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Message from the Chief Electoral OfficerMeeting New Challenges: Recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada following the 43rd and 44th General Elections

I am pleased to present Meeting New Challenges: Recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada following the 43rd and 44th General Elections. These elections were held on October 21, 2019, and September 20, 2021. This report is made under section 535 of the Canada Elections Act (the Act), which provides that, after a general election, the Chief Electoral Officer shall set out any recommendations on amendments that are, in his or her view, desirable for the better administration of the Act. Accompanying this report are recommendations from the Commissioner of Canada Elections, which were made pursuant to section 537.2 for better compliance with, and enforcement of, the Act.

The recommendations in this report aim to improve three key aspects of our electoral democracy: transparency, accessibility and resiliency. Transparency has long been a key value of our democratic process, notably in the area of political financing. Yet, there are still areas where improvements are necessary, particularly with the evolution of online communications and the emergence of new forms of funding sources, such as cryptocurrencies, for political activities.

Similarly, the accessibility of the voting process is central to its democratic character. And while improvements in this regard are often administrative, legislative changes are desirable in a range of areas to ensure that our elections are, for example, adapted to reflect the needs of residents in long-term care or voters with disabilities. In this category, I am also including recommendations to avoid conflicts with religious holidays, such as the one we saw in the 2019 general election, as well as improvements to make the process more open to candidates.

A third theme, resiliency, cuts across a number of recommendations that reflect our changing environment and emerging concerns over the last two electoral cycles. These include disinformation, foreign funding of third parties, the emergence of hate groups, and the need to better protect the privacy of Canadians and facilitate cooperation among Canadian jurisdictions in electoral administration.

The report is structured in two parts. The first consists of recommendations that flow from a consultation on electoral communications, which was conducted by Elections Canada after the 2019 general election.1 Over the last two decades, the ways in which political actors communicate with electors have changed dramatically. Increasingly, communications take place through digital platforms, online ads, text messaging and other digital formats. The regulatory regime under the Act, however, dates from a time when broadcast television was the dominant advertising and communications medium. There is a need to adjust the regime to reflect current realities.

Part 2 of this report addresses other recommendations that I believe are important to improving the administration of federal elections. These recommendations come after the 2019 and 2021 general elections. Among other things, they include several ideas about how to adjust electoral processes to facilitate the timely return of mail-in ballots. The 2021 general election saw a significant increase in this convenient way of voting, and we can expect electors to continue to benefit from it in the future.

The 10-year term of the current Commissioner, Yves Côté, Q.C., ends in June 2022. I thank Mr. Côté for his deep commitment and tireless service to Canadians and Canadian democracy over this last decade, and I wish him well as he completes his tenure as Commissioner.

Stéphane Perrault Chief Electoral Officer of Canada


1 See the report on the consultation, here: