Introduction – Special Report of the Chief Electoral Officer: Administering an Election during the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique circumstances for the administration of elections in Canada. While the course of the pandemic is uncertain at this time, there is a very real possibility that a general election will take place while the COVID-19 pandemic remains a concern.
In consultation with health authorities, Elections Canada has been evaluating mechanisms to deliver an accessible, safe and secure election. The Act provides a variety of tools to allow for modifying certain procedures in order to respond to the pandemic context. That said, many of the key elements of the electoral process may not be adapted by the Chief Electoral Officer, and some of the mechanisms designed to decrease risk for Canadians are best achieved through legislative measures varying provisions of the Act.
For this reason, a temporary legislative response to current circumstances is recommended to allow for desirable adjustments but leave the Act and the electoral system unchanged once the pandemic period is behind us.
In order to make the necessary preparations for the conduct of a general election, work must begin long before the election starts—indeed, it has already begun. However, some of the key measures needed to strengthen our electoral process during the pandemic are limited by the current legislative framework. With this in mind, it is important for Parliament and the Government to swiftly consider the contents of this special report and act to assist Elections Canada in preparing for a general election under pandemic conditions.
While this report is submitted to Parliament under the authority of section 535 of the Act, it is a special report provided by the Chief Electoral Officer in response to the pandemic. In due course, a second series of recommendations following the 43rd general election will also be tabled in Parliament.