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Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Following the Port Moody–Coquitlam By-Election

The Port Moody–Coquitlam by-election

On October 1, 1997, Sharon Hayes, Reform Member of Parliament for Port Moody–Coquitlam, resigned her seat in the House of Commons. On February 22, 1998, the Governor in Council announced that the by-election to replace Ms. Hayes would be held on March 30, 1998.

As a result, the Chief Electoral Officer issued a writ to the returning officer for Port Moody–Coquitlam, directing her to hold a by-election. Table 1 provides an overview of the important milestones between the calling of the by-election and the return to the writ.

Table 1: Key dates for the by-election in Port Moody–Coquitlam

Dates   Election Calendar Day Event
 October 1, 1997    Member of Parliment for Port Moody–
 Coquitlam, Sharon Hayes, resigns
 February 22, 1998  Day 36  Issue of the writ; preparations made to open the
 office of the returning officer
 February 22 to March 1  Days 36 to 29  Advertising blackout period for political parties
 February 25  Day 33  Preliminary list of electors produced from the
 National Register of Electors
 February 25  Day 33  Revision of list of electors begins
 February 26  Day 32  Proclamation published – candidates may file
 March 2  Day 28  Targeted revision begins
 March 4 to 6  Days 26-24  Mailing of notices of Confirmation of
 Registration to all registered electors
 March 9  Day 21 (2 p.m.)  Close of nomination of candidates
 March 19  Day 11  Revised list of electors distributed
 March 20, 21 and 23  Days 10, 9 and 7  Advance polls
 March 24  Day 6 (6 p.m.)  Revision and special ballot registration ends
 March 27  Day 3  Official list of electors distributed
 March 28 to 30  Days 2 to 0  Ban on opinion polls
 March 29 to 30  Days 1 and 0  Advertising blackout period for political parties
 March 30  Day 0  Election day
 April 1    Official addition of the votes
 April 8    Return to the writ

Communicating with electors

As in all electoral events, Elections Canada worked to create awareness among the general public in the electoral district, as well as among political parties, candidates, and the media, of the by-election and of the key dates in the election period.

Within days of the issue of the writ, each residence in the electoral district received a householder, or pamphlet, with the name and phone number for the office of the returning officer, information on the National Register of Electors, and details regarding how to have names added to, or corrected on, the list of electors. It also gave information on deadlines for the return of special ballot applications, key dates for advance polls, registering and voting on election day, and the residency requirements for voting in a by-election.

A few days later, registered electors received the notice of Confirmation of Registration. This card provided details of where and when electors could vote, including the many alternatives that Elections Canada provides for electors unable to get to their local polling station on election day. Both the householder and the notice of Confirmation of Registration stressed the importance of keeping the notice until election day.

All material required to inform the electorate was produced in both official languages. According to the 1996 census, some 10 825 people in Port Moody–Coquitlam (8.5 percent of the electoral district's population) speak Chinese as their home language, making them the most significant minority language group to exist in the electoral district. Basic information was therefore also made available in Chinese through community associations to better enable members of the community to exercise their democratic right to cast a ballot.

A week before the by-election, Elections Canada ran advertisements in community newspapers, including Chinese-language newspapers, providing electors with election day information. The advertisement was developed based on the "Step Right Up/C'est sur mon chemin" campaign used in the last general election.

Elections Canada also worked closely with local media to help provide residents with necessary information. The agency provided media with an information kit containing news releases, the householder, an electoral district profile, and a calendar of key dates. In addition, the kit contained background information on a variety of topics, ranging from the electoral process and the role of Elections Canada, to Special Voting Rules (i.e., voting by special ballot), the National Register of Electors, and election expenses and contributions. Over the course of the 36-day campaign, Elections Canada issued 11 news releases highlighting key deadlines, election day reminders, and clarification of what the media could and could not report on the weekend preceding election day.

All of these materials, as well as information for residents of the Port Moody–Coquitlam electoral district, were available on the special by-election segment of Elections Canada's Web site. The list of official candidates, a profile of the electoral district, and the address and telephone number of the office of the returning officer were also available on the Web site, along with information on voting by those temporarily absent from the electoral district. On election night, election results were posted on the Web site as they became available. As well, Elections Canada's Enquiries Unit operated on extended hours throughout the campaign to ensure that electors could ask questions and receive information.

The list of electors

For the first time, data from the National Register of Electors were used to prepare the preliminary list of electors for a by-election. Prior to generation of the preliminary list, the portion of the Register applicable to the Port Moody–Coquitlam electoral district was updated to remove duplicate registrations and the records of deceased electors, to add new electors, and to modify existing elector information.

Residents of Port Moody–Coquitlam who were eligible to vote but whose names were not on the preliminary list of electors, and those whose name and/or address were incorrect, were advised to contact the office of the returning officer to correct the error or to obtain a registration application form.

Those wishing to be added to the list of electors for the by-election were asked to provide their name, address, sex, signature, previous address, and date of birth. If this information could not be corroborated with information already in the National Register of Electors, electors were also asked to provide satisfactory proof of identity, with their name, address, and signature, before they could be added to the list of electors.

In addition, Elections Canada undertook a targeted revision to add the names of electors from new housing developments and in residential institutions to the preliminary list of electors. Six institutions, including nursing homes, were visited by revising agents, and 1 652 kits were distributed in new developments.

Please see Figure 1 for the percentage of electors registered by each method of registration.

The period for revision of the preliminary list of electors lasted from February 25, three days after the issuance of the writ, until March 24, six days before election day. Changes to the list of electors during this 28-day period and the number of electors on the final list of electors, including those who registered at their polling stations on election day, are recorded in Table 2.

Figure 1
Statistics on methods of registration, March 1998 by-election in Port Moody–Coquitlam1
Electors added to the list up to and including election day

Election day registration 34.7%;  Special Voting Rules group 1 -  0.1%;  Names added through standard and targeted revision procedures 63.8%;  Advance polling day registration 1.4%;  N = 2358

1 These charts pertain to the statistics on added electors only. Please see Table 2 for statistics on the net revision results.

Electors added to the list during revision before election day

Targeted revision in institutions 14%;  Revision (excluding targeted revision and advance polls) 67%;  Targeted revision in new developments 17%;  Advance polling day registration 2%;  N = 1540

The candidates and by-election results

March 9 at 2 p.m., Pacific time, was the deadline for filing candidates' nominations; 5 p.m. was the deadline for withdrawal or for making corrections to information on the candidates' nomination papers. A total of eight candidates were registered for the by-election, six representing various political parties. There was one independent candidate, and one with no party affiliation. Once nominations were closed, the list of candidates was posted on Elections Canada's Web site as well as transmitted to Canadian diplomatic missions and consular posts and to Canadian Forces bases by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Department of National Defence respectively. The official list was also announced in a press release issued on March 10, 1998.

A total of 28 756 electors cast their vote in the Port Moody–Coquitlam by-election. The majority cast their votes on election day, March 30, 1998, at one of the 222 polling stations located throughout the electoral district (see Table 3). Polling stations were open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pacific time.

For those unable to vote on election day, advance polls were held on March 20, 21 and 23, 1998.

Electors who were travelling or temporarily residing outside Canada were able to vote by special mail-in ballot under the Special Voting Rules. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade ensured that Canadians abroad were notified of their opportunity to cast a vote in the by-election through diplomatic missions and consular posts, while the Department of National Defence alerted Canadian Forces bases located both in and outside Canada of the same opportunity.

As well, persons in institutions, including hospitals and correctional facilities, were permitted to vote in the by-election under the Special Voting Rules. Registration and voting in acute care hospitals was held on March 23 and 24. To facilitate the special voting in correctional facilities, information kits were supplied to the John Howard and Elizabeth Fry societies.

Voter turnout was 36 percent, compared to 67 percent for the electoral district in the June 1997 general election. Statistics regarding the number of ballots cast by each of the different means can be found in Table 4.

On election night, the returning officer's Election Results System was linked to Elections Canada's central computer; as votes were counted, they were transmitted to the Ottawa server for posting on the Elections Canada by-election Web site. Liberal candidate Lou Sekora received the most votes, and was declared to be the elected Member of Parliament for Port Moody–Coquitlam (see Table 5).

Of the eight candidates, those receiving more than 15 percent of valid votes cast (three in total) will be eligible for a partial reimbursement of their election expenses as well as half of their nomination deposit. All candidates are eligible to receive the second half of the nomination deposit if they submit their returns on time.

Table 2
Statistics on the list of electors, March 1998 by-election in Port Moody–Coquitlam

Registration activities Day 36 to Day 6
  Electors on the
  preliminary list1
Revision statistics      Net revision
  Electors on the
  official list
Growth with
respect to the
preliminary list
Additions Corrections Deletions
 79 723 1 540  317  1 261  279   80 002 0.35% 

Registration activities Day 0
Additions Corrections Deletions   Post-election
day net
  Electors on the
  final list
Growth with
respect to the
preliminary list
818 282 234 584    
Cumulative statistics (revision)
2 358 599 1 495 863 80 586 1.08%

1 The preliminary list was prepared at the beginning of the electoral period with data extracted from the National Register of Electors. It includes the 124 electors registered under the Special Voting Rules (SVR), group 1 (Canadians residing outside Canada, members of the Canadian Forces and incarcerated electors).

2 The net revision result is arrived at by subtracting the total number of deleted electors from the total number of added electors. This figure includes the names (3) added to SVR group 1 lists of electors (Canadians residing outside Canada and incarcerated electors).

3 Includes election day registrants, minus the number of electors deleted after election day.

Table 3
Statistics on polling sites, March 1998 by-election in Port Moody–Coquitlam

Location of polling sites
Building types Number of sites Percentage
 Community Centre  3   6%
 Educational 28  58% 
 Retirement Home  5 10% 
 Church Hall  5 10% 
 Hospital  4   8%
 Recreation Centre  1   2%
 Commercial Site   1    2%
 Municipal or Township Hall  1    2%
 Total 48   100%

Types of polling stations
Ordinary Mobile Advance Total
219  3 12 234

Polling station accessibility
 Total number
of polling
 Percentage of
accessible polling
234  233   99.6%

Table 4

Preliminary statistics on the number of ballots cast and voter turnout, March 1998 by-election in Port Moody–Coquitlam
Number of
electors on
final list
Voting Rules
Total votes
Total valid
80 586 27 201 1 405 150 28 756 84 28 672 35.7%

1 Voter turnout is the ratio (expressed as a percentage) of the total number of electors who voted to the number of electors on the final list established after election day.

Table 5

Preliminary statistics on valid votes cast, March 1998 by-election in Port Moody–Coquitlam
Candidate Political affiliation Valid votes
  Arlow, Will Canadian Action Party 156 0.5%
  Cunningham, Jim1 Reform Party of Canada 10 195 35.6%
  Gluska, Joe Progressive Conservative Party of Canada 1 381 4.8%
  Keryluk, John1 New Democratic Party 4 869 17.0%
  Nantel, François Independent 85 0.3%
  Norman, Dave The Green Party of Canada 667 2.3%
  Sekora, Lou1 Liberal Party of Canada 11 284 39.4%
  Verrier, True Grit No Affiliation 35 0.1%
Total   28 672 100.0%

1 These candidates are entitled to a refund since they obtained at least 15 percent of the valid votes.