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Retrospective Report on the 42nd General Election of October 19, 2015

3. Integrity and Compliance

After the 41st general election of 2011, integrity concerns had been raised in relation to deceptive communications with electors and procedural errors by poll workers. These concerns prompted Elections Canada to launch an electoral integrity program that would strengthen its capacity in two areas: in detecting and responding to incidents that could interfere with the voting process, and in improving poll workers' compliance with procedures. The agency's new Electoral Integrity Office also coordinated communications with other bodies that are mandated to support electoral integrity, namely, the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

This section describes Elections Canada's efforts to monitor electoral integrity. It also provides a summary of the independent audit of poll worker performance, including Elections Canada's response to the findings.

3.1. Monitoring Integrity

Key Finding

  • Though several issues attracted Elections Canada's attention during the 42nd general election, no incidents were detected that interfered with the integrity of the electoral process.


Before and during the 42nd general election, Elections Canada informed electors and political entities of its preparations to detect illegal or deceptive campaign practices. Vigilance and reporting were major themes in messages to the public and to the Advisory Committee of Political Parties. In some cases, political parties and third parties echoed these messages by setting up incident reporting pages on their own websites.

This section discusses noteworthy issues that attracted the attention of the agency's Electoral Integrity Office during the 42nd general election.

Misinformation about when and where to vote

In light of the deceptive telephone calls that many electors received in the 41st general election, Elections Canada and Canadians in general paid special attention for signs of a similar occurrence in this election. It appears that the 42nd general election was free of large-scale, intentional deceptive communications. There were no complaints of electors being unable to vote because they received misinformation.

Some electors did complain that candidates or political parties distributed inaccurate information about when and where to vote. This mostly took the form of flyers delivered to electors' homes. Complaints were scattered across the country, and there was no indication of a targeted misinformation campaign. Elections Canada and returning officers worked with political entities to apply corrective measures. The agency also referred these cases to the Commissioner of Canada Elections for investigation.

Campaign sign vandalism

As in previous elections, there were a number of complaints about vandalism of campaign signs, some of which involved fires, slashing and obscenities. All of these complaints were referred to the Commissioner of Canada Elections for investigation.

Preventing double voting

The federal electoral system contains various safeguards to maintain the integrity of the vote, while ensuring that qualified voters have reasonable access to it. When they go to vote, all electors must prove their identity and address.

Controls are also in place to prevent double voting: returning officers use a national database to mark electors who cast their vote in advance, and this information appears on the lists used on election day. Occasionally, a poll worker may accidently cross the wrong name off a voters list, making it look like someone voted when they did not. Electors who are marked as having already voted need to go through additional controls to vote, such as taking an oath and signing a form declaring they have not previously voted. 

Elections Canada conducts extensive post-election analyses, such as reviewing the records of votes cast at advance polls, applications to vote by special ballot, voter address changes and duplicate names on the National Register of Electors. It examines potential double voting on a case-by-case basis. Any cases requiring further investigation are referred to the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

3.2. Poll Worker Compliance with Voting Day Procedures

Key Findings of the Independent Audit of Poll Worker Performance

  • The independent audit of poll worker performance concluded that training programs and their delivery were effective and that, overall, election officials properly performed their duties.
  • The audit recommends both administrative and legislative changes to improve poll worker performance.


Recent legislative changes require Elections Canada to arrange for an independent audit of poll workers' performance following each election. In planning for the audit, the agency consulted a number of stakeholders, including an auditor statistician, the Elections Canada Advisory Board, the Departmental Audit Committee, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, the Advisory Committee of Political Parties and an Audit External Panel established specifically for this initiative.

Following a competitive procurement process, in July 2015, the Chief Electoral Officer commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) to conduct the audit and report on whether certain categories of poll workers performed the duties and functions imposed on them under specific sections of the Canada Elections Act. PwC was also tasked with determining the degree to which the established administrative controls, including manuals and training material, supported the poll workers in performing their duties. The sample included polling stations in each province and territory, and resulted in PwC auditing over 10,000 electoral interactions from coast to coast.

Summary of findings from the audit of poll worker performance

In summary, the audit report concluded that election officialsFootnote 22 properly exercised their powers and properly performed their duties when processing the 90 percent of electors who showed up at the polls already registered and with documentary proof of identity and address. The audit reached the same conclusion regarding election officials' processing of the 10 percent of electors who required special procedures, such as those who registered on site or had to take an oath. However, for the latter group, it noted that some of the administrative procedures (e.g. record-keeping) were not performed consistently. The audit also concluded that training programs and their delivery were effective.

The report recommends some improvements going forward. A number of them are administrative in nature, while others require legislative changes. The report should be read in its entirety to understand PwC's conclusions and recommendations. It should not be relied on for any purpose other than the one for which it was intended.

The following table summarizes PwC's recommendations and Elections Canada's response. The full report can be found in Appendix 2.

PwC's recommendation Elections Canada's response
Modernize the electoral process including automation of components. Elections Canada agrees with this recommendation. Work has already begun to identify elements of the electoral process at the polls that could benefit from automation. Elections Canada will carefully assess risks, benefits and costs, and will conduct tests before automating elements of the process at all polling stations in a general election. The agency will engage stakeholders as these initiatives evolve.
Explore opportunities for streamlining procedures at advance polls and for special procedures. Elections Canada agrees with the findings and recommendation in this area. Work has already begun to review functions and procedures at the polls in order to simplify them. Elections Canada will be making recommendations to Parliament to modify the Canada Elections Act in line with this objective.
Consider enhancements to the existing training program to ensure that necessary focus/time is given to the administration of the special procedures and to ensure election officials understand why/how to complete the activities. Elections Canada will be reviewing and updating its training to reflect any changes that result from automation and simplified procedures and functions at polling places. At the same time, the agency will take into account the specific recommendations made by PwC regarding training.

3.3. Conclusion and Next Steps

Following the 41st general election, Elections Canada exercised due diligence and strengthened its capacity to monitor electoral integrity. There were no incidents detected that interfered with the integrity of the 42nd general election. The vast majority of electors (92 percent) had a high level of trust in the accuracy of the election results, compared with 87 percent in 2011. The level of trust increased most notably among Aboriginal electors, from 66 percent in 2011 to 83 percent in 2015. The agency will maintain its capacity to detect, respond to and refer to the appropriate authorities those issues that can adversely affect the integrity of an election.

The independent audit of poll worker performance provided third party confirmation that, overall, election officials properly performed their duties. Elections Canada welcomes the recommendations of the independent audit. These recommendations are consistent with the agency's observations and will be integrated into its modernization agenda.

Footnote 22 The term "election officials" used in the audit report encompasses deputy returning officers, poll clerks and registration officers.