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GE Delivery in Pandemic Circumstances Working Group – Terms of Reference

Revised April 30, 2020

1. Context

The GE Delivery in Pandemic Circumstances Working Group (GEDPC–WG) is responsible for examining how Elections Canada (EC) can administer by-elections and/or a general election in the context of a pandemic or the ensuing period. The working group will evaluate electoral processes from a public health perspective and identify effective measures to create a sufficiently safe environment for an election to move forward.

The GEDPC–WG will consider certain assumptions about the circumstances (see below) in which a by-election or general election is conducted.

  • Most Canadians have been allowed back to normal daily activities. However, the most vulnerable may still be advised to stay home and most want to vote by mail. Some returning or assistant returning officers may still want to stay home or avoid places where there are social gatherings.
  • Health authorities promote physical distancing in all social interactions. Service and retail businesses are expected to continue the best practices of physical distancing and enhanced hygiene in the workplace.
  • Health authorities advise Canadians against social gatherings at vulnerable locations such as hospitals, senior homes and long-term care facilities. We must assume that, out of precaution, most schools will not rent their gymnasium to EC, and much fewer office and poll workers will make themselves available for the 44th GE.
  • While industry and services are back in operation and supply chains have been restored, some of our suppliers may not yet be back in business and, if they are, may not be fully operational.
  • The Canadian public expects that EC already has a vote-by-mail scheme along the lines of what will have happened in some US jurisdictions and little knowledge of the current logistics of running vote-by-mail operations for federal elections.
  • Adaptations to the CEA or recommendations to Parliament can be considered in the fall of 2020.
  • Most EC staff is back to work following a full assessment of health and security risks at all our facilities. Those still teleworking have access to all the systems and data they need.

These circumstances could negatively impact EC's ability to mobilize the human and material resources needed to serve electors at designated service points and could impede many electors' access to the ballot.

The GEDPC–WG will enable EC to carry out its core mandate of overseeing the identification and preparation of exceptional activities to deliver by-elections and/or a general election in the context described above.

2. Mandate and accountability

The GEDPC–WG's mandate is to identify and monitor the new operational risks of executing an election while the country is experiencing or still coming out of a pandemic situation. It also involves setting out the mitigation strategies for key programs and services that will have to come up between spring 2020 and September 2020. The mandate also requires that the Executive Committee (EXCOM) be kept informed of the status of EC's operational capacity to execute an election via the Senior Director, Operations and Field Governance (DG-OFG). The GEDPC–WG holds regular meetings with business managers and select field liaison officers (FLOs) to identify and oversee the planning of any required contingency measures within the readiness timelines until April 1, 2021, as defined by the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO). The Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral Events and Innovation (DCEO–EE&I), provides direction to the GEDPC–WG and transmits strategic and policy decisions to the CEO through a steering committee.

The GEDPC–WG is not responsible for the outcome of other agency projects; rather, project and program owners are. If activities monitored by the committee are impacted by projects, they will be documented and escalated to senior management through regular channels.

2.1 Governance

The GEDPC–WG's gets its strategic direction from the DCEO–EE&I who sponsors this initiative through a project steering committee. The CEO gives agency-wide directions for electoral preparation under COVID-19 circumstances through this committee.

EXCOM members remain responsible and accountable for their programs and services' achievement of the desired outcome during an election. Business decisions that affect program outcomes are made by business owners or their sector head―depending on the scope and ramifications of the decision―and in consultation with fellow EXCOM members.

2.2 Scope

The GEDPC–WG will propose mitigation solutions in the following four service areas directly impacted by the pandemic:

  • Field election administrators and recruitment and training of poll workers
  • Online service performance under load and stress
  • Vote-by-mail, human resources, mechanical and IT infrastructure under stress for applications, voting kits issuance, vote counting
  • Poll operations and materials

The following enabling functions will be impacted either directly by the post COVID-19 situation or collaterally by the changes to operational programs and services:

  • Workplace health and safety
  • Policies and regulations
  • Electoral integrity
  • Voter Information Campaign
  • Electoral readiness budget review
  • Procurement of materials and equipment
  • Information technology
  • Business intelligence and data analysis
  • External environment monitoring–International and inter-jurisdictional
  • Program evaluation and corporate outcome management

Each of the service areas will be assigned to a senior lead who will report to the Chair and provide timely status updates. This information will contribute to the GEDPC–WG deliverables, which include:

  • Proposing a policy, business processes, system changes and a communications approach to enhance the sanitary conditions in which voting operations are carried out
  • Proposing a policy, business processes, system changes and a communications approach to enhance the capacity of alternative voting channels such as voting by mail
  • Planning for increases in online services and ensuring that load/stress testing are completed to ensure that online service performance is maintained (e.g. VIS, E-REG, etc.)
  • Defining the training required by EC headquarters and field staff to minimize the spread of the virus and adhere to established sanitary measures
  • Adapting the operational risk matrix to any changes in the political and sanitary environment
  • Capturing and tracking risks that are social, resource-based, performance-based, operational and financial in a register (GE Delivery in Pandemic Circumstances–Risk Register) and escalating them, if required
  • Defining and developing trigger points to initiate response, management, recovery and restoration steps
  • Identifying required enhancements to the Business Continuity Plans to address pandemic operational issues
  • Monitoring and facilitating adherence to EC's acceptable level of service

3. Chair

3.1 Chair

The Director, Electoral Operations Planning and Administration, will oversee the GEDPC–WG mandate, will chair business stakeholder meetings and will report regularly to the DG–OFG on the activities of the GEDPC–WG. The Chair will relay information to the DG–OFG and may require direction/input from the DCEO EE&I on specific issues.

3.2 Co-chair

The Director, Alternative Voting Methods and Operational Outreach, will co-chair the GEDPC–WG meetings. They will help oversee the stakeholder meetings and will substitute for the Chair during short-term absences. The Co-Chair will provide additional expertise gained from previous experience in similar operational circumstances, i.e. SARS (2002–2004) and H1N1 (2009–2010).

4. Membership

Each of the GEDPC–WG members is a knowledgeable subject matter expert and/or decision-maker of a functional area of election delivery. Below is the list of member positions by key functional area. Members can send delegates on their behalf who have the experience, knowledge and authority required to answer GEDPC–WG member questions.

The members are:

  • Acting Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications
  • Assistant Director, Corporate Planning and Performance Management
  • Assistant Director, Facilities and Workplace Innovation
  • Assistant Director, Human Resources (Health and Safety)
  • Assistant Director, Procurement and Contracting Services
  • Associate Director, Field Personnel Training
  • Associate Director, Operational Oversight and Financial Administration
  • Associate Director, Voting and Results Services
  • Director, Data Analysis and Quality
  • Director, Electoral Geography
  • Director, Field Governance and Personnel Readiness
  • Director, Integrity, Regulatory Policy and Parliamentary Affairs
  • Director, IT Stewardship Division
  • Director, Marketing and Corporate Communications
  • Director, National Register of Electors
  • Director, Operational Support Services
  • Field Liaison Officers (2–3)
  • Legal Counsel (2)
  • Senior Advisor, International Affairs
  • Senior Business Operations Officer

Note: Other participants may be required to attend, upon the Chair's request.

4.1 Secretariat

The Senior Business Operations Officer in the OFG directorate will assume the Secretariat functions for the GEDPC–WG and, as such, will attend the meetings.

The Secretariat functions include:

  • Drafting and distributing the agenda after consultation with the Chair
  • Gathering and circulating the material for the meetings
  • Maintaining, monitoring and validating the GEDPC–WG readiness plan, risk register and forward agenda
  • Recommending changes to the Terms of Reference as required
  • Making logistical arrangements for meetings

4.2 Procurement

The Office of the Deputy Chief Financial Officer will represent the Procurement functions for the GEDPC–WG and, as such, will attend the meetings.

The Procurement functions include:

  • Supporting the Chair
  • Advising and guiding the GEDPC–WG in procurement matters

4.3 Legal

The Senior Counsel will represent the Legal Services functions for the GEDPC–WG and, as such, will attend the meetings.

The legal functions include:

  • Supporting the Chair
  • Advising and guiding the GEDPC–WG regarding the early detection of mitigation solutions that may require an adaptation to the CEA

4.4 Public Opinion Research and Consultations Services

The Policy and Public Affairs branch will represent the Public Opinion Research and Consultations Services functions for the GEDPC–WG and, as such, will attend the meetings.

The Public Opinion Research and Consultations Services functions include:

  • Retrieving data from an evaluation perspective

5. Meetings

5.1 Decision-making and authority–administrative issues

As appropriate, the Chair will engage business stakeholders to mitigate or resolve any emerging tactical or administrative issues related to the operation of the GEDPC–WG. The DG-OFG will have the decision-making authority. All decisions, whatever the process, must be recorded by the Secretariat and shared with members without delay.

A record of decisions and supporting documentation will be made available to GEDPC–WG members for information.

5.2 Reporting

The Chair will inform the DG-OFG and DCEO-EE&I of the activities of the GEDPC–WG, provide regular reports and, as required, seek direction/input on specific issues.

5.3 Schedule

The GEDPC–WG meeting frequency will be determined by milestones and the timing and complexity of the various activities. Initially, meetings will be held bi-weekly. However, the frequency may increase as we get closer to readiness dates for the general election.

5.4 Agendas

The Secretariat will support the Chair on agenda-setting and the work program (forward agenda) for the GEDPC–WG.

5.5 Record-keeping

Records of Decisions and Action Items shall be kept by the Secretariat.

5.6 Bilingualism

Members will be able to participate in meetings in the official language of their choice. Decisions will be recorded in both official languages.

6. Review of Terms of Reference

The GEDPC–WG will review and update the Terms of Reference following its initial meeting. Changes will be made with the approval of the DG-OFG and the DCEO-EE&I.