Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Following the September 11, 2000 By-elections held in Kings–Hants and Okanagan–Coquihalla
Elections Canada's activities since the previous report
Candidates' election expenses
Under the Canada Elections Act, candidates are required to file election expenses returns within four months of election day. Elections Canada is now reviewing financial returns from the five candidates who ran for office in the May 2000 by-election in St. John's West, to ensure compliance with the Act and to determine the amount of reimbursement owed to those candidates who qualified.
Amendments to electoral legislation
The new Canada Elections Act received royal assent on May 31, 2000. It took effect on September 1, 2000, following the publication by the Chief Electoral Officer of a notice in the Canada Gazette that, the necessary preparations having been made, the Act was now in force. The new Act is available electronically in PDF format on Elections Canada's Web site at www.elections.ca under Electoral Law & Policy.
The new Canada Elections Act did not apply to the by-elections in Kings–Hants and Okanagan–Coquihalla. These by-elections were held under the Canada Elections Act in effect when the writs were issued on August 5, 2000.
The last two reports have briefly listed the main provisions of the new Act as it moved through the legislative process. The following is a more detailed summary of the principal changes that are now in force.
Third party election advertising
- A third party is defined as a person or group other than a candidate, a registered party, or its electoral district association.
- A third party is required to register after incurring $500 or more on election advertising, to appoint a financial agent and to file a report on its election advertising expenses and related contributions.
- The report must include the names and addresses of donors who contributed more than $200 for election advertising purposes, during the period starting six months before the election was called and including the full election period. If the donor who contributes more than $200 is a numbered company, the name of the chief executive officer or president of that company must be indicated.
- If the third party is a trade union, corporation or other entity with a governing body, the application for registration as a third party must include a copy of the resolution authorizing the election advertising expenses.
- There is a spending limit of $150 000, of which no more than $3 000 may be spent in any single electoral district.
- Third parties may not issue tax receipts as third parties, receive voters lists or be reimbursed for expenses.
- Third parties are subject to the same blackout period for advertising and election opinion surveys as registered political parties and candidates.
Financing rules for registered political parties and candidates
- More detailed financial reports are now required from registered parties, to permit better assessment of their financial activities.
- Registered parties are required to file an audited financial report for each trust fund they establish for an election.
- Details are required of any transfer of funds from registered parties to candidates, electoral district associations and trust funds established for the election of a candidate.
- Reimbursement of election expenses, for those parties that qualify, is based on election expenses actually paid, rather than declared election expenses.
- The refund of a candidate's nomination deposit no longer depends on the number of votes that the candidate received. The deposit is refunded in full if reporting requirements are met.
- A registered party that fails to nominate at least 50 candidates is not required to liquidate its assets if it reapplies to become a registered party, and files financial reports and a declaration of intent to run candidates with the Chief Electoral Officer.
- A party created by the merger of registered parties may keep the assets of the constituent parties.
- The maximum subsidy for a candidate's auditor is increased from $750 to $1 500.
- The method of publishing financial reports is left to the discretion of the Chief Electoral Officer.
- The threshold for disclosure of donors has been increased from $100 to $200, with addresses as well as the names of donors required. If the donor is a numbered company, the name of the chief executive officer or president of that company must be indicated.
Election advertising and election opinion surveys
- Media outlets are required to include a survey's methodology when reporting on a new opinion survey during the first 24 hours that the survey results are transmitted to the public.
- Election advertising and publishing or broadcasting new election survey results are prohibited on election day.
Changes more directly affecting voters
- Voters living in apartment buildings have the right to post election signs, subject to reasonable restrictions.
- Candidates and their representatives have the enforceable right to enter apartment and condominium buildings from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.during an election campaign, except for safe-house dwellings for persons living under reasonable apprehension of bodily harm.
- Voting hours for all by-elections occurring on the same day in one time zone now run from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., local time.
- Canadian voters who are temporarily abroad may submit their special ballots at high commissions, embassies, consulates and other designated locations.
- Registration by vouching is no longer restricted to rural areas, but extends to all polling divisions in Canada.
- The Income Tax Act has been amended to raise the threshold for receiving the 75 percent political tax credit from $100 to $200.
- The Commissioner of Canada Elections may enter into compliance agreements with individuals who commit offences. These agreements must be entered into voluntarily by the persons concerned. The Commissioner must publish a summary of each compliance agreement.
- The Commissioner is empowered to seek a court injunction during a campaign ordering someone to conform with the Act, or to refrain from contravening the Act, if fairness or the public interest requires action to be taken.
- The Dominion Controverted Elections Act has been repealed and its provisions added to the Canada Elections Act.
- Outdated statutes have been repealed: the Corrupt Practices Inquiries Act (1876) and the Disfranchising Act (1894).
- The language and organization of the Canada Elections Act have been updated and made clearer.
- The Chief Electoral Officer is authorized to develop and test electronic voting techniques during an election, with the prior approval of the committee of the House of Commons that considers electoral matters.
- Returning officers now have the right to vote.
- In the case of a tie vote in an electoral district, a new election will be held in that district.
- The returning officer must verify the qualifications to vote of voters who sign nomination papers.
- It is now possible to submit nomination papers electronically in all electoral districts, either to the returning officer or to a person designated by the returning officer. The original documents must be provided to the returning officer 48 hours after the close of nominations.
Recent court matters
During the period covered by this report, some aspects of electoral administration and electoral law were being tested in the courts.
On May 2, 2000, the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada applied to the Federal Court – Trial Division for judicial review of the Chief Electoral Officer's decision to allow the Reform Party of Canada to change its name to the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance. On May 23, 2000, the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada also filed a statement of claim in the Federal Court, under the Trademarks Act. No hearing has yet been held in either case.
On July 7, 2000, Stephen Harper filed an action in the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench, asking that ss. 323(1), 323(3) and 350–362 of the Canada Elections Act – dealing with third party requirements – be held unconstitutional. The hearing of this action began on October 2, 2000.
On August 16, 2000, the Ontario Court of Appeal issued its decision in the case of Figueroa v. Canada (Attorney General), concerning the requirements for registration of a political party. It upheld the constitutional validity of the rule that a party may become registered only after it nominates candidates in at least 50 ridings during a general election. However, it decided that restricting the identification of party affiliation on the ballot to registered parties was contrary to s. 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; in the Court's view, identification of party affiliation was particularly important where small political parties were concerned. The court suspended the effect of this judgment for six months so that Parliament may make the necessary modifications to the Canada Elections Act.
Maintaining the Register
Between general elections, the National Register of Electors is kept as up-to-date and accurate as possible, so that it is ready at any time to generate reliable preliminary voters lists for federal general elections, referendums, and by-elections, such as those just held in Kings–Hants and Okanagan–Coquihalla.
The Register is continually updated with data from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, provincial and territorial motor vehicle and vital statistics registrars, and electoral agencies in British Columbia and Quebec (which have permanent voters lists). Voters lists from provincial and territorial elections are also used to update the Register. Elections Canada has agreements in place or under negotiation to obtain access to these lists from every province and territory.
The Canada Elections Act stipulates that active consent is required from individuals for the transfer of their information from federal sources to maintain the National Register of Electors. For the 1999 tax year, 84 percent of income tax filers consented to the transfer of their information to update the Register, and 87 percent of new Canadians consented to be added to the Register.
In March, Elections Canada signed an agreement with the Canada Post Corporation to receive the names and addresses of people who have notified Canada Post of their changes of address. Elections Canada can only use this information for mailing purposes. This information, however, can be used to update the Register with the express consent of each individual. Elections Canada will mail designated individuals a request for their consent to update the Register with their new address information.
During its regular maintenance activities, the agency mails a request to individuals who turned 18 to confirm their citizenship, and to ask their consent to be added to the National Register of Electors. Elections Canada identifies these people by using information from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency and motor vehicle registrars.
To date, only 25 percent of these 18-year-olds have consented to be added to the Register. In light of these disappointing results, we undertook a qualitative and quantitative evaluation of this outreach activity during the summer, and will complete it this fall. Elections Canada also plans a mailing to previous nonrespondents during the next general federal election.
Sharing Register data
Data-sharing partnerships help to ensure that the quality of the National Register of Electors is consistently high, both during and between elections. Using revised voters lists from other jurisdictions to augment the standard update sources can improve the Register's quality. Sharing the Register's data with other electoral agencies also reduces costs for all Canadian taxpayers.
Since the last report, an agreement was signed on May 26, 2000, with the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Nova Scotia, to use data from the Register to establish voters lists for the forthcoming elections in certain municipalities in October 2000. Under existing agreements, Register data was similarly shared with electoral agencies in Ontario and in Newfoundland and Labrador.
On September 22, 2000, Elections Canada signed a sharing agreement with the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Alberta. The National Register of Electors will receive electoral data resulting from Alberta's recent confirmation process; in return, Alberta may request extracts from the National Register to create voters lists and update the Alberta Register of Electors System. The agreement also provides for technical assistance from Elections Canada in updating the Alberta Register, including software, documentation and technical and methodological support. The agreement is in effect until December 31, 2003.
Each agreement includes mandatory security measures. Voter data is personal information that is protected by the Canada Elections Act and the Privacy Act. Under the Canada Elections Act, the information may only be used for electoral purposes.
Reporting election results: Redesigned software
The Event Results System, first used in the 1993 general election, has been redesigned to take advantage of technological advances. This computer software helps returning officers to tabulate and send poll-by-poll election results electronically to the media and Elections Canada's Web site; it allows Elections Canada to gather and verify the poll-by-poll results received from the 301 electoral districts, and to gather, merge and verify the voting results under the Special Voting Rules.
The new system automates several manual processes, and improves electronic data transmission from Elections Canada to the electoral districts. For example, information that was previously sent by fax (such as the Special Voting Rules results) is transmitted electronically to returning officers from Ottawa on election night. The redesigned software also permits more rapid certification of the official results for publication. Successfully introduced in the September 11 by-elections, the system transmitted the results to the agency's Web site and the local media quickly and accurately.
Registration in the electoral districts: New software is operational
The computerized REVISE system for handling revision is now fully operational. The system has improved the preparation of voters lists from data in the National Register of Electors, and will accommodate changes resulting from the recent amendments to the Canada Elections Act. Used for the second time in the Kings–Hants and Okanagan–Coquihalla by-elections for updating the voters lists, the system once more met Elections Canada's expectations.
New computer network and equipment used by returning officers
The by-elections in Kings–Hants and Okanagan–Coquihalla served as proving grounds for several technological projects undertaken by Elections Canada in the last year. Chief among them was the implementation of an integrated local area network linking all computers in the office of the returning officer, and also capable of linking to the Elections Canada network in Ottawa. For the first time, IBM, the agency's field-equipment contractor, provided information technology services under its newly awarded contract.
The network proved to be very robust and effective; the equipment performed well and, as expected, worked with very few problems despite the complexity of introducing new systems under field conditions.
Returning Office Payment System successfully tested
During the by-election in Kings–Hants, the new Returning Office Payment System was successfully tested as a pilot project. The system helps returning officers to track staff budgets, produce financial reports, prepare payment information for poll officials, the returning officer's staff and landlords, and send all the information to Ottawa so that Elections Canada can process the payments.
The agency has produced new polling division documents and maps for all electoral districts. These maps are newly formatted and updated to reflect the results of a mapping survey conducted among returning officers and political parties in spring 1999. The new maps were used for the by-elections in Kings–Hants and Okanagan–Coquihalla.
National packages of geographic documents and maps have now been sent to the headquarters of all registered political parties. Members of Parliament received the same package for their electoral districts. The documentation includes descriptions of all polling divisions within each electoral district, poll keys that list streets alphabetically by name (listing also the number of the polling division and advance poll within which they are located), lists of the advance polling districts, and various map formats by electoral district, polling division and municipality.
Revised street indexes and the Guide to Federal Electoral Districts have recently been sent to all members of Parliament. The indexes help voters who use the Special Voting Rules determine the electoral district in which they are qualified to vote at a general election; they also provide information for anyone else wishing to determine the electoral district in which certain addresses are located. The guide is used to determine the electoral districts of almost 30 000 specific localities, and includes cities that contain more than one electoral district.
Elections Canada continues to update the National Geographic Database – a highly successful co-operative venture with Statistics Canada. The database is a national road network containing streets, address ranges, administrative boundaries and topographical features such as lakes and rivers.
A concerted effort is underway to increase the number of address ranges within the road network, especially those in newly built areas. The aim is to allow voters' addresses to be georeferenced, an operation by which each voter's address is assigned an x-y coordinate, which is then used to locate it in an electoral district and polling division. This enables the Register to be shared with jurisdictions that have different boundaries. Following the redistribution of electoral boundaries after the next census, it will also make the job of transposing the voters lists much easier.
As part of Elections Canada's plans to be ready for a general election under the new Act by September 1, 2000, the biggest training program ever held at the agency took place this summer in Ottawa. The project brought together 301 returning officers, 301 assistant returning officers and 301 automation coordinators, with 25 trainers and presenters from nine different divisions at Elections Canada.
The election officers received nearly 25 000 hours of training between July 31 and August 26 on recent developments in electoral administration, including:
- the impact of changes to the Canada Elections Act
- the new voter registration system (REVISE)
- the revised event management system
- the revised event results system
- the new organizational structure of local offices
- the new financial management system for returning officers
- the new voter information card
- the revised tariff of fees
- the new process for assessing the performance of returning officers
Evaluation reports completed by the participants indicated a high level of satisfaction with the training.
Appearance of the Chief Electoral Officer before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
On May 18, 2000, the Chief Electoral Officer appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to present Elections Canada's main estimates. He provided an overview of some of Elections Canada's recent achievements. These include conducting five by-elections in the 1999-2000 fiscal year; signing a memorandum of understanding with the Chief Statistician of Canada to merge geographic databases, giving Elections Canada the most detailed and current digital national road network in Canada; and making sure that the National Register of Electors continues to function and progress as planned. The Register is still projected to cut voter registration costs by some $30 million for the next and subsequent elections.
The occasion also presented an opportunity to highlight some of the agency's plans and priorities for the 2000-2001 fiscal year, including the implementation of the new Canada Elections Act; Elections Canada's program to inform the public and all stakeholders about the Act's new provisions; training sessions for returning officers and key members of their staff; and the development of outreach programs to give all voters the information necessary to understand and participate in the electoral process.
The full text of the statement made by the Chief Electoral Officer at his appearance before the committee, and all his other public statements, are available on the Elections Canada Web site at www.elections.ca under Media (Statements and Speeches).
Advisory Committee of Registered Political Parties
The Advisory Committee of Registered Political Parties met on June 8, 2000, to receive updates on the National Register of Electors and on the revision and registration process, and hear an overview of the communication program the agency is preparing for the next general election.
On the following day, Elections Canada held a special briefing session on the new Canada Elections Act. The briefing was open both to registered political parties and to parties eligible for registration. The presentations summarized the changes to operational and campaigning provisions, and to provisions dealing with the registration of political parties, election financing for parties and candidates, enforcement,communications, and third parties. Following the June 9 briefing, the Chief Electoral Officer extended membership on the committee to parties that are eligible for registration.
The third edition of Elections Canada's biannual journal, Electoral Insight, was published in June, with the theme of technology in the electoral process. The journal is directed to readers interested in electoral issues, including parliamentarians, officials of international and Canadian electoral-management organizations, election officers and academics.
The third phase of the Web module Explore A History of the Vote in Canada was launched during a ceremony at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec, on August 9, 2000. The ceremony marked the 80th anniversary of the office of Chief Electoral Officer of Canada. The Web module examines the development of the Canadian electoral system since the colonial era. The first two phases of the Web module – Journeys and Timeline, launched last year – survey the general history of the vote from the 18th century to the present. This third phase, Chronicle, examines the contemporary period in detail, beginning with the creation of the office of Chief Electoral Officer. It includes SElections, Elections Canada's new electronic trivia game, an enjoyable and challenging way to learn about the history of the vote in Canada. The module was created in co-operation with the Canadian Museum of Civilization. It is accessible on the museum's Web site and from the information booth in the museum's Social Progress Gallery.
Elections Canada's new Web site, launched in September, now makes it easy for any viewer to set up his or her own personal screen to view election results as they come in. The customized screen can show past and live results by political party, by electoral district, by province, or in any combination the viewer wants.
In June 2000, Elections Canada received a delegation from Kosovo. The four journalists from the Kosovo Radio and Television System were seeking information on Elections Canada's Web site, broadcasting, the public Enquiries Unit, media relations, civic education programs, information tools for reporters and information technology.
Also in June, Elections Canada received a delegation from Croatia, representing the Croatia-Canada Women Parliamentarians Network. The purpose of this study tour was to share information on different ways of organizing elections, the role of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, public education and the influence of political parties.
At the request of the United Nations, the Assistant Director of International Services accepted a one-month assignment with the United Nations, in Mexico, to help coordinate and support the Special Guests Program of the Instituto Federal Electoral for the elections that took place on July 2, 2000. Under the program, special guests systematically visited polling stations to obtain information on how the polling day activities were carried out.
At the request of the non-profit Carter Center of Atlanta, Georgia, the Assistant Chief Electoral Officer for International Services joined a delegation responsible for monitoring and observing the Venezuelan national elections on July 30, 2000.
In early September, the Assistant Chief Electoral Officer for International Services also participated in a training workshop for members of the Kosovo Election Commission at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in Stockholm, Sweden.