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Statements and Speeches

Remarks of the Chief Electoral Officer before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs Elections Canada's Main Estimates 2022–2023

May 5, 2022

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Introduction

Thank you, Madam Chair, for the opportunity to speak with the Committee today about Elections Canada's 20222023 Main Estimates.

I will also briefly update the Committee on the closing of the 44th general election and some of our priorities, as we move toward the next election.

Elections Canada's Main Estimates

Elections Canada is funded under two distinct authorities: an annual appropriation and an ongoing statutory authority. The Committee will vote today on the annual appropriation, which amounts to $49.3 million and represents the salaries of some 530 indeterminate positions. This amount is the same as that of last fiscal year's voted appropriation, with some variance for new collective agreements.

The ongoing statutory covers all other expenses of the agency.

This funding model ensures Elections Canada's independence by allowing it to access the funds required to plan and deliver elections, which may occur at any time. Planned spending under the statutory authority is reported annually to Parliament for transparency and accountability.

The statutory appropriation for the 20222023 fiscal year, as reported in the Main Estimates, totals $154.2 million. Approximately half of this amount ($78.7M) reflects operating expenses of the agency. These costs have remained stable over the last five years. The other half ($75.5M) represents expenses that are non-discretionary or that relate to the conduct of elections. This includes costs related to the last election and expenses for the preparation of the 45th general election, as well as expenses related to the work of the commissions charged with the redistribution of electoral boundaries.

Closing of the 44th General Election

As we close out the last election, Elections Canada is currently conducting regional meetings across the country to draw lessons from election workers in the field. Members of the senior management team and myself are travelling to hear directly from returning officers and field liaison officers about their experiences and challenges and discuss how we can improve election administration going forward.

Another important piece in finalizing the election is the audit of political entities' financial returns. Our goal is to complete the audit of all candidates' campaign returns by the end of January 2023, which is within 12 months of the original filing deadline.

A final piece in closing the election will be my recommendations to Parliament for legislative changes to the Canada Elections Act. A recommendations report is normally done after each election. However, following the 2019 election, our focus was on adjusting to the pandemic. Accordingly, this report encompasses lessons and reflections flowing from the last two elections.

The first part of the report will contain a series of recommendations on the topic of electoral communications, covering subjects such as election advertising, the role of social media and the privacy of elector information.

The second part will address other issues that arose during and after the 43rd and 44th general elections. Among other things, this part will include recommendations with the objective to decrease the number of special ballots that are received after polling day.

Finally, the report will also include recommendations from the Commissioner of Canada Elections for better compliance with, and enforcement, of the Act.

I plan to submit my report to the Speaker at the end of May; once tabled, the report will be referred to this Committee. I look forward to working with the Committee as it reviews these recommendations.

Moving Forward/Return to Readiness

Moving forward, our immediate priority is to ensure that the agency is well-positioned to deliver the next election. This is especially important, as the 44th general election resulted in a minority Parliament.

With this in mind, the agency is currently focusing on two short- term priorities for the next election. The first is the Vote on Campus initiative. Our goal is to be in a position to offer campus kiosks in all general elections moving forward, even outside of a fixed-date electoral calendar.

The second priority is to improve our service offerings in order to give electors in remote communities access to advance polls, even if this means having less than four advance poll days in some locations. In doing this, we hope to improve services for Indigenous voters in particular. This is in addition to the improvements we want to bring to the presence of Indigenous languages at the polls.

These two priorities do not require legislative changes, and work is already underway on both of them.

We are also undertaking work to adapt and transform our digital tools and services. Over the years, Elections Canada has developed a wide array of IT systems and databases that are not well-integrated, and many are becoming obsolete. We need to renew and simplify our IT infrastructure and develop solutions that allow us to be more agile and meet the expectations of Canadians.

Conclusion

Madam Chair, while I am here today to discuss the Main Estimates, I would also be happy to answer any questions from the Committee or clarify information the Committee heard regarding its study on the inclusion of Indigenous languages on federal election ballots.

Thank you. I welcome your questions.