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Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Following the May 15, 2000 By-election held in St. John's West


This report to the Speaker of the House of Commons describes the federal by-election held in the electoral district of St. John's West, Newfoundland, on May 15, 2000, and the administration of my Office since the publication of the previous report.

I conclude in my report that the by-election proceeded efficiently and successfully, and in accordance with our plans. Communications, revision and voting were all conducted without untoward incidents. Once again, a by-election has yielded a substantially smaller voter turnout than in the last general election in the electoral district – 44.3 percent, compared to 60.4 percent in St. John's West in the 1997 general election (the national turnout at that general election was 67 percent, the lowest since 1925).

The process of electoral reform has continued to be a major preoccupation since the previous by-elections on November 15, 1999. The Canadian electoral system has become known as a model of electoral democracy around the world. Over the years we have sought to put in place an electoral system that is modern, accessible, transparent, and efficient – one that ensures that the electorate can freely choose its elected leaders. A commitment to the improvement of electoral legislation has been one of the principal means for achieving these ends.

A Bill intended to replace the existing Canada Elections Act (first tabled on June 7, 1999, and reintroduced as Bill C-2 on October 14, 1999) received royal assent on May 31, 2000. The new Canada Elections Act will come into force on December 1, 2000, unless I publish a notice in the Canada Gazette before that date stating that the necessary preparations for bringing the new Act into operation have been made, and that the new Act is now in force.

As we pursue our goal of a modern and efficient electoral system, we have been able to take advantage of technological developments to introduce improvements such as the National Register of Electors. The Register was used to produce the preliminary electoral list for the by-election; 5 311 revisions were made to that list, amounting to 7.6 percent of the 70 023 electors on the preliminary list. This relatively low percentage is an indication of the quality of the information in the Register.

We are pleased, too, at the high proportion of Canadians who are actively consenting to the transfer of their information from federal sources to maintain the Register, although the low response rate from young Canadians who have turned 18 is disappointing. Elsewhere in my report I discuss positive developments in our information-sharing agreements with our partners, information technology, publications and international activities.

Undoubtedly, as society and technology evolve, needs for additional legislative reform and further technological improvements will continue to emerge. In Canada, we have come to view electoral reform as an evolving and constant task: one undertaken by Parliament, on behalf of the Canadian people, in the knowledge that the results are fundamental to strengthening and upholding our democratic process. It is a privilege for me to serve Parliament and the Canadian people in this endeavour.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley