Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 37th General Election Held on November 27, 2000
Elections Canada's Web site has become a popular and authoritative source of information, to judge by the number of visits it receives weekly, especially during electoral events, and the queries we receive by e-mail. During an average week in 2000, for example, the site received about 6 600 visitors; during the week of the by-election votes in Kings–Hants and Okanagan–Coquihalla, in September 2000, this number jumped by more than 30 percent.
First launched in 1995, the Web site was completely redesigned in 2000 to be more convenient to navigate. New features include the text of the laws governing federal elections, a sentencing digest reporting cases dating back to the 1992 referendum, the Compendium of Election Administration in Canada, sections on electoral reform and political party name changes, and two searchable election financing databases that incorporate information on candidates and on registered political parties. The election financing databases, an important factor in ensuring openness and transparency in the electoral process, have received much attention from the media and other observers, both in Canada and internationally. Special sections were added to the site for the by-elections, with information for electors before, during and after the events. Features included a profile of each riding, with a map and the names of the candidates.
Educating young Canadians
Making information about voting accessible to young people is an important first step in encouraging them to vote when they reach 18 years of age. We have continued to participate in Salon Pepsi Jeunesse, an annual youth fair held in Montréal. It attracts over 120 000 visitors, mostly between the ages of 12 and 19. At one recent fair, we ran two major election simulation projects involving Secondary IV and V students: the election of the Personnalité Jeunesse du Grand Montréal and the election of the Personnalité Jeunesse de l'Est du Canada, with participants from many regions. Attracting more than 2 000 voters a day over five days, this event is Elections Canada's most significant election simulation.
We also take part in the national Forum for Young Canadians held in Ottawa. This is a structured educational program held four times a year to enable selected senior high-school and CEGEP students from across Canada to learn about Canadian governmental processes. At Forum sessions, the students plan the election of a Canadian representative to a simulated world parliament, and the Chief Electoral Officer addresses the students, answers their questions and announces the election results.
To assist teachers, agency representatives attend several educators conferences across Canada. There they deliver workshops where election simulations are introduced as learning strategies to teach a given curriculum subject, such as history, in conjunction with teaching the electoral process.
Since its release in May 1998, Exploring Canada's Electoral System, an interactive CD-ROM, has proven popular with young Canadians. So far, we have sent out 16 000 copies in response to individual and school requests. We promote the CD-ROM through flyers, our Web site and various youth conferences; reply cards returned by users have confirmed its effectiveness for Canadians learning about voting in Canada.
In 1999, we launched a Web site module called Explore A History of the Vote in Canada. Developed for the virtual Social Progress room at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec, the first two phases of the module (Journeys and Timeline) survey the general history of the vote in Canada from the 18th century to the present. A new third phase, Chronicle, introduced in August 2000, examines the contemporary period in detail, beginning with the creation of the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer in 1920. It includes SElections, Elections Canada's new electronic trivia game, which helps young people learn about the history of the vote in Canada.
In December 1997, the Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc, then Governor General of Canada, launched an important new book published by the agency, A History of the Vote in Canada. The book chronicles the evolution of democracy over 240 years of Canadian history.
Since the 1997 general election, our travelling exhibit, Serving Democracy – Behind the Ballot Box has been displayed in Moose Jaw and Yorkton, Saskatchewan; Whitehorse, Yukon; Fort Smith and Yellowknife, Northwest Territories; Richmond and Vernon, British Columbia; Paipoonge and Guelph, Ontario; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; and Mount Pearl, Newfoundland.
Responding to demands for information is an important part of our work. We get enquiries from the public, new Canadians, political parties, members of Parliament, researchers, libraries, provincial and municipal organizations, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and international and educational institutions. From January 1998 to December 1999, Elections Canada's Enquiries Unit responded to 98 538 calls on our toll-free line (1 800 INFO-VOTE), and another 5 344 e-mail enquiries; in 2000 (excluding the 36-day general election period) we answered 46 362 calls and 1 235 e-mail messages.
Elections Canada maintains an active publications program, from reports required by Parliament and by the Canada Elections Act to books, booklets, magazines and electronic publications supporting research and deeper knowledge about Canada's electoral system. In the last three years we have published 28 items in paper or electronic versions, and often both. Most are also available on our Web site.
Like other parliamentary and governmental agencies and departments, Elections Canada publishes an annual Report on Plans and Priorities. This core document is an expenditure plan for the forthcoming fiscal year; it discusses the agency's objectives, initiatives and planned results, with details of human resources, costs of our activities, and resource requirements for a three-year period. It is tabled in Parliament by the President of the Treasury Board. Three have appeared since the last general election: for 1998–1999, 1999–2000 and 2000–2001.
The companion document, also tabled in Parliament annually, is our Performance Report, in which we account for what we have achieved compared to the performance expectations set out in our Report on Plans and Priorities. Four have been published since the last general election: for 1996–1997, 1997–1998, 1998–1999 and 1999–2000.
Reports under the Canada Elections Act
The Canada Elections Act requires the Chief Electoral Officer to publish reports on each general election (for 1997 in August 1997) and on each by-election (six reports during 1998–2000). In the interests of transparency and greater public knowledge, these reports discuss the administration of elections and the operations of Elections Canada. For the same reasons, we publish documents detailing the election expenses of and contributions to candidates and registered political parties. As a follow-up to the 1997 general election we published Candidates' Returns Respecting Election Expenses for the 36th General Election (September 1998), and Registered Political Parties' Fiscal Period Returns for 1997, 1998 and 1999. Since 1997, we have reported on Contributions and Expenses Reported by Candidates and Registered Parties – and since 1998 on Registered Political Parties' Fiscal Period Returns – in searchable on-line databases on our Web site.
Other Elections Canada publications
Our other publications include Canada's Electoral System (July 1998), which looks at Canada's parliamentary system of government, highlighting milestones in our electoral history and the behind-the-scenes administrative machinery that supports the voting process. The Compendium of Election Administration in Canada (1999 and 2000) is a comparative analysis of electoral legislation at the federal level and in each province and territory in Canada. The legal provisions in each jurisdiction are summarized under key themes: redistribution of electoral boundaries, administering elections, registering electors, voting, nominating candidates, registering political parties, election financing, enforcing electoral law, referendum and plebiscite provisions, and major recent court cases concerning electoral law. The 2000 edition also includes election- and referendum-related statistics.
We launched the twice-yearly periodical Electoral Insight in 1999 to stimulate discussion about electoral administration and to encourage the collaborative spirit that is growing among electoral agencies and our stakeholders and partners. The magazine publishes articles by academics, election officials and specialists on elections both in Canada and in other jurisdictions. The three issues published as of November 2000 have as their themes Review of Electoral Systems (June 1999), New Ways of Building Democracy (November 1999), and Technology in the Electoral Process (June 2000).
As part of our service to the international community, Elections Canada coordinated the French translation of the first-ever electronic encyclopedia of election administration, a major compilation of analytical and comparative texts and good-practice examples for organizing, supporting and studying free and fair elections. The Administration and Cost of Elections (ACE) Project, is an initiative of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, the International Foundation for Election Systems, and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The French, English and Spanish versions are posted on the Web at www.aceproject.org.
House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
Following the appearance by the Chief Electoral Officer before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on November 20, 1997, the Committee undertook a series of consultations in its review of the Canada Elections Act. It considered the Report of the Chief Electoral Officer on the 36th General Election in its examination of Canada's electoral system. The Committee tabled its report on June 18, 1998, recommending that electoral reform be undertaken.
On October 28 and November 22, 1999, the Chief Electoral Officer again appeared before the Committee during its consideration of Bill C-2, the new Canada Elections Act. The Bill had been referred to the Committee on October 14, 1999, after it received first reading in the House of Commons. Elections Canada staff acted as technical experts to support the Committee's deliberations on the Bill.
At the Committee's meeting on March 21, 2000, the Chief Electoral Officer informed members about new electoral maps planned for the next election. He also made presentations to the Committee on April 28, 1998, April 20, 1999, and May 18, 2000, to explain Elections Canada's plans and performance reports.
Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
On April 12, 2000, the Chief Electoral Officer appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, during the Committee's consideration of Bill C-2. He also appeared before the Committee on February 3, 1999, and June 14, 2000, while the Senate considered five bills to change the names of 16 ridings.
Advisory Committee of Political Parties
With the support of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, the Chief Electoral Officer established and chairs a new advisory committee that brings together representatives of political parties and Elections Canada officials. The Advisory Committee of Political Parties was struck to act as a forum for sharing information, fostering good working relations, consulting on legislative changes, and resolving administrative issues that may have an impact on parties and candidates. In June 2000, membership in the Committee was extended to parties that are eligible for registration. Since its initial meeting on May 15, 1998, the Committee met 11 times before the 37th general election was called.
Special briefings on the new Canada Elections Act
In June 2000, Elections Canada held a briefing session on the new Canada Elections Act for registered political parties and parties that were eligible for registration. The presentations gave the parties an overview of the changes to operational and campaigning provisions, and to rules dealing with the registration of political parties, election financing for parties and candidates, enforcement, communications, and third parties. In addition, we provided information about the quality of the Register's data and the importance of revision. Later briefings, six weeks before the election call, also covered the quality of the Register's data, and included discussion of the process for revising the lists during an election.
The Chief Electoral Officer offered to provide further sessions for the caucuses of parties represented in Parliament; the Bloc Québécois, Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance, Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and New Democratic Party accepted his offer in September and October 2000. He also held two briefing sessions for senators and independent MPs, and for parliamentary staff.
Since the last general election we have strengthened our partnerships with university professors and academic research centres. We provided financial support, for example, to the Centre for Election Studies at the University of Waterloo to develop an electronic database of federal election results since Confederation. We participated in the 2000 Canadian Election Study, and sponsored a study at Concordia University on the national and local factors that influence citizen participation in the electoral process. We invited three academics to the sixth meeting of the Advisory Committee of Political Parties on April 23, 1999, to give an overview of different electoral systems and how they might apply in the Canadian context. And academics are regular contributors to our journal Electoral Insight.
Elections Canada was a sponsor of the XVIII World Congress of the International Political Science Association, held in Québec in August 2000, where the Chief Electoral Officer made a presentation on election financing. We were also sponsors of an academic Symposium on Electoral Reform in Canada at Carleton University, Ottawa, on October 27–28, 2000. The Symposium, at which the keynote speaker was the Chief Electoral Officer, concentrated on the financial aspects of electoral reform, technological influences, and the roles of groups, parties and movements.
Elections Canada takes an active part in international electoral activities by receiving delegations and by offering observers and technical support staff to international agencies to help plan and conduct fair elections in countries that request advice and assistance.
Since the 1997 general election, we have been pleased to receive individual and group delegations from 34 countries and territories: Australia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Gabon, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, Lesotho, Mauritania, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Senegal, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine and Yugoslavia.
During the same period, Elections Canada participated in electoral missions to 14 countries and territories: Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, East Timor, Gambia, Guatemala, Guyana, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Mexico, Uzbekistan, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Yemen.
As part of Elections Canada's efforts to support democratic development around the world, we hosted the fourth conference of the Inter-American Union of Electoral Organizations on July 27–28, 1998. The theme of the conference was Intercontinental Consultation: The Search for Constructive and Innovative Options and it focused on such topics as the financing of political parties and candidates and electoral conflict prevention and resolution. The delegates were senior officials of electoral agencies from North, Central and South America.
In 1999, we were hosts of the first meeting of the Global Electoral Organization (GEO) Network, on April 11–14 in Ottawa. The network is sponsored by the International Foundation for Election Systems, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, and the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division. The conference had three aims: to bring together election management associations to exchange information on programs they conduct to benefit their members and the electoral processes of their regions; to identify bilateral programs that could be established; and to discuss common needs. Participants included representatives from 12 associations of election management bodies, and from more than 15 bilateral development agencies, foreign ministries and international financial institutions.