Foreword – Report on the 43rd General Election of October 21, 2019
I am pleased to present Elections Canada's first of three reports on the 2019 general election. This report provides a description of how the 43rd general election was administered. While the agency continues to finalize work related to closing the 2019 general election, this report describes key aspects of the preparation and delivery of the election. In so doing, it also identifies issues requiring further analysis to be discussed in a second, retrospective report to Parliament in the fall of 2020.
This election saw some 18.3 million Canadians cast a ballot, or 67 percent of registered electors, with more than 2,100 candidates running. The 2019 general election took place in a new legislative and evolving electoral security environment. In addition to implementing a wide range of changes made to the Canada Elections Act, Elections Canada's objectives for the 43rd general election were to offer more accessible, convenient and inclusive services to electors and political entities, and to maintain the trust Canadians have in the electoral process.
Heading into the election, Elections Canada put in place a comprehensive security strategy to address anticipated attempts at electoral interference, whether through influence campaigns, cyberattacks or disinformation. I am pleased to say there were no cybersecurity threats of significance during this election on Elections Canada's infrastructure beyond those faced daily by any federal government organization. The agency monitored the information environment for inaccurate information about the electoral process, and on some occasions contacted social media platforms or websites to bring inaccurate information or inauthentic accounts to their attention. None of these instances were concerning in terms of their scope.
Elections Canada also enhanced its voter registration services and the quality of the data in the National Register of Electors in the lead-up to the general election. Outreach and promotional efforts focused on registering Canadians who recently turned 18 and Indigenous electors, as their registration rates are significantly lower than the general population. We achieved the most up-to-date voters list since the introduction of the Register in 1997.
Significant efforts were made to offer inclusive, streamlined and convenient voting services. As anticipated, Canadians continued to increasingly take advantage of early voting services with more than 4.7 million electors voting at advance polls, nearly a 30 percent increase from the 2015 general election. Early information indicates that, during this election, wait times were reduced especially at advance polls and that travel time to advance polls in remote electoral districts was reduced.
Many electors face barriers to voting due to their own unique circumstances. The agency offered and promoted a wide range of voting options to meet these needs, such as more voting services offered in acute care hospitals, long-term care facilities and on campuses. The agency also made significant efforts to reach out to Indigenous communities to work with them in planning appropriate voting and registration services to meet their needs ahead of the election.
While early indications are that Canadians were satisfied with the voting services offered by Elections Canada, the agency did experience staffing problems and some electoral districts did not have the required number of poll workers. At the same time, Canadians are increasingly expecting services to be tailored to their personal or local circumstances, or even to unforeseen circumstances such as disruptive weather events. These expectations, along with the staffing challenges, require further study.
Elections Canada also modernized services to candidates and political entities, offering a range of services through a new online portal. Online registration for candidates was one of the services offered. While it was less popular than we would have hoped, it is something to build on for the future.
There were two significant changes to the regulation of political entities: a pre-election period with spending limits for third parties and registered parties, and a more comprehensive third-party regime. While these changes resulted in a number of positive steps, such as increased transparency for third-party activities and improved reporting requirements for regulated political entities, a full assessment will take time.
There is still much work to be done to close out this election. The agency is in the process of collecting feedback and processing financial returns and other data. I intend to present a retrospective report in September 2020 that will provide a thorough analysis of the administration of the election informed by a variety of surveys with electors, candidates and regulated entities as well as stakeholder feedback sessions.
Later, in the fall of 2020, a final report will provide parliamentarians with recommended legislative changes. I look forward to working with the 43rd Parliament as we strive to constantly improve services to electors and political entities.
In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize and thank the more than 250,000 election workers, returning officers and field liaison officers who worked to ensure that their fellow Canadians could exercise their democratic right to vote or run for office in the 2019 general election.
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada