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Report on the 2017 By-elections


Under the Canada Elections Act (CEA), if one or more by-elections are held in a year, the Chief Electoral Officer must, within 90 days after the end of the year, produce a report that sets out "any matter or event that has arisen or occurred in connection with the administration of the Chief Electoral Officer's office since the last report and that he or she considers should be brought to the attention of the House of Commons."

In 2017, by-elections were held in 11 electoral districts across Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. This report discusses the conduct of these by-elections as well as administrative changes and improvements implemented since the agency last reported to Parliament in March 2017.

Several items emerged from the 2017 by-elections that warrant emphasis.

End of deposit requirement for prospective candidates

On October 25, 2017, the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta rendered its decision in Szuchewycz v. Canada (Attorney General), stating that the $1,000 deposit requirement for prospective candidates in federal elections infringes on section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which provides that: "Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein."

Soon after the court decision, the deposit requirement was no longer applied anywhere in the country. This is in keeping with Elections Canada's well-established practice of applying provincial court decisions nationally to achieve consistent application of the CEA across the country. As a result, candidates in the December by-elections did not have to pay the $1,000 deposit as part of their nomination requirements.

Service improvements for electors

A few service improvement initiatives were piloted during the by-elections, including:

  • a new revision and special ballot voting service model in local offices (December by-elections in Battlefords–Lloydminster and Scarborough–Agincourt) that reduced the time it took for electors to register and vote in an Elections Canada office prior to election day.
  • the launch of the agency's use of the social media platform Instagram (October and December by-elections) and Facebook Events (all December by-elections) that expanded the reach of our communications to inform voters of where, when and the ways to register and vote.

In addition to administering these by-elections, Elections Canada has made significant progress in advancing its strategic priorities for the 2019 general election. These include modernizing various aspects of the electoral process to improve the voting experience—such as reducing wait times at advance polls in both by-elections and general elections—and renewing system assets that are critical to delivering successful electoral events. Details on the progress in all these areas will be included in our next Departmental Results Report.