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Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 41st general election of May 2, 2011

2. The 41st General Election

This section is an account of Elections Canada's activities to deliver the 41st general election.

2.1 Launch of the Election

Issue of the writs

On March 26, 2011, the Governor General dissolved Parliament at the request of the Prime Minister, and writs were issued for elections in all 308 federal electoral districts across Canada. The date for the 41st general election was set by proclamation of the Governor General as May 2, 2011. As a result, advance voting had to take place during the Easter weekend and Passover on April 22, 23 and 25. The election calendar was 37 days.  

The timing of the election and advance polls led to some unique circumstances that could affect electoral participation – advance polls during religious days and statutory holidays, students changing their address toward the end of the school term and spring flooding in parts of Canada, all of which would require mitigation measures.

Local Elections Canada offices

Under the Canada Elections Act, returning officers must open offices without delay after the issue of the writs.

All returning officers had been mandated to identify potential office space in the weeks leading up to the election. On March 24, 2011, given the high likelihood of an imminent election call, the Chief Electoral Officer authorized returning officers to set up their offices.

Returning officers opened 308 returning offices, and 128 satellite offices in 80 of the geographically largest electoral districts. During the 41st general election, Elections Canada equipped local offices with cell phones and computers with high-speed wireless technology, which allowed local offices to serve electors in the first few hours after the issue of the writs.

Polling sites

Advance polls

For the 41st general election, a total of 4,706 advance polls were set up – 665 more than for the 40th general election. Of these 665 polls, 155 were added in rural areas, representing a 12 percent increase in the number of advance polls serving electors living in rural areas. The remaining 510 polls were added in urban areas, representing an 18.5 percent increase in the number of advance polls serving electors living in urban areas.

During the past year, and more particularly during the 41st general election, some remote Aboriginal communities in Churchill, Manitoba and around James Bay asked for advance polls in their communities. Plans were modified and adaptations to the Act were made to facilitate the delivery of advance poll services in these remote areas.

Election day polls

For the 41st general election, returning officers set up 64,477 stationary polling stations, an increase of 1,041 (1.6 percent) from the 40th general election. These polls were located in 15,260 polling sites, representing an increase of 55 polling sites (0.4 percent). In addition, 1,669 mobile polls were set up in 4,865 establishments; this represents an increase of 191 polls (12.9 percent) compared to the 40th general election.

Election staff

Recruiting field staff

During the 41st general election, 235,867 specific election worker positions were filled, compared with 236,366 positions in the 40th general election. The slight decrease in the number of workers, primarily revising agents and registration officers, is explained by the returning officers' latitude to have fewer individuals perform the required work or to vary the number of poll officials based on an electoral district's needs.

More than 7,000 workers were on standby to replace field staff if needed. Elections Canada estimates that more than 180,000 poll officials worked on election day. Table 1 in the Appendix lists the positions occupied by election staff for the 41st general election.

To fill the positions, returning officers turned to the 33,665 names of potential workers provided by the candidates of the registered political parties as prescribed in the legislation. This is compared with 53,393 names provided by the parties in the 40th general election, continuing a downward trend. An additional 130,427 applications were submitted through the Elections Canada Web site, compared with a total of 47,458 applications submitted during the 40th general election.

As in previous elections, the Chief Electoral Officer authorized returning officers to appoint additional poll officials to accommodate absences and last-minute resignations, and authorized returning officers to hire 16‑ and 17‑year-olds to fill some positions. During the 41st general election, there were 28,803 workers aged 16 to 25, or 11 percent of the total electoral workforce across Canada, representing a 90 percent increase from the 40th general election.

On-line recruitment and advertising campaign

For the 40th general election, returning officers identified the recruitment of poll officials as one of their biggest challenges. To improve the process for the 41st general election, Elections Canada introduced a new employment section on its Web site, which featured an on-line application form for election day poll officials. Completed applications were automatically directed to the responsible recruitment officer based on the applicant's electoral district, rather than to a central administrative location.

Elections Canada also launched a "Need Pocket Money?" campaign aimed at recruiting youth aged 16 to 25. In addition to being featured on the Elections Canada Web site, local offices displayed campaign posters and handed out sample cheques to passersby at libraries, community centres and shopping malls. The cheques directed individuals to the Elections Canada Web site, where they could apply on-line.

In electoral districts where the number of employment applications was low, news releases proved to be an effective tool for recruiting potential workers.

The new Web application process, together with the advertising campaign, resulted in a total of 130,427 on-line applications received by election day. The total number of applications received for the 40th general election was 47,458.

Resources available to field staff

Several Elections Canada resources supported the field staff:

  • Elections Canada Support Network – Network agents were based in Ottawa. They assisted returning officers and their staff with the day-to-day administration of the election. Approximately 120 advisors provided three levels of expertise in shifts covering up to 17 hours a day, seven days a week. Elections Canada recruited some of the advisors through partnerships with provincial electoral agencies. Many advisors had experience as election practitioners at the federal or provincial level. They were able to provide practical advice to returning officers and their staff.

    Network agents dealt with 45,446 phone calls, down from 57,748 in the 40th general election. Of the calls in 2011, 43,263 were answered immediately, yielding a response rate of 95 percent. Network agents also processed 2,480 e-mails and 12,161 faxes.
  • Field liaison officers – Each of these 31 experienced election practitioners provided support and guidance to all returning officers in a designated region. They also kept Elections Canada informed about how the election was progressing at the local level, and helped Elections Canada's regional media relations advisors handle media calls in the field. As in past elections, the field liaison officers proved to be an important asset.
  • Resource persons – Elections Canada supplemented the Field Liaison Officer Program with a response team of resource persons whose task was to support returning officers more intensively. Resource persons were experienced individuals – former assistant returning officers, retired professionals or provincial election officers, for instance – who could provide quick and personalized assistance to returning officers facing unusual or unforeseen situations. These contractors were retained through a competitive process. During the 41st general election, Elections Canada deployed resource persons to nine electoral districts. This initiative will likely be repeated in future elections.

2.2 Working with Political Entities

Throughout the election calendar, Elections Canada works with political entities from the nomination of candidates and registration of political parties through to the provision of information sessions to candidates and official agents. Elections Canada also administers regulatory requirements, such as those for election expenses, broadcasting time and third party election advertising.

Nomination of candidates

Nominations closed at 2:00 p.m., local time, on April 11, 2011. Only one candidate withdrew a nomination, in Kitchener Centre. The independent candidate withdrew after completion of the confirmation process but before the statutory deadline.

In Manicouagan, the Liberal Party of Canada withdrew support for its candidate after his nomination had been confirmed by the returning officer. However, because his nomination paper indicated that he had been endorsed by the Liberal Party and his candidacy had been confirmed for that party, the Canada Elections Act required that he be identified as "Liberal" on the ballot, and the party was not able to endorse another candidate in that district.

The total number of confirmed candidates was 1,587, compared with 1,601 in the 40th general election. There were 452 women candidates or 28.5 percent of the total, compared with 445 or 27.8 percent in the 40th general election. Of the 305 sitting members of the House of Commons at the dissolution of Parliament, 288 sought re-election and 17 did not.

Incidents relating to the nomination process

Returning officers are responsible for evaluating and accepting candidate nomination papers in the manner prescribed by the Canada Elections Act. While the Chief Electoral Officer supports returning officers' decisions, he expressed concerns regarding the complexities involved with meeting the requirements of this process for certain potential candidates. In three cases, the intricacy of the process may have caused barriers for individuals, resulting in their being denied the right to be a candidate.

One case dealt with the lack of witness initials beside elector signatures on the nomination paper and the delay in returning this nomination paper to the returning officer once it was determined that such initials were not a legal requirement.

Another case concerned the request made by a returning officer that copies of documents that can be filed electronically, be filed by fax. Neither the returning officer nor the prospective candidate realized that filing the documents as attachments to an e-mail would also have been an acceptable form of electronic filing.

A third case involved a factual dispute between a potential candidate and the returning officer as to whether all required documents had been filed before the close of nominations.

Elections Canada plans to review the nomination process to prevent such cases from occurring in the future.

Post-election concerns with certain nomination papers

Following the 41st general election, Elections Canada was made aware of allegations concerning the nomination papers of two candidates.

According to media sources, opposing political parties in Berthier–Maskinongé claimed that the elected candidate's nomination paper contained irregularities such as missing or misspelled signatures and alleged forged signatures from electors. In certain cases, electors were allegedly led to believe they were signing a petition. The party of the elected candidate rejected the allegations and maintained that the signatures were collected in the appropriate manner by volunteers who went door-to-door and visited local gathering places. The elected candidate's nomination paper had been verified and confirmed by the returning officer for Berthier–Maskinongé. In accordance with sections 524 and 525 of the Canada Elections Act, Elections Canada issued a statement that the decision to overturn or uphold the results is at the discretion of the courts and not Elections Canada.

As well, the Commissioner of Canada Elections received a complaint alleging irregularities in the nomination paper of a candidate in another electoral district. Based on the allegations received, the Commissioner concluded that no contravention of the Canada Elections Act had occurred. The complainant was advised of the pertinent sections of the Act with respect to the contestation of an election result.

Registered political parties

At the issue of the writs, 19 political parties were registered. One party was deregistered during the election period for failing to endorse a candidate in the election. In total, 18 parties ran candidates, compared with 19 in the 40th general election.

Communications and information sessions

To prepare for the 41st general election, Elections Canada conducted an extensive review of communications material regarding political financing, with the aim of reducing the number of mailings and streamlining the information provided to political entities during the election period. Elections Canada provided official agents, candidates and political parties with information on topics such as good political financing practices, the obligations of official agents, election expenses limits and upcoming training.

During the election period, meetings between returning officers, candidates and candidates' representatives took place between April 12 and April 20, 2011. During the meetings, returning officers provided information about new procedures, the sites they had chosen for polling stations, the quality of the lists of electors and their plans for targeted revision of the lists.

After the election, Elections Canada held 26 information sessions for official agents, candidates and auditors. They were held in 11 major centres across the country between May 10 and May 31, 2011. In all, there were 299 participants. The sessions focused on financial reporting, the obligations of official agents and candidates, important deadlines and how to complete the Candidate's Electoral Campaign Return.

Provision of polling site information to political parties

In response to an initial request from a member of the Conservative Party of Canada, the preliminary list of all election day polls was sent to all parties. Because a polling site can be replaced by another at the last minute, and to ensure that electors always have access to the most accurate information regarding their location, Elections Canada indicated to political parties that the list supplied should only be used for internal purposes and that parties should not direct electors to polling sites. Political parties were invited to refer electors to the Elections Canada Web site, their local Elections Canada office or their voter information card for locations, to prevent electors from being directed to incorrect polling sites. Some political parties did not comply with this request.

Election expenses limits

The Canada Elections Act sets separate limits on the election expenses of candidates and registered political parties. The election expenses limit for candidates is based on the number of names appearing on the preliminary or revised lists of electors for the electoral district, whichever yields the higher expenses limit. In the 41st general election, limits for electoral districts ranged from $69,634.73 to $134,351.77, for an average election expenses limit of $91,879.64. The average expenses limit for the 40th general election was $88,097.12. The election expenses limit for a political party is based on the number of names on the lists of electors for all electoral districts in which the party has endorsed a candidate. A preliminary expenses limit is calculated using the number of electors on the preliminary lists of electors, and a final election expenses limit is determined at a later date using the number of electors on the preliminary or revised lists of electors, whichever number is greater.

For the number of each party's confirmed candidates and final party expenses limits, see Table 2 in the Appendix.

Broadcasting time for political parties

The Broadcasting Arbitrator allocates paid and free broadcasting time to parties in accordance with rules set out in the Canada Elections Act, and arbitrates disputes between political parties and broadcasters concerning the application of the Act. The Broadcasting Arbitrator also issues guidelines concerning the entitlement to and allocation of broadcasting time, the procedures for booking broadcasting time by registered and eligible parties, as well as the obligations of broadcasters during a general election.

During a general election, the Canada Elections Act requires every broadcaster in Canada to make at least 390 minutes of broadcasting time available for purchase by registered and eligible parties. The time must be provided during prime time, at the lowest rate that would be charged to any other purchaser for equivalent time.

Under section 343 of the Act, on February 17, 2011, the Broadcasting Arbitrator made an allocation of the broadcasting time available. This allocation was in effect for the 41st general election and is located on Elections Canada's Web site.

As well, the Act requires all network operators that provided free broadcasting time in the previous general election to provide as much free broadcasting time to registered and eligible parties during the election that follows. Free broadcasting time must be provided to parties in
the same proportion as the allocation of paid broadcasting time.

For details on the paid and free broadcasting time that network operators were required to provide to parties in the 41st general election, see Table 3 in the Appendix.

Third party election advertising

The Canada Elections Act requires any third party conducting election advertising during an election to identify itself in the advertisement and to indicate that it has authorized the advertising. Third parties that incur election advertising expenses of $500 or more must register with Elections Canada. They must also produce an election advertising report within four months after polling day, itemizing their election advertising expenses as well as all contributions and loans received for election advertising purposes in the period beginning six months before the issue of the writs and ending on polling day. The Act sets limits on the amount a third party may incur in election advertising expenses. In the 41st general election, the limits amounted to $188,250 for a national campaign and $3,765 per electoral district. In the 40th general election, the limits amounted to $183,300 for a national campaign and $3,666 per electoral district.

For the 41st general election, 55 third parties registered with Elections Canada, compared with 64 third parties for the 40th general election. The growing use of the Internet as a means of communication, and the development and transmission of advertising products at a significantly lower cost by using this medium, may be factors that explain the reduced number of registered third parties in the 41st general election.

2.3 Communicating with Canadians

A key role for Elections Canada is ensuring that electors understand the electoral process – including how they can exercise their right to vote – and having the capacity to meet their communications and information needs.

Campaigns targeted at the general population

As required by the Canada Elections Act, Elections Canada mailed 23.9 million voter information cards (VICs) by April 8, 2011, to electors whose names appeared on the preliminary lists of electors. Elections Canada subsequently mailed approximately 200,000 revised VICs to advise electors of changes to information.

From April 13 to 15, 2011, Elections Canada distributed a bilingual brochure to nearly 14 million households in Canada and 9,000 trilingual (English, French and Inuktitut) brochures to households in Nunavut. This brochure prompted electors to contact Elections Canada if they did not receive their VIC or if they received one that contained errors. The brochure also included information on advance voting, election day, other ways to vote and voter identification requirements.

Campaigns targeted at specific population groups

Community outreach

Community relations officers provide specific target groups – youth, ethnocultural communities, homeless electors, Aboriginal electors, seniors living in residences and in long-term care facilities – with important information on how, when and where to exercise their right to vote. Officers deliver their messages by setting up information kiosks, making presentations, hosting discussion groups and distributing communications material. For the first time in a general election, Elections Canada hired 300 community relations officers to provide information at seniors' residences and long-term care facilities and to explain the new initiative to accept the VIC as proof of identity and address. In total, Elections Canada hired 863 community relations officers for the 41st general election, compared with 529 for the 40th general election.

Outreach to Aboriginal communities also included the hiring of 303 Aboriginal Elders and youth who worked on polling day to assist voters by explaining the voting process, answering general questions and providing translation services.

The table below lists the number of community relations officers and Aboriginal Elders and youth hired for the 39th, 40th and 41st general elections.

Community relations officers and Aboriginal Elders and youth hired for the 39th, 40th and 41st general elections
Program Number of participants
39th general election 40th general election 41st general election
Community Relations Officer Program
Youth 114 200 230
Ethnocultural 53 143 129
Aboriginal 157 154 164
Homeless 10 32 40
Seniors 0 0 300
Total 334 529 863
Aboriginal Elder and Youth Program
Elders 240 168 163
Youth 225 181 140
Total 465 349 303
Information campaigns

Special efforts were made to inform and engage groups and communities that were likely to experience difficulty in exercising their right to vote, or that could not easily be reached through Elections Canada's general advertising campaign. For the 41st general election, Elections Canada targeted information campaigns toward youth, Aboriginal electors, ethnocultural communities and electors with disabilities. Outreach highlights included:

  • voter information posted on the Elections Canada Web site in 11 Aboriginal and 27 heritage languages
  • more than 24,500 voter identification information sheets and over 24,800 voter information guides ordered in heritage languages from Elections Canada's Public Enquiries Unit
  • e-bulletins sent to more than 3,000 youth, ethnocultural, disability and Aboriginal organizations and associations across Canada
  • a video of the Chief Electoral Officer encouraging youth to vote posted on the Elections Canada Web site and distributed to student associations
  • a partnership with Student Vote, a not-for-profit educational organization that provides a parallel election experience for elementary and secondary students, which resulted in close to 3,800 participating schools and more than 560,000 students casting practice ballots for the official candidates running in their electoral districts
  • collaboration with the Assembly of First Nations to conduct an outbound call initiative on ways to register and vote and on voter identification requirements
  • a partnership with the National Association of Friendship Centres to deliver outreach communications activities through its Web site and 120 friendship centres across Canada
  • literature and services offered in multiple formats such as Braille, American Sign Language and the Langue des signes québécoise
  • key news releases, backgrounders and radio ads aired on broadcast reading service networks, such as VoicePrint, La Magnétothèque and Audiothèque, to reach electors with a visual impairment

Information channels used by electors

In addition to contacting their local Elections Canada office or satellite office, electors could obtain information directly from Elections Canada about registration, voting procedures, polling locations and other common topics.

Electors could obtain information by phoning Elections Canada's national toll-free number (1‑800‑463‑6868). The more than 348,900 calls to that number were directed to an automated voice response system (VRS) operating 24 hours a day throughout the election period. The VRS self-serve option provided information without the assistance of a call agent. More than 164,000 callers used the self-serve menu to obtain information, compared with 95,000 callers during the 40th general election. Call centre agents answered the remaining 184,874 calls.

To handle the call volume, Elections Canada renewed an agreement with the federal government's Canada Enquiry Centre. In addition, the Canada Revenue Agency supplied 50 call centre agents, on several days during the election and on polling day, who answered 41,539 calls.

Staff in local Elections Canada offices handled 939,335 calls during the election period.

Similar information was available on the Elections Canada Web site. To prepare for the election, Elections Canada redesigned the entire Web site to make information more accessible. During the election, the site received more than 5 million visits, compared with 3 million during the 40th general election. On election day alone, there were 1.25 million visits.

On-line complaints received by the Chief Electoral Officer

For the first time, Elections Canada changed its Web site for the duration of a general election to facilitate access for electors wishing to lodge a complaint. More than 6,000 e-mails were received from March 26 to May 28, 2011, regarding complaints, comments and general inquiries. This initiative demonstrated the need for Elections Canada to find ways to improve e-mail communication with electors. Electors wrote to Elections Canada (separate from complaints about offences under the Canada Elections Act, which are addressed to the Commissioner of Canada Elections) on a wide range of issues, such as special ballot voting at the University of Guelph, advance polls being held on several days of religious observance, the format of leadership debates, harassing phone calls from alleged representatives of political parties and candidates, and voter identification requirements (including the VIC not being accepted as identification). Other inquiries involved issues such as the location of polling sites, procedures at the polls and the behaviour of election staff.

More details will be provided in the evaluations report assessing the conduct of the 41st general election.

Advertising and media relations

Elections Canada maintained a constant presence in a mix of media throughout the election period. The campaign involved overlapping phases: electors were advised of registration, key dates, voting options and voter identification requirements. The theme of the campaign was "Vote. Shape your world." The main message in all media was "To vote, you must prove your identity and address."

Ads were carried on 162 television and 639 radio stations, and in 111 daily newspapers and 776 community newspapers. Ads also ran on 1,856 movie screens and 42 Internet networks representing several hundred Web sites, including Facebook and YouTube. For the first time, Elections Canada used out-of-home public advertisements, including more than 4,200 regular and digital boards in public venues such as transit stations, restaurants, fitness centres and on bus sides. Ads were aired on the rink boards during several Stanley Cup playoff games in Vancouver. To help reach Aboriginal and ethnocultural communities, ads were also featured in multiple languages on specialty television and radio, in community newspapers and as Internet banners.

To support direct contact with national and regional media, Elections Canada used its Canada-wide network of 15 national and regional communications professionals. From the issue of the writs to the end of judicial recounts, this team answered 3,729 calls from members of the media. The vast majority of these media inquiries – some 2,838 – concerned routine matters of electoral administration, such as the nomination process, ways to vote, voter identification, advance polls, the list of confirmed candidates, voter turnout and recounts. Elections Canada also initiated 726 calls to the media to provide information on the electoral process and issued 36 news releases.

Elections Canada responded to a total of 457 media requests for formal interviews (print, radio or television) with the Chief Electoral Officer, the Elections Canada spokesperson, regional media advisors or other Elections Canada officials.

2.4 Conducting the Election

This subsection describes the adaptations made to the Act; the registration of electors; voting by special ballot and at advance and ordinary polls, as well as measures taken with regard to accessibility; actions taken by Elections Canada to finalize the results of the election; compliance and enforcement actions taken by the Commissioner of Canada Elections; and the costs of the election.


The Chief Electoral Officer may adapt the Canada Elections Act under subsection 17(1) to address an emergency, an unusual or unforeseen circumstance, or an error. Table 4 in the Appendix provides details on adaptations of the Act pursuant to subsection 17(1) that were made during the 41st general election. An adaptation made pursuant to this subsection is only applicable for the period of the election during which it is made and the 30 days after polling day for that election.

In addition, section 179 of the Canada Elections Act permits the Chief Electoral Officer to issue instructions for the purpose of adapting any provision of the Special Voting Rules set out in Part 11 (sections 177 to 282) of the Act in order to execute the intent of those sections in respect of a particular circumstance. In general, these adaptations by instruction are required to address issues with the Special Voting Rules process that are not contemplated by the Act, or to fill gaps in the Act that would have the effect of preventing electors who are otherwise qualified to vote from casting their ballot. Adaptations made pursuant to section 179 can be made applicable only for the purposes of a particular election or made to continue to apply for future elections until rescinded by the Chief Electoral Officer. During the 41st general election, it was necessary for the Chief Electoral Officer to issue five new adaptations by instruction and to reapply seven adaptations by instruction that were made at a previous election. Table 5 in the Appendix contains descriptions of the adaptations by instruction used during the 41st general election.

Registration of electors

Lists of electors

When an election call is imminent, information is extracted from the National Register of Electors to produce the preliminary lists of electors. For the 41st general election, the preliminary lists included 23,933,743 electors.

When the 41st general election was called, there was a notable jump in the number of transactions on the Elections Alberta and Elections British Columbia Web sites offering registration services to provincial electors. The number of updates and new registrations on the two provincial Web sites doubled, going from roughly 50 to 100 per day in British Columbia and from roughly 60 to 120 per day in Alberta. These registrations were provided to Elections Canada revising agents, who followed up with electors to obtain proof of identity or signatures when necessary. Elections Canada is working to start introducing on-line registration services in the near future.

After address updates, deletions and new registrations during the election period and at the advance and ordinary polls, the number of electors on the final lists was 24,257,592. Following the 40th general election, the final lists contained 23,677,639 electors. Table 6 in the Appendix provides more details about voter registration.

The figure for the final lists of electors represented an increase of 1 percent over the number of electors on the preliminary lists for the 41st general election, and a 1 percent increase over the number of electors on the final lists for the 40th general election. On election day, some 757,500 electors registered at the polls, representing 6.2 percent of voters, compared with 731,000 and 6.1 percent for the 40th general election.

Quality of the preliminary lists of electors

The quality of information on the preliminary lists of electors can be measured by two main indicators: coverage and currency. Coverage represents the proportion of electors on the lists relative to the total electoral population. Currency represents the proportion of electors on the lists at the correct residential address.

The preliminary lists for the 41st general election included 93 percent of Canadian electors, and 84 percent of electors were listed at the correct residential address. These figures are comparable to those for the two previous general elections.

The currency of the lists in 10 ridings was estimated to have dropped to less than 75 percent. The revision activities in these ridings were closely monitored during the revision period.

Non-residential addresses

Electors must appear on the voters list at a valid residential address, which determines the polling division where they may vote on advance or ordinary polling days.

On occasion, electors use an address on their driver's licence or tax information that is different from their home address. For example, they may use the address of their place of business or a mailbox service. Returning officers can verify addresses and remove electors listed at non-residential (or commercial) addresses. Commercial addresses are then flagged in the National Register of Electors so that they cannot be associated with electors in the future.

In accordance with the Canada Elections Act, candidates receive voters lists (name, address and unique identifier only) for the electoral district in which they are running. During the 41st general election, candidates advised returning officers for the electoral districts of Brampton West, Mississauga–Erindale, Edmonton–Strathcona and Burnaby–Douglas that the addresses for a number of electors on the lists appeared to be commercial properties.

Of the 1,415 electors identified in the four electoral districts, more than 66 percent were listed at their correct residential address. Approximately 17 percent were listed at mailbox service addresses. The remaining 17 percent were listed at other non-residential addresses, such as their place of business.

Returning officers removed the electors with commercial addresses from the preliminary lists of electors and, where possible, advised the electors that they could not vote in the polling division associated with that address. All candidates in the four electoral districts were advised of the results of this work by the returning officers, who also expressed their thanks to the candidates who brought this issue to their attention.


Electors could choose to vote by one of three methods:

  • by special ballot, throughout the election, under the Special Voting Rules
  • at a polling station during the three days of advance voting
  • at a polling station on election day
Voting under the Special Voting Rules

For electors seeking alternatives to voting at advance polls or on election day in their electoral district, the Special Voting Rules afford the opportunity to vote by mail or at a local Elections Canada office. Special ballot application forms and guides are widely available in Canada and throughout the world. As in the previous general election, electors could download the application form from the Elections Canada Web site after answering some basic questions to determine their eligibility. A total of 86,270 special ballot application forms were downloaded from the Web site, compared with 88,722 forms during the 40th general election.

Elections Canada undertook a number of outreach initiatives to increase awareness of the voting options available to Canadians away from their electoral district or abroad. E-bulletins were sent to 122 post-secondary institutions with international student exchange or internship programs, representing 21,643 students abroad, as well as companies employing Canadians overseas, representing 11,724 workers abroad. Elections Canada also distributed registration kits to 34 Passport Canada offices and notices to shipping lines. Ads were placed in various newspapers and publications by Elections Canada's partners in missions abroad, who also posted information about the election on their Web sites.

As with the 40th general election, Elections Canada contacted national electors (electors living in Canada but away from their electoral district during the election period) whose applications for registration were still incomplete at the close of registration on April 26, 2011, along with the 660 electors whose applications arrived after the prescribed deadline, and encouraged them to vote in person on election day when possible. Electors who were located within a radius of 500 kilometres of their home address were contacted by phone and others were contacted by e-mail or letter.

Due to distance and the short election calendar, some electors could not return their special ballots within the prescribed period. Of the 42,496 national and international applications received, 3,550 required follow-up as a result of missing or unreadable proof of identification or other missing required information. About 70 percent of electors submitted their applications by fax, a transmittal method that affects the quality and readability of documents. Some 400 electors whose proof of identification or residential address remained unreadable, even after several attempts to submit the documentation, were not sent a special ballot voting kit. In total, 1,166 electors did not provide the required information in time.

In all, 285,034 special ballots were cast in the 41st general election (including 5,680 rejected ballots), compared with 257,972 in the 40th general election. The following table lists the statistics regarding electors who voted by special ballot under the Special Voting Rules for the 39th, 40th and 41st general elections.

Special Voting Rules ballots for the 39th, 40th and 41st general elections
Election Electors on
the lists
Group 1
(Canadian Forces,

39th 111,275 40,116 1,408 41,524 37.3% 1,001
40th 113,058 42,957 1,569 44,526 39.4% 1,147
41st 119,090 47,856 2,350 50,206 42.2% 1,285
Group 2
(Local* and

39th 419,510 398,274 5,497 403,771 96.3% 3,173
40th 223,608 210,112 3,334 213,446 95.5% 2,718
41st 244,304 231,498 3,330 234,828 96.1% 1,625
Grand totals 39th 530,785 438,390 6,905 445,295 83.9% 4,174
40th 336,666 253,069 4,903 257,972 76.6% 3,865
41st 363,394 279,354 5,680 285,034 78.4% 2,910

*Local represents electors whose applications were processed by local offices and includes electors in acute care hospitals. The number of local ballots received late is not available.

**National represents electors whose applications were processed by Elections Canada in Ottawa and includes electors in acute care hospitals.

Special Voting Rules System

For the 41st general election, Elections Canada introduced improvements to the special ballot application process. New technology, such as a Web-based application wizard and image capture of application forms made possible through a shared agreement with Public Works and Government Services Canada, helped Elections Canada to more effectively process applications and respond to elector inquiries. In addition, prior to the introduction of the new Special Voting Rules System, the list of Canadian Forces electors was managed and provided to Elections Canada by the Department of National Defence; however, this process entailed duplication of effort and in some cases caused administrative delays. The introduction of the new system allowed Elections Canada to wholly manage and produce this list. The new Special Voting Rules System was first used during an outreach activity with members of the Canadian Forces, who were invited to update their Statement of Ordinary Residence on-line in June 2010.

International voting

Elections Canada maintains a register of international electors – that is, Canadian citizens who are temporarily living outside the country. These persons are entitled to vote if they left Canada less than five years before applying to register and vote by special ballot. At the beginning of an election, a special ballot voting kit is mailed to each of them. For the 41st general election, international electors outside the United States and Western Europe who received their special ballot by courier were informed by e-mail of the delivery of a package from Elections Canada. At the call of the 41st general election, there were 5,701 international electors on the lists. An additional 5,032 electors registered during the election. In all, 6,332 voted but 263 of the ballots had to be rejected. In the end, the ballots of 6,069 international electors were counted. The ballots of 822 international electors were returned too late to be counted.

Five-year residency rule

With some exceptions, Canadians residing abroad are only authorized to vote in an election if they have been residing outside Canada for less than five consecutive years immediately prior to applying to vote and if they intend to return to Canada to resume residence in the future.

Up to and including the 2006 general election, anyone who had returned to Canada, even for a brief visit, was deemed to have "resided" in the country and the five-year clock was reset, allowing them to vote by special ballot.

Following the 2006 general election, in the course of reviewing information material for these international electors, Elections Canada changed the information provided to more closely respect the text of the legislation by indicating that the five-year period begins from the date the elector leaves Canada to live abroad and remains in effect until the date the elector returns to Canada to reside. A visit to Canada cannot be considered a resumption of residence in Canada and does not interrupt the five-year period.

Elections Canada also changed the letter sent to electors on their five-year anniversary away. This letter was not as clear as it could have been, and many Canadians who had resided abroad for longer than the last five years only realized when the election was called that they would not be entitled to vote. Since the last general election, 2,524 international electors who reached the five-year limit were deleted from the International Register of Electors.

In his recommendations report submitted to Parliament in September 2005 following the 38th general election, the Chief Electoral Officer recommended the removal of the clause imposing a five-year limit to residency abroad as prescribed in paragraph 11(d) of the Canada Elections Act. The Act has not been amended to reflect this recommendation and the limitation remains.

Canadian Forces voting

Members of the Canadian Forces (CF) can vote by special ballot in a general election wherever they are stationed. For a minimum period of three days between April 18 and April 23, 2011, polling stations were set up on CF bases around the world to give all members the opportunity to vote. Because the military voting period happened to include religious and statutory holidays, some electors may have been on leave. Liaison officers were advised to encourage unit commanding officers to hold voting at the beginning of the military voting period. For the first time, an ad was published in base papers and on the Elections Canada Web site to inform CF members of their voting options.

Some 4,598 CF electors were unable to vote during the prescribed voting period because of their assigned military duties. To allow them to vote, the Chief Electoral Officer adapted the Canada Elections Act, extending the Special Voting Rules period.

Some CF members were still unable to vote during the designated military voting period because they were deployed and not able to vote at their military base. The current legislation offers little flexibility when dealing with such situations.

Approximately 2,500 CF members stationed in Afghanistan voted. The CF helped facilitate voting by special ballot for civilian personnel in Afghanistan.

There were 65,198 CF electors on the lists for the 41st general election. Of them, 26,667 voted by special ballot but 551 of the ballots were rejected. In the end, the ballots of 26,116 CF electors were counted.

Voting in correctional institutions

Under the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in Sauvé v. Canada (Chief Electoral Officer) on October 31, 2002, all incarcerated electors are eligible to vote by special ballot, regardless of the length of their sentences. At present, however, the Canada Elections Act provides a voting process only for inmates of provincial institutions. Therefore, the Chief Electoral Officer has adapted the Act to extend the voting process to federal institutions.

The prescribed voting day for incarcerated electors under the Act is the 10th day before polling day. For the 41st general election, this coincided with Good Friday. Federal and provincial correctional administrators advised the Chief Electoral Officer that they would not have enough staff available to facilitate the voting process in a secure and orderly manner if voting day for incarcerated electors were to occur on a statutory holiday. Therefore, for the purpose of the 41st general election, the Chief Electoral Officer adapted the Act by issuing an instruction to establish voting day for incarcerated electors on the 11th day before polling day – that is, on April 21, 2011. Furthermore, adaptations to extend the voting period were necessary in two cases, in order to provide a total of 14 electors who filed applications to vote the opportunity to do so.

A new elector registration tool, part of the new Special Voting Rules System, helped liaison officers in correctional institutions to identify an elector's electoral district and complete the registration form. The tool was developed in collaboration with provincial and federal correctional partners, and was made available on a USB key to 91 correctional institutions.

In correctional institutions in Canada, 17,207 incarcerated electors voted but 1,536 ballots had to be rejected for various reasons, including voting for a candidate not in one's riding or voting for a political party rather than a candidate, which is not permitted under the legislation. In the end, the ballots of 15,671 incarcerated electors were counted.

Fort McMurray initiative

At least 50,000 electors from across Canada work in the oil sands industry in the electoral district of Fort McMurray–Athabasca in northern Alberta. Many are not able to vote at advance or ordinary polls at their place of residence. Voting by special mail-in ballot is difficult because there is limited or no access to postal services.

During the 40th general election, some 68 mail-in applications to vote by special ballot were received by Elections Canada in Ottawa from electors who had an address for voting purposes outside Fort McMurray. Of these, 29 workers returned their ballot on time to be counted. During the Chief Electoral Officer's appearance in October 2009 and March 2010 before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, the situation of electors working away from their electoral district in the oil sands industry was discussed.

For the 41st general election, Elections Canada carried out a comprehensive awareness campaign on voting options directed at these workers. Mail-in ballot registration kits, information posters and brochures were distributed in a number of camps, campgrounds and hotels, as well as two intercity bus stations and the main airport. In all, Elections Canada in Ottawa received 99 mail-in applications to vote by special ballot from electors in Fort McMurray who were outside their electoral district.

Between April 14 and April 25, 2011, Elections Canada opened on-site registration and special voting booths at six remote camps facing the greatest accessibility barriers. Of the 8,285 workers at these locations, 1,156 voted by special ballot, representing a voter participation rate of 14 percent.

The University of Guelph

The timing of the election had the potential to make it harder for students to vote, given that they would be in transit between their school and home or temporary summer address. Elections Canada adapted the electoral reminder program to ensure that students were aware of the range of voting options they had. As in the past, however, Elections Canada did not plan to provide voting on campus except for those electors who reside there.

A well-intentioned returning officer decided to set up a special ballot registration and voting booth at the University of Guelph. Elections Canada immediately issued a news release and sent an e-bulletin to student organizations reminding them of Elections Canada's position and services provided to students. While the votes cast were valid, there were to be no more special ballot booths on campus. This resulted in complaints.

Elections Canada will review the situation and will, in consultation with all interested stakeholders, identify service improvements that could be initiated to make voting more convenient for these electors. The review will need to consider what amendments, if any, would be required to the Canada Elections Act.

Voting in advance

Advance polls took place on April 22, 23 and 25. On those days, 4,706 polling stations were set up in 3,258 advance polling sites across Canada. A total of 2,111,542 electors cast votes at advance polls, representing 14 percent of all electors who voted. This compares to 1,528,780 electors, or 11 percent of all voters, who cast votes at advance polls in the 40th general election.

To improve service for an expected increase in advance poll electors, the Chief Electoral Officer adapted the Act, allowing returning officers to hire registration officers, information officers and central poll supervisors to facilitate the flow of electors at advance polling sites. These additional resources have become a necessity, in light of the increasing number of electors who take advantage of advance polls and the increasing complexity of the voting process.

Even though returning officers were well prepared for the possibility of a higher voter turnout, the popularity of advance voting exceeded expectations, likely due to statutory and religious holidays. To help alleviate wait times, returning officers hired additional staff and dispatched additional poll officials to polling locations.

Religious days during advance polls

Concerns were expressed that advance polls for the 41st general election coincided with statutory holidays and several days of religious observance for the Christian and Jewish communities. The Chief Electoral Officer communicated with religious leaders and indicated that Elections Canada would accommodate workers' requests to attend religious services where operationally feasible, but that the dates for advance polls could not be changed because they were mandated by the Canada Elections Act. A news release was issued prior to advance polls, acknowledging concerns and encouraging Canadians to take advantage of other early voting opportunities, such as voting by special ballot by mail or at their local Elections Canada office. Despite concerns, turnout at advance polls was higher than in any previous election.

Bringing advance polls closer to communities in the North

Elections Canada increased the number of advance polls in northern communities for the 41st general election. In the spring of 2009, returning officers were mandated by the Chief Electoral Officer to review their advance poll boundaries, particularly those serving electors in remote areas, to verify the proximity of advance polling sites to the electors they serve. Improvements to the accessibility of polls is also made possible through monitoring feedback from electors and members of Parliament, as well as collaborative relationships with members of local communities.

Elections Canada set up more advance polls in northern Quebec and Labrador to better serve northern populations. For example, in Abitibi–Baie-James–Nunavik–Eeyou, new mobile advance polls were created to serve the five isolated Aboriginal communities of Wemindji, Eastmain, Nemaska, Waskaganish and Mistissini on a rotational basis. This approach allowed the larger communities of Chisasibi and Chapais to hold their advance polls for three days as usual, while the five smaller communities each had an advance poll for one out of the three days.

New advance polls were also set up in the remote northern communities of Pond Inlet (Nunavut), Peawanuck and Fort Albany (Timmins–James Bay), and God's River and St. Theresa Point (Churchill).

Voting on election day

Casting a ballot at a polling station on election day remained the choice of the vast majority of electors during the 41st general election: a total of 12,426,832 electors chose this option, representing 83.8 percent of electors who voted.

Of the 66,146 polling stations on election day, 237 polls in 57 electoral districts either opened late or closed briefly because of delays or interruptions, affecting service to a potential 94,848 electors. Many of these polls opened within an hour of the appointed time, and interruptions were minimal.

Voter information card as proof of identity and address

For the November 2010 by-elections, Elections Canada piloted an amended list of authorized pieces of identification to include the voter information card (VIC), along with another piece of authorized identification, for polling sites serving seniors' residences, long-term care facilities, Aboriginal reserves and on-campus student residences.

For the 41st general election, Elections Canada expanded this pilot initiative to include these types of polling sites in all electoral districts. On election day, the VIC was accepted as an authorized piece of identification at a total of 5,680 polling sites, including:

  • 745 polling stations on Aboriginal reserves, representing 71,578 electors
  • 4,935 polling stations in seniors' residences and long-term care facilities served by 2,998 mobile polls, representing 805,018 electors

Pre-election plans provided for the establishment of 272 polling stations at student residences across the country, representing 29,922 electors. However, most of these sites were not used, since the majority of students had moved away at the end of the school term.

From the limited data returned as of July 18, 2011, the proportion of electors who used their VIC with another authorized piece of identification (e.g. hospital bracelet) to cast their vote in seniors' residences and long-term care facilities was about 73 percent. In targeted polling sites on Aboriginal reserves, the proportion of electors who used their VIC with another authorized piece of identification (e.g. Certificate of Indian Status) was 36 percent. Of the small number of students able to take advantage of the initiative, 62 percent used the VIC. The initiative made the voter identification process run more smoothly and reduced the need to ask the responsible authorities for letters of attestation of residence.

Bringing ordinary polls to flood-affected areas in Manitoba

Major floods in parts of Manitoba affected many communities, some requiring evacuations. Most electors were back in their homes on election day and were able to vote at the ordinary polling site in their electoral district. However, the residents of two communities in Manitoba – Peguis in Selkirk–Interlake and Roseau River in Provencher – were still affected by the floods on election day. While some electors stayed behind in both communities, others were evacuated to hotels in Winnipeg and Gimli.

The Chief Electoral Officer adapted the Canada Elections Act to allow returning officers to facilitate the voting process for evacuated electors on election day. For Peguis electors, two mobile polling stations were established, and two teams of poll officials travelled to several hotels to ensure voting accessibility. Of the 320 people evacuated from Peguis, 70 voted at the mobile polling stations. A polling site was established for the entire day at the Winnipeg hotel where electors from Roseau River had been evacuated. Of the 40 electors affected, 35 voted at this polling site.

The Chief Electoral Officer also adapted the Canada Elections Act to enable returning officers to issue transfer certificates to electors in other flooded areas. Due to flooded roads and road closures, some electors would have had to travel great distances to get to their assigned polling site. The transfer certificate allowed them to vote at the polling site that was the most convenient for them.

Report on accessibility

In response to the ruling in the case of Hughes v. Elections Canada, Elections Canada implemented procedures "for receiving, recording and processing verbal and written complaints about lack of accessibility", Footnote 1 as well as for reporting on those complaints.

For the 41st general election, a new Polling Site Accessibility Feedback Form was made available at all polling locations and local Elections Canada offices, and was posted on the Elections Canada Web site. This enabled electors to file complaints about accessibility immediately at the site when they voted or by telephone, fax, regular mail and e-mail. Returning officers collected the forms and were responsible for following up with electors if they so requested. Returning officers resolved the complaints whenever possible.

During advance voting days, the forms were reviewed every evening and it was often possible for the issue to be remedied in time for the next day. For example, if an elector indicated that directional signage for the accessible entrance was inadequate, staff made sure to post more signage along the route. In other cases, the accessibility feedback form was completed during the advance polls for a facility that would be used again on election day, allowing the returning officer to address the issue in the meantime. In one instance, a door-opening device was available but found not to be functioning. The landlord was advised, and if repairs could not be completed in time, the returning officer was prepared to place extra staff at the door. In many cases, electors suggested other facilities that returning officers could consider for future elections.

For the 40th general election, the Chief Electoral Officer approved the use of 40 inaccessible polling locations, while for the 41st general election only 20 such requests were made and approved. All inaccessible polling locations were flagged on the page for the appropriate electoral district on the Elections Canada Web site, with instructions to contact the local office for more information.

The following table summarizes the number of accessibility complaints reported by category on feedback forms.

Summary of accessibility complaints
Accessibility category Number of complaints Percentage of total complaints
Parking 480 25.6%
Signage 329 17.6%
Walkways and pathways 267 14.3%
Entrances 219 11.7%
Interior accessible routes 210 11.2%
Doors 144 7.7%
Voting area 116 6.2%
Other* 107 5.7%
Total** 1,872

*The majority of electors who chose "other" filed complaints relating to: the distance from their home to the polling location, the lack of available public transportation and the location of the polling site.

**A single feedback form can report on multiple categories. The 1,872 issues reported above are the results from 1,203 accessibility feedback forms.

Of the 1,203 feedback forms that reported accessibility issues, returning officers have addressed 1,124 (93.4 percent) while the remaining 79 forms (6.6 percent) are still considered "open." In most cases, this is because the returning officer has not yet been successful in contacting the elector.

In total, 3,387 accessibility feedback forms were logged by returning officers, but 2,184 did not correspond to the above categories of polling site accessibility. Instead, they reflected a wide range of elector feedback, from compliments about election staff to complaints about lineups and ideas about the electoral process itself. Of these forms, 2,122 (97.2 percent) have been addressed and 62 (2.8 percent) are still in progress.

Election results

Voting results

Elections Canada posted election results on its Web site as soon as they were available, after the final poll closed in British Columbia at 10:00 p.m. (Eastern Time).

Including advance polls, special ballots and election day, the total number of voters in the 41st general election was 14,823,408, or 61.1 percent of registered electors. This represents a 6.4 percent increase in votes cast and a 2.3 percentage point increase in turnout, compared to the 40th general election when 13,929,093 voters cast a ballot for an overall participation rate of 58.8 percent. For more information on the numbers of ballots cast and voter turnout compared to the 40th general election, Table 7 in the Appendix.

The figure below shows the trend in voter turnout for the past eight elections.

Trend in voter turnout

Trend in voter turnout

Text description of this figure is available on a separate page.

*The turnout in 2000 was adjusted from 61.2 percent to 64.1 percent following the normal maintenance of the National Register of Electors to remove duplicate entries and the names of deceased electors.

As the following figure shows, both the number of votes cast and the turnout rate increased in all provinces and territories for the 41st general election, except in Nunavut, compared with the 40th general election.

Voter turnout in the 40th and 41st general elections, 2008 and 2011

Voter turnout

Text description of this figure is available on a separate page.

Over the coming months, Elections Canada will be estimating voter turnout by age group and gender. Elections Canada also collaborated with Statistics Canada to better understand differences in participation among population groups and to help identify reasons for not voting.

Constitutional challenge to the disclosure of election results

On April 4, 2011, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Bell Media Inc., owner of the CTV Television Network, filed an application in Ontario's Superior Court of Justice. They asked the court to declare unconstitutional section 329 of the Canada Elections Act. They claimed that section 329, which prohibits the disclosure in an electoral district of election results until all polls have closed in that district, runs counter to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The applicants' position was that the culture of communications in Canada has been significantly transformed as a result of recent technological and cultural changes, including the advent of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and the increased usage of smart phones. Accordingly, the public now expects to receive news immediately and to participate in its dissemination. They also pointed out that the prohibition in section 329 of the Act results in a complete ban on transmission of any election results by the Internet or social media, even to areas in Canada where polling stations are closed, until all polling stations in Canada have closed.

The applicants wanted the court to hear the case on an urgent basis so that they could transmit the results from coast to coast as they became available. Footnote 2

The application for an expedited hearing was heard on April 8, 2011, and the court rendered its decision three days later. The court pointed out that the issues raised by the applicants involve complex matters that require careful analysis, and it refused to expedite the hearing. Elections Canada understands that the case is to be heard in March 2012.

Throughout the remainder of the election period, the media questioned the enforceability of section 329, particularly with regard to the Internet and social media.

Validation of results

In the 41st general election, 151 electoral districts completed validation on May 3, 2011, and another 103 completed this step on May 4. The vast majority of the remaining 54 electoral districts held their validation of results within the next few days. There were postponements (or "adjournments") ranging from one to six days in six electoral districts where ballot boxes had not all arrived in time for the original date planned for the validation. By May 15, 2011, all 308 electoral districts had completed validation. As validation was completed for each electoral district, the results were posted as usual on the Elections Canada Web site.


Judicial recounts took place in four electoral districts. The returning officers in three electoral districts – Montmagny–L'Islet–Kamouraska–Rivière-du-Loup, Etobicoke Centre and Nipissing–Timiskaming – made a request to a judge for a recount as the difference between the number of votes cast for the first- and second-place candidates was less than one one-thousandth of the total votes cast in the electoral district. In such cases, the Canada Elections Act provides that a judicial recount must take place. In Winnipeg North, an elector applied for a recount, which was granted by the judge.

All four recounts confirmed the results obtained by the returning officers at the validation of the results of the vote. The difference between the vote totals of the first- and second-place candidates changed by very little: by four votes in Montmagny–L'Islet–Kamouraska–Rivière-du-Loup, by one vote in Etobicoke Centre, by three votes in Nipissing–Timiskaming and by one vote in Winnipeg North.

The media applied to attend the recount in Etobicoke Centre, and the judge granted the request. The media was not present at the other recounts.

For the judicial recount results, see Table 8 in the Appendix.

Return of the writs

The date set for the return of the writs was May 23, 2011. Writs must be held by the returning officer for six days after the validation of the results to allow time for candidates and electors to request a recount. Should such a request occur before a winner is declared, the returning officer must await the recount judge's decision before declaring a candidate elected, completing the writ and returning it. The last two writs for the 41st general election were returned on May 27. That of Etobicoke Centre was late as a result of the judicial recount. The late arrival of the writ from Nunavut is more likely attributable to the adjournments that were needed prior to the validation of the vote, as well as to distance.

Official results

Elections Canada publishes the official voting results about three months after the election. This publication contains the poll-by-poll results for each electoral district as well as various statistics.

A total of 308 candidates were elected to the House of Commons in this election. Of these, 197 were members in the 40th Parliament. Seventy-six of the elected candidates were women, setting a new record.

The following table lists the distribution of seats in the House of Commons, by political affiliation, before and after the election.

Distribution of seats in the House of Commons by political affiliation
Political affiliation After the 40th
general election
(October 14, 2008)
At the dissolution
of Parliament
(March 26, 2011)*
After the 41st
general election
(May 2, 2011)
Change from
the 40th
Conservative Party of Canada 143 143 166 +23
Liberal Party of Canada 77 77 34 -43
Bloc Québécois 49 47 4 -43
New Democratic Party 37 36 103 +67
No affiliation
2 2 -2
Green Party of Canada 1 +1
Total 308 305 308  

*At the dissolution of Parliament, three seats in the House of Commons were vacant. Two of these were previously held by the Bloc Québécois and one, by the New Democratic Party.

Contested elections

On June 2 and June 28, 2011, respectively, applications contesting the results of the election in the electoral districts of Elmwood–Transcona (Manitoba) and Etobicoke Centre (Ontario) were made. Elections may be contested in the superior court of a province or territory, or in the Federal Court, pursuant to Part 20 of the Canada Elections Act. An election may be contested either on the basis that the elected candidate was not eligible to be a candidate under section 65 of the Act, or on the basis that there were irregularities, fraud, or corrupt or illegal practices that affected the result of the election. In both Elmwood–Transcona and Etobicoke Centre, the application is based on the latter category of allegations. At the time of writing, both matters remain before the courts.

Electoral law enforcement

The Commissioner of Canada Elections is the independent officer who ensures compliance with and enforces the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act.

During the 41st general election, the Commissioner's Office received:

  • 1,003 communications or referrals that required individual responses
  • 2,956 e-mails regarding the application of the Special Voting Rules at the University of Guelph that did not require individual responses
  • more than 700 e-mails about an alleged violation of the blackout period as a result of a radio interview that was broadcast on election day (however, there was no violation of the Canada Elections Act)

The Commissioner's Office dealt with the majority of the 1,003 communications in a timely manner by verifying the complaint, providing the requested information, contacting the parties to correct the situation or educating the parties involved on the requirements of the Canada Elections Act. Most of these complaints concerned one of the following categories:

  • the legality of certain activities undertaken during the election
  • the absence of authorization statements in election advertising
  • election advertising that appeared to be paid for by the government or appeared to provide an advantage to incumbents
  • campaigning in certain locations, such as malls and apartment buildings
  • unsolicited telephone calls
  • automated telephone messages
  • signs placed without permission
  • crank calls

A noted trend was the greater use of communications tools by candidates during the election. The use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube videos, automated telephone messages, e-mail and Web sites is on the rise and raises the question of whether these messages amount to election advertising. The Commissioner's Office examined each case individually and took action as necessary.

Third party advertising also continues to shift from traditional media to Web-based communications. Owners of Web-based communications often do not consider themselves third party advertisers and do not post authorization statements. Investigation of Web-based third party advertising is challenging as it is difficult to contact site owners, sites are often hosted abroad, or advertisers claim they did not exceed $500 in election advertising expenses.

The Commissioner is looking into several complaints surrounding:

  • premature transmission of election results on polling day by major media
  • crank calls designed to discourage voting, discourage voting for a particular party, or incorrectly advise electors of changed polling locations
  • employers' obligation to allow employees time to vote

Cost of the election

While spending related to a general election spans several fiscal years, the bulk of the costs for the 41st general election will be incurred in 2011–2012. The total cost of a general election includes direct election delivery and evaluation expenditures, election readiness (including heightened readiness costs due to the uncertain timing of an election during a minority government), and the cost of maintaining the National Register of Electors (the Register) between two general elections.

The preliminary estimated costs for Elections Canada for the 2011 general election is $291 million, approximately $12.00 for each registered elector.

Approximately half of the estimated election costs ($144.4 million) went to workers – returning officers, staff in local offices and poll officials – and to goods and services providers in the 308 electoral districts across Canada, including printers, renters of polling sites, and local furniture and equipment suppliers.

Another large amount ($56.4 million) is projected to be paid to eligible political parties and candidates for the partial reimbursement of their election expenses.

The third category of costs is split into two sub-categories: the first encompasses the direct costs incurred at Elections Canada in Ottawa from the time writs are issued until the last complaint regarding the election is resolved, and the second encompasses the election readiness costs incurred between the 40th general election and the 41st general election, including the cost of maintaining the Register.

Direct costs are estimated at $43.7 million and include those for items such as the production and placement of election advertising (television, print, radio, Web) across the country; the production and printing of reminder brochures delivered to every household; the delivery of a large volume of election materials and supplies to the 308 electoral districts; the additional staff required in the various call centres operating during the election; and the technical help to support the required information technology infrastructure between Elections Canada in Ottawa and the returning offices.

The cost of maintaining constant readiness between the end of the 40th general election and the start of the 41st general election was $24.9 million. This cost covered temporary staff, training of returning officers and their key staff, replenishment of election materials and supplies, field readiness checks, information technology, and telecommunication services and equipment. In addition, the cost of heightened readiness – a "just in case" operational strategy during the minority government – was $4.7 million. Lastly, the cost of maintaining the Register was $16.8 million for the last two and a half years.

Costs of the 39th, 40th and 41st general elections
Activity 39th
(Jan. 2006)
($ millions)
(Oct. 2008)
($ millions)
(May 2011)
($ millions)
Conduct of elections in the electoral districts, including expenses related to election workers and officers, printing the lists of electors, and leasing local Elections Canada offices and polling sites 132.0 135.5 144.4
Preparations for and conduct of the election at Elections Canada in Ottawa and support to the returning officers, including election materials, training returning officers and other key employees, updating the National Register of Electors, advertising and awareness campaigns, the Support Network and information technology 94.6 94.5 90.2
Subtotal 226.6 230.0 234.6
Reimbursement of election expenses to candidates and political parties** 53.1
Total ($ millions) 279.7 286.2 291.0
Cost per elector (dollars) 12.13 12.08 12.00

*The costs for the 41st general election are preliminary, while those for the 39th and 40th general elections are actual and revised due to ongoing candidate file reviews in the Political Financing Sector.

**Reimbursement of election expenses to candidates and political parties for the 41st general election is a projected cost based primarily on past election results. Better estimates will be available once election returns are submitted to Elections Canada and reviewed. After a general election, each registered political party must submit an audited report on its election expenses within six months of election day (November 2, 2011). Candidates' official agents must submit audited returns of their election expenses and contributions within four months of election day (September 2, 2011). With regard to the 39th and 40th general elections, these are adjustments to reimbursements since the last report (i.e. payments of unpaid claims and amendments to return submissions).

Footnote 1 Hughes v. Elections Canada [2010] CHRT 4, at 33.

Footnote 2 As in any case challenging a provision of the Canada Elections Act, the respondent is not the Chief Electoral Officer but the Attorney General of Canada.