open Secondary menu

Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada
on the 38th General Election Held on June 28, 2004

Fulfilling our mandate

In Elections Canada's Report on Plans and Priorities for successive fiscal years from
2001–2002 to 2003–2004, the Chief Electoral Officer committed to providing three strategic outcomes for Canadians:

  • to achieve and maintain a state of readiness to deliver electoral events, and to improve the delivery of electoral events by using modern technology and creativity
  • to deliver federal elections, by-elections and referendums that maintain the integrity of the electoral process, and to administer the political financing provisions of the Canada Elections Act
  • to provide timely and high-quality public education and information programs, and assurance that support on electoral matters is available to the public, parliamentarians, candidates, political parties and their associations, federal electoral boundaries commissions, our partners and other stakeholders

The following pages show how Elections Canada has achieved these goals.

Event readiness

To maintain readiness for an electoral event, the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer must continually monitor parliamentary and political events and trends, so that it can react to situations that affect its election preparations. At the same time, the Office conducts by-elections and makes continual efforts to improve the electoral process and to enforce the Act.

Managing risk

In 2003, Elections Canada undertook a review of its event governance. As one of the outcomes, it created a new position to give the Chief Electoral Officer greater presence in the field. A total of 24 field liaison officers were engaged. Their job was to work directly with returning officers in the field as functional leaders, service quality enhancers and troubleshooters. Within weeks of their arrival, the field liaison officers (all of them experienced former federal or provincial returning officers) proved their worth. Elections Canada gained unprecedented insight into the conduct of field activities, as well as a greater capacity to intervene in the field when required.

Supporting returning officers

Elections Canada developed and integrated several new and enhanced applications to help returning office staff conduct an election. By-elections in 2003 provided an opportunity to pilot these applications in the field.More than ever, preparing for and delivering electoral events depends on our ability to use information technology and adapt it to Elections Canada's needs. Some improvements are visible to the public, while others enhance data quality and support our staff in Ottawa and in the field.

Elections Canada developed and integrated several new and enhanced applications to help returning office staff conduct an election. By-elections in 2003 provided an opportunity to pilot these applications in the field.

Elections Canada updated much of its communications infrastructure in October 2001, when we began to provide home computers to each returning officer, along with training and several important pieces of software, including e-mail access to the Elections Canada network. These home computers have become the primary tool used by returning officers to communicate with Elections Canada and complete various assignments. An improvement to our Supplies Management System, for example, allows returning officers to use the Web browser to order election material.

Returning offices use a local area network (LAN) that connects all the computers in the office and enables them to share software and data. For the 38th general election, equipment for the LANs was distributed through Canada Post Corporation staging centres, which gave returning offices access to the equipment soon after the issue of the writs. Hard drives containing the software and data were kept separate for last-minute updating.

Information technology

In addition to calling on our own information technology resources, Elections Canada worked closely with a variety of technology partners to prepare for and conduct the 2004 general election, including IBM. We took advantage of the expertise available in the private sector, as we had done for the 37th general election. For example, Elections Canada's Internet services have been outsourced to a private Internet service provider (Qunara, now Allstream). Through this partnership, we are establishing best practices and improving the delivery of services and information over the Web to employees, returning office staff, the public and other stakeholders. Upgrading and standardizing desktop software at all locations greatly improved our ability to communicate electronically internally and with our clients.

Updating REVISE

Since the 37th general election, Elections Canada has re-engineered REVISE. The result has been significant improvements. Taking into account comments from returning officers and automation coordinators, we identified critical areas for software improvement, and set up a team to manage the project.

The most notable improvements to REVISE are the added ability to assist in transfers of electors from one electoral district to another during the election, and the ability to accept recent updates electronically from the Register. This gives every returning officer a more accurate list of electors, and reduces significantly the number of duplicate records. The system can instantly inform electors of their correct polling stations.

Event delivery after the 37th general election


Since the 37th general election, Elections Canada has administered 12 by-elections: 6 in Quebec, 2 each in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Ontario, and 1 each in Alberta and Manitoba. These electoral events were described by the Chief Electoral Officer in reports submitted to Parliament in March 2003 and March 2004.

Commissioner of Canada Elections

The Commissioner of Canada Elections, selected and appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer, is an independent officer whose duty is to make sure that the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act are complied with and enforced. The current Commissioner, Raymond A. Landry, C.M., was appointed in April 1992. He receives complaints, he decides when an investigation is warranted, and he prosecutes offenders through Canada's court system.

During an election period, if the Commissioner believes that a serious breach of the Act may compromise the fairness of the electoral process, he may apply for a court injunction. During or between electoral events, the Commissioner may also enter into a compliance agreement with someone he believes has committed or is about to commit an offence. A compliance agreement is a voluntary agreement between the Commissioner and the person, in which the person agrees to terms and conditions necessary to conform with the Act. As of January 1, 2004, designated members of the Commissioner's staff can also apply for a search warrant. Details of convictions and of compliance agreements are published on the Elections Canada Web site.

Anyone who has reason to believe that an offence has been committed may complain to the Commissioner and request an investigation. The Commissioner received 968 complaints of alleged offences arising from the 37th general election. He authorized 41 prosecutions, of which 11 resulted in compliance agreements. Eleven offenders were convicted, three cases resulted in acquittals, six are still before the courts and the remaining cases were stayed. There were, in total, 58 compliance agreements related to the 37th general election. The offence of electors voting more than once resulted in 36 compliance agreements and one prosecution.

The Commissioner also received 42 complaints concerning the 12 by-elections between 2000 and 2004; all have been resolved. Four compliance agreements were concluded.

Answer to question 1

The first election for a legislative assembly in Canadian history was held in 1758 in the British colony of Nova Scotia. As in Britain, the right to vote was strictly limited. It was based on property ownership, but virtually the only individuals allowed to own property were male British subjects.

In addition, voters had to take three oaths – one of allegiance to the King of England, one denouncing Catholicism and papal authority, and one repudiating all rights to the throne of the deposed King James II and his descendants (champions of the Catholic cause in England). The oaths had the effect of excluding from the electoral process any Acadians remaining in Nova Scotia; these were the Catholic descendants of French settlers, most of whom had been expelled starting in 1755.

At the time the election was called, waves of European immigrants had recently settled in Nova Scotia, and few of them could meet the property requirements or take the required oaths that would enable them to vote. To increase the number of voters, the governor of the colony loosened the property qualification by dropping the requirement that an elector's freehold generate a minimum annual revenue of 40 shillings.

Public education, information and support

Our education and information programs concentrate on making the electoral system and processes more easily understood by the general public, and on reaching out to electors whose participation rate in voting has been historically lower than that of the electorate generally. This is in accordance with the mandate given to the Chief Electoral Officer in section 18 of the Canada Elections Act. Since the last general election, Elections Canada has been particularly active in approaching young people and Aboriginal electors.


Following the 37th general election, Elections Canada commissioned professors Jon H. Pammett and Lawrence LeDuc to undertake a study on voter participation (see "Relations with the academic community," below). The study shows that low turnout is particularly severe among youth. Other research by Professor André Blais and his colleagues from the Canadian Election Study shows why youth turnout has declined over time. Average turnout for the six elections held before 1990 was 74 percent; this dropped to 67 percent for the three elections after 1990. According to the study's authors, most of this seven-point drop is the result of the generation effect. In other words, turnout is lower among baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1959) and post-baby boomers than among pre-baby boomers. As well, the number of post-baby boomers had grown to represent one half of the electorate in 2000. (The 2000 Canadian Election Study also examined youth electoral participation.) In response to these findings, Elections Canada has made a major effort to inform youth about the electoral process, and to encourage them to participate in voting.

To raise awareness and build partnerships by meeting youth organizations and student leaders, we hosted the 2003 Symposium on Electoral Participation in Canada at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, the 2003 National Forum on Youth Voting in Calgary, Alberta, the 2003 Roundtable on Youth Voting at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, and the 2004 Roundtable on Aboriginal Youth and the Federal Electoral Process at Carleton University.

Canada Post Corporation provided assistance with registration in the "I'm Mailing My Vote!" campaign for mail-in special ballots, by sending completed applications daily directly to Elections Canada In preparation for the 2004 general election, 95 returning officers were mandated to appoint community relations officers who would, among other things, identify neighbourhoods that have large concentrations of students for special registration drives, assist the returning officer in locating polls where they are easily accessible to youth, and provide information about registration and voting to the community, youth leaders and youth media.

We are developing or supporting a number of projects in co-operation with other organizations, leveraging their expertise and level of contact with young electors:

  • Canada Post Corporation provided assistance with registration in the "I'm Mailing My Vote!" campaign for mail-in special ballots, by sending completed applications daily directly to Elections Canada from 157 post office locations. The convenience of this method is intended to appeal to students who are often on the move; postal outlets near areas with high student populations were chosen to participate.
  • Rush the Vote held a Vote 2004 Music Power Summit in Edmonton on April 2, 2004, to coincide with Juno Awards festivities; 500 young people attended the free concertWe worked in a joint initiative with Rush the Vote, an organization that aims to increase youth voter turnout and political awareness through art, music and education. Rush the Vote held a Vote 2004 Music Power Summit in Edmonton on April 2, 2004, to coincide with Juno Awards festivities; 500 young people attended the free concert. Elections Canada was also a partner in two earlier Rush the Vote concerts: in Ottawa in April 2003 and in Toronto in September 2003. This also provided valuable publicity informing young Canadians about the importance of exercising the right to vote.

Getting youth involved before they can legally vote is a promising avenue for raising voting levels in the future. Elections Canada has undertaken the following:

  • The Student Vote 2004 initiative gave students who have not yet reached voting age the opportunity to experience the federal electoral process through a parallel election in their schools. Over 243,000 students in more than 1,100 schools voted for the candidates in their school's electoral district, and assumed the roles of deputy returning officers and poll clerks. The results were broadcast on television, posted on the Web and published in newspapers across the country. This program builds on a successful trial that was conducted last fall during the Ontario provincial election.
  • Games, links and other resources on the Elections Canada Young Voters Web site target Canadians under 18 years of age.
  • In co-operation with Cable in the Classroom, Elections Canada ran a "Your Vote ... Your Voice" contest in 2003 for students in grades 10 to 12 (Secondary IV and V, as well as CEGEP in Quebec), challenging students to create 30-second public service announcements on the importance of voting. We also provided teachers with tools and materials for teaching about democracy and elections.
  • Supported in part by Elections Canada, the Dominion Institute and CanWest Global launched Youth Vote 2004, an education and media program that offered high school students across Canada the opportunity to participate in weekly on-line voting on selected issues throughout the 2004 election. Students in 10 cities also had a chance to participate in weekly town-hall meetings with political party representatives.
  • The Historica Foundation is developing Voices, a new YouthLinks module on citizenship and voting. YouthLinks is a free, bilingual, on-line education program that links high school students in Canada and abroad. The program has been operating as a pilot project for over two years in some 400 high schools across Canada. When the new module is launched in the fall of 2004, it will provide a valuable teaching tool on elections and the democratic process.

Aboriginal communities

Elections Canada is striving to make the federal electoral process more familiar and accessible to Aboriginal people, and thus seeking to encourage their electoral participation. This has been a two-way process of learning about the needs of Aboriginal electors, and delivering an active outreach strategy through key contact points: band chiefs, band council offices, friendship centres, Elders, high schools, and Aboriginal associations and business leaders.

Consultations helped us to hear the voices of Aboriginal people:

  • From the fall of 2003, the Chief Electoral Officer met at least once with the leaders of national Aboriginal associations: the Assembly of First Nations, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the Métis National Council, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Native Women's Association of Canada, the National Aboriginal Women's Association, and the National Association of Friendship Centres. The meetings were valuable opportunities for dialogue and information sharing.
  • In January 2004, Elections Canada and the Canadian Centre for Indigenous Research, Culture, Language and Education at Carleton University hosted a Roundtable on Aboriginal Youth and the Federal Electoral Process, to develop an understanding of factors that influence decisions to vote, and to explore options for both Elections Canada and Aboriginal communities to improve participation.

In Ottawa Centre and 123 other electoral
districts, Aboriginal community relations
officers helped to register Aboriginal electors.Elections Canada's field programs focus on encouraging Aboriginal groups and individuals to register and vote. In one program, Aboriginal community relations officers help returning officers better serve the Aboriginal electors in their ridings by helping with targeted revision, identifying appropriate polling locations, recruiting and training Aboriginal staff, and informing the returning officers about issues of concern to the local Aboriginal community. The number of electoral districts taking advantage of this program rose from 52 in the 2000 election to 124 in 2004.

Another program brings Elders and youth to polling stations to assist, and to provide interpretation and information to, Aboriginal electors; returning officers are encouraged to appoint Aboriginal persons to work as election officers at predominantly Aboriginal polls. We encourage returning officers to place polls in Native friendship centres where possible. We also seek to make the voting process accessible by placing polling stations on or near reserves where appropriate, in consultation with the reserves' band councils.

Messages were placed in community newspapers and on radio stations in English, French and Inuktitut, and on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network in English and French.

The texts of the major elements of the campaign, the voter information guide, the newsletter, the print ad and the radio script, were available in 10 additional Aboriginal languages on the Elections Canada Web site: Gwich'in, Nisga'a, Plains Cree, Ojibway, Oji-Cree, Mohawk, James Bay Cree, Michif, Innu and Mi'kmaq.

Supporting the electoral boundaries commissions

Following publication of the 2001 census, federal electoral boundaries were readjustedFollowing publication of the 2001 census, federal electoral boundaries were readjusted (see "Responding to a changing legal environment"). During the redistribution period from March 2002 to August 2003, Elections Canada provided professional, technical, financial and administrative support to the 10 commissions. In preparation for the commissions' work, Elections Canada hosted a three-day conference in Ottawa in March 2002 – the first time that all the commission members were brought together. To assist the commissions, Elections Canada also developed software that allowed commission members to immediately see the physical and demographic results of planned boundary changes. A very powerful tool developed for the redistribution, also available on the Web site, was an animated map display showing the boundaries of electoral districts then currently in force and those put forward by the commissions at the proposal, interim and final report stages. This application used the 1996 boundaries as a base and showed the new boundaries as a spreading shadow. Following the proclamation of the representation order on August 25, 2003, Elections Canada published 11 volumes of maps, as well as separate provincial, territorial and national wall-size maps, showing the new electoral district boundaries.

Elections Canada created a module on its Web site to provide detailed background information on the process of redistribution. It included maps and descriptions of the proposed and eventual new boundaries, a link to the related legislation, a calendar of events occurring during the redistribution process and answers to frequently asked questions.

Electronic versions of the commissions' proposals, interim and final reports were made available as soon as they were ready. This gave the public more time to consider the boundaries before commenting than they had had when the commissions' work was available only in print. Also prominently displayed were the locations, dates and times of the commissions' public hearings. The Web site received about half a million visits, proving to be an efficient and important instrument for disseminating information about the redistribution.

A CD-ROM containing the Transposition of Votes was also prepared following the representation order and distributed to all members of Parliament (in the House of Commons and the Senate) and to the political parties. The transposition process determines the number of votes that each registered political party at the last general election would have obtained according to the electoral districts proclaimed in the 2003 Representation Order. This information was used to decide which political parties had the right to nominate election officers at the general election of 2004. As an interim measure, at the request of the political parties, Elections Canada prepared and provided a "transposition of population" to assist political parties in the realigning on their local organizations to fit the boundaries proclaimed in the 2003 Representation Order. Selected tables from the Transposition of Votes and the Transposition of Population were also made available on the Elections Canada Web site.

Liaison with Parliament and political parties

From 2000 to 2004, the Chief Electoral Officer gave evidence at hearings of committees of the House of Commons and the Senate, held several meetings with the advisory committee of political parties.

House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs

Among many other duties, the mandate of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs includes reviewing and reporting on all matters relating to the election of members to the House of Commons.

Between the 37th and 38th general elections, the Chief Electoral Officer appeared before the Committee 15 times to discuss a variety of topics:

• March 1, 2001 Supplementary Estimates 2001–2002
• March 15, 2001 Study of Bill C-9 (political affiliation on ballot)
• March 27, 2001 Chief Electoral Officer's report on the 37th general election
• May 17, 2001 Main Estimates for 2001–2002
• October 30, 2001 Review of Referendum Regulation and readjustment of electoral boundaries
• December 6, 2001 Householder and readjustment of electoral boundaries
• February 5, 2002 Chief Electoral Officer's report of recommendations from the 2000 general election, Modernizing the Electoral Process
• May 7, 2002 Main Estimates for 2002–03
• November 21, 2002 Readjustment and Departmental Performance Report
for 2001–02
• April 8, 2003 Study of Bill C-24 (political financing)
• September 25, 2003     Study of Bill C-49 (2003 Representation Order)
• October 6, 2003 Improvements to the readjustment process (appearance before the Subcommittee on Electoral Boundaries Readjustment)
• March 9, 2004 Bill C-3 (registration of political parties)
• March 25, 2004 Main Estimates for 2004–05
• May 6, 2004 National Register of Electors
Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs examines legislation and matters relating to legal and constitutional matters generally, including federal-provincial relations, administration of justice and law reform, among other issues.

The Chief Electoral Officer appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs eight times between the 37th and 38th general elections:

• April 4, 2001 Chief Electoral Officer's report on the 37th general election
• May 30, 2001 Bill C-9 (political affiliation on ballot)
• November 8, 2001 Review of Referendum Regulation and readjustment of electoral boundaries
• June 13, 2002 Bill C-441 (names of certain electoral districts)
• June 17, 2003 Bill C-24 (political financing)
• February 25, 2004     Bill C-5 (2003 Representation Order)
• April 1, 2004 Bill C-20 (changing the names of certain electoral districts)
• April 29, 2004 Bill C-3 (registration of political parties)

Though their mandates cover many issues, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs are the two committees responsible for electoral matters for their respective Houses.

House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources

The Chief Electoral Officer appeared before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources on January 28, 2003, to discuss Bill C-7 (leadership selection, administration and accountability of Indian bands).

House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages

The Chief Electoral Officer appeared before the Standing Committee on Official Languages on February 5, 2003, to discuss electoral boundaries readjustment and the notion of community of interest.

Advisory Committee of Political Parties

Bringing together representatives of political parties and Elections Canada officials, the advisory committee of political parties was established in 1998 as a forum for sharing information, fostering good working relations, consulting on legislative changes, and resolving administrative matters that may have an impact on parties and candidates. The Chief Electoral Officer relies on the committee as a consultative tool. Membership has been extended to both registered and eligible parties.

The Committee met 11 times between the 37th and 38th general elections:

• February 9, 2001 • June 14, 2002 • June 6, 2003
• June 1, 2001 • September 27, 2002 • September 25, 2003
• October 4, 2001 • December 12, 2002 • December 15, 2003
• December 7, 2001 • March 7, 2003  

The September 25, 2003, meeting was dedicated to providing Committee members with in-depth information on the implementation and application of Bill C-24.

Relations with the academic community

Elections Canada has established a network of more than 600 Canadian and international experts in the field of electoral studies, and hosts or supports forums for scholars, such as the 2003 Symposium on Electoral Participation in Canada, to present and share ideas. Scholars also contribute their expertise through Elections Canada's Electoral Insight magazine.

After the 37th general election in 2000, Elections Canada commissioned two studies on voter participation: Explaining the Turnout Decline in Canadian Federal Elections: A New Survey of Non-voters by professors Jon H. Pammett and Lawrence LeDuc, and Why is Turnout Higher in Some Countries Than in Others? by professors André Blais, Louis Massicotte and Agnieszka Dobrzynska. Elections Canada also participated in a number of conferences, including "Des partis et des femmes" (2002), the Sixth International Symposium of the International Political Science Association (2003), "Women and Westminster Compared" (2004), the Canadian Political Science Association annual meetings, various events of the Institute for Research on Public Policy, Metropolis 2002, and the Voter Apathy Forum, organized by the Canadian Unity Council and the University of British Columbia's Continuing Education program (Vancouver, 2003). Elections Canada also renewed its partnership with the 2004 Canadian Election Study.

International activities

As a world leader in holding fair and transparent electoral events, Canada is in a position to share electoral knowledge with emerging and established democracies, and to offer technical support to help plan and conduct fair elections in countries that request advice and assistance.

Since the 2000 general election, we have received individual and group delegations from 59 countries and territories. We also work with multinational institutions on special projects that standardize and promote fair elections internationally: the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, the International Foundation for Election Systems, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division, the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Organization of American States, and the Council of Europe.