was important to them. They offered to assist Elections Canada in contacting individual Friendship Centres.

On behalf of Elections Canada, the association launched a national call of interest to all Friendship Centres, along with a questionnaire that would help qualify whether the centres had the appropriate space, security, facilities and availability to host the offices. The aim was to involve at least 40 Friendship Centres that could accommodate Elections Canada's needs; ideally, those centres would be ones that served a large volume of young people.

Over 20 Friendship Centres responded to the call of interest. After evaluation, 13 of these centres were ultimately able to participate in the initiative. Some could not take part because of logistical requirements or proximity to other Elections Canada offices.

3.3. YMCA Canada

YMCA Canada has a federated model with 125 independent members, giving it a broad presence across most large Canadian communities and connecting it to a diverse population. Many YMCAs focus on target demographics such as youth or Indigenous people. Furthermore, in previous elections, many had served as polling places and venues for candidates' debates.

In June 2013, Elections Canada met with YMCA Canada to gauge its support for the pilot project, to seek feedback and to explore how the organization could help Elections Canada implement it.

At the meeting, YMCA Canada expressed support for the pilot project and an interest in helping to develop, promote and deliver it. Representatives identified access to secure premises as a key challenge, as most YMCAs would not meet the space, security and availability criteria for hosting an office. The organization committed to identifying 10 to 20 appropriate sites and contacting the respective members to determine their interest. In response, six YMCA members indicated that they were interested and had appropriate spaces available for rent. Elections Canada then sought to engage the chief executive officers of those locations directly.

Once the returning officers had conducted the pre-event tasks, only two YMCAs were able to participate. The primary obstacle was their inability to lease closed and lockable office spaces for the necessary two-week period.

3.4. Advisory Committee of Political Parties

Elections Canada's ACPP brings together party representatives and agency officials. It serves as a forum for sharing information, fostering good working relations, and resolving administrative issues that may affect parties and candidates.

In November 2013, Elections Canada presented the pilot project to the ACPP. The agency detailed the rationale behind the pilot project, how the offices would be selected and set up, and how they would operate.

Many participants welcomed the initiative. They also gave practical suggestions on communicating the guidelines, such as using information sheets, webcasts, web videos, brochures, posters and plain-language tools, and offered to raise awareness among their youth wings and youth representatives before the election.

3.5. Communications and outreach

In preparing to open the offices on campuses, Elections Canada met with representatives from four national organizations representing student associations and student administrators. The goal of these consultations was to obtain feedback and advice on the design of the pilot project, seek support for implementation and begin to identify areas of collaboration. Consultations were consistently positive; the organizations appreciated Elections Canada's proactive approach, offered support in implementing the pilot and were eager to help inform students about it and the election using Elections Canada's voter information products within their own outreach campaigns.

The agency developed an approach that included communication and outreach with external groups, advertising campaigns and the promotion of its voter information material.

External groups

As soon as the list of participating institutions was made public in late August 2015,Footnote 3 Elections Canada reached out to partners to inform them about the pilot project and share key information on how to help spread the word. Partners included post-secondary student associations, organizations working with youth, and participating YMCAs and Friendship Centres.

A subsequent communication was sent to all participating student associations. It included talking points that student leaders could use to promote the initiative, a calendar clarifying the various ways students could vote and an Elections Canada icon that they could add to their website or Facebook page.

When invited to contact their local Elections Canada office to get material and coordinate outreach activities, 13 participating institutions (or their student associations) ordered voter information products and promotional material. The student postcard was the most ordered item.

Information and advertising campaign

Beginning on August 28, 2015, Elections Canada posted information about the offices on its website. This included the locations and opening hours of each office, and information about voting by special ballot. The agency made weekly updates to these postings until September 27, 2015 (the day on which most leases became effective). Every time an office was confirmed and was posted on the website, Elections Canada tweeted the information and sent an email to the participating student association.

The advertising campaign on post-secondary campuses began on September 21, 2015, and ran for two weeks. It included print ads in 29 student newspapers, 30-second spots on digital screens at 28 institutions, and Facebook ads targeting students at 34 schools. The information in the advertisements dealt solely with where, when and the ways to vote, with reference to the offices and special ballot voting.

Footnote 2 This factor was considered a secondary evaluation criterion that would be used when two institutions had an equal rating after the primary evaluation.

Footnote 3 A decision was made in June 2015 to publish the list in August 2015, on the basis that most institutions would have signed their leases by then.