Executive Summary – Retrospective Report on the 44th General Election of September 20, 2021
The Office of the Chief Electoral Officer is an independent, non-partisan agency that reports directly to Parliament; it is composed of two entities: Elections Canada and the Commissioner of Canada Elections. This report evaluates Elections Canada's performance in the administration of the 44th general election, held on September 20, 2021. The report summarizes Elections Canada's success in delivering an election, as measured against established expected outcomes and performance indicators, and identifies areas for improvement going forward.
For over 100 years, Elections Canada has delivered free and fair federal elections, providing opportunities for Canadians to take part in an electoral democracy. The agency is committed to listening to and engaging with Canadians, broadly sharing information, collaborating to expand its capacity and effectively managing its resources. Elections Canada focuses on maximizing the impact of its efforts and strives to continually modernize and improve its services.
Assessment of Elections Canada's performance
Logistically, the general election of 2021 was the most complex election ever, marked by regional and local challenges that required a high level of adaptability. This included planning a general election not only during a pandemic but also during major wildfires in British Columbia and a hurricane in Newfoundland and Labrador. As a result, the Chief Electoral Officer used his authority to adapt provisions of the Canada Elections Act during the election period, or within 30 days after the election, due to unusual, unforeseen circumstances or emergencies. Examples of the adaptations to the Act include locating offices outside electoral districts, developing alternative options for voting in long-term care (LTC) facilities, correcting issues of erroneous information, and issuing transfer certificates so that electors could vote at other polling places. A detailed report of the adaptations can be found in the Report on the 44th General Election of September 20, 2021.
Elections Canada was able to adapt its voting services by:
- Preparing for an increase in voting by special ballot.
- Adjusting training and manuals to support a single-poll-worker model for in-person services.
- Providing options for electors in seniors' homes and LTC facilities.
- Preparing for large quantities of personal protective equipment and materials.
Public health measures varied across regions and posed one of the greatest challenges for planning the election. Elections Canada's pandemic task force allowed the agency to coordinate with authorities across the country and adjust measures to meet local requirements. As a result, Elections Canada demonstrated adaptability in the 44th general election, and it is committed to continually evolving and improving its services based on the experience of each election.
In the 44th general election, Elections Canada safely served 17.2 million Canadians in 338 electoral districts. According to the results of the National Electors Study carried out for this election, published in the fall of 2022, 95% of electors said they felt safe voting in person at a polling place when considering the health and safety measures for COVID-19 that were in place at the polls. Most electors (89%) also thought they were well informed about the health and safety measures for COVID-19 that were in place at the polls for the election. According to results from the Labour Force Survey released in February 2022, only 2% of non-voters reported that they did not vote due to reasons related to COVID-19. Of these responses, approximately two thirds were related to being worried about contracting the virus. The remaining one third was made up of people who were either sick with COVID-19 and/or self-isolating, people who disagreed with holding an election during the pandemic and people who were dissatisfied with the protocols put in place to allow for safe voting.
Overall, 97% of electors were satisfied with the services provided by Elections Canada staff in the 44th general election, and 96% of electors were satisfied with their overall voting experience. Despite the challenges in this general election, these results are comparable to those from the 43rd general election. However, some electors previously known to face barriers to the electoral process continue to face some challenges.
Elections Canada met expectations and successfully delivered the 44th general election. The agency will continue to improve its services to meet the expectations of Canadians. The agency will also continue to explore innovative approaches to delivering electoral services to Canadians. Specific commitments are included in response to the detailed findings of this performance assessment.
More information on the agency's activities to prepare for, deliver and close the 44th general election is provided in the Report on the 44th General Election of September 20, 2021.