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Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Following the November 15, 1999 By-elections Held in Hull–Aylmer, Mount Royal, Saskatoon–Rosetown–Biggar, York West

Elections Canada's activities since the previous report

Follow-up to the April 1999 by-election in Windsor–St. Clair

Candidates' election expenses

Under the Canada Elections Act, candidates are required to file an election expenses return within four months of election day. Elections Canada is now reviewing financial returns from the five candidates who ran for office in the April 1999 by-election in Windsor–St. Clair, to ensure compliance with the Act and to determine the amount of reimbursement owed to candidates who qualified.

Official voting results for by-elections held in 1999

In January 2000, the Chief Electoral Officer's report on the five federal by-elections held in 1999 was published in accordance with paragraph 193(b) of the Canada Elections Act. The report, entitled By-elections 1999: Official Voting Results, presents the results of the vote, by polling station, for the by-elections held on April 12, 1999, in the federal electoral district of Windsor–St. Clair, and on November 15, 1999, in the federal electoral districts of Hull–Aylmer, Mount Royal, Saskatoon–Rosetown–Biggar and York West. The report supplements the Chief Electoral Officer's statutory reports on the administration of the byelections, which were submitted to the Speaker of the House of Commons in May 1999 and January 2000 respectively, in accordance with subsection 195(1) of the Canada Elections Act.

The official voting results and statutory reports are available on the Elections Canada Web site at in the General Information section under Elections Canada Reports.

Legislative issues

Amendments to electoral legislation

On October 14, 1999, Bill C-2, An Act respecting the election of members to the House of Commons, repealing other Acts relating to elections and making consequential amendments to other Acts, was introduced and received first reading in the House of Commons. The Bill, which would replace the existing Canada Elections Act, provides the framework for the operational and financial aspects of federal elections in Canada. The Bill had originally been introduced as Bill C-83 on June 7, 1999, in the first session of the 36th Parliament, but died on the Order Paper when Parliament was prorogued in September 1999.

The current electoral legislation was first passed in 1970, with many of the election finance provisions being added in 1974. While various provisions have been amended over the years, parts of the Act needed to be modernized, and certain administrative issues and problems had to be addressed and remedied.

The Canadian electoral system has evolved over the years, and is known as a model of electoral democracy around the world. While the system has served the country and its citizens well, there is always room for improvement and there are new challenges to be addressed. In recent years, several studies and reports have recommended changes to Canada's federal electoral laws.

In November 1989, the federal government appointed a five-person Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing – often referred to as the Lortie Commission, after its chairman, Pierre Lortie. Its four-volume report, Reforming Electoral Democracy, was tabled in the House of Commons on February 13, 1992. The Commission sponsored extensive research into various aspects of Canadian electoral law and policy, much of which was subsequently published. Following the release of the Royal Commission's report, the House of Commons, in February 1992, established an eight-person Special Committee on Electoral Reform to review it. The Committee, which was chaired by MP Jim Hawkes, produced five reports to the House. The Special Committee's third report formed the basis for Bill C-114, which was passed by Parliament in the spring of 1993. In May 1993, the Special Committee tabled a fifth report, dealing with the second phase of its study. Parliament was dissolved before any of its recommendations could be introduced in a Bill, while other matters, with which the Special Committee had intended to deal, were never addressed.

The Chief Electoral Officer has presented reports to Parliament in accordance with the Canada Elections Act. On February 29, 1996, he tabled Canada's Electoral System: Strengthening the Foundation, as an Annex to Towards the 35th General Election, his report on the 1993 federal general election. Drawing on the work of the Royal Commission, the Special Committee, Bill C-114, and other related developments, the report contained 122 recommendations for modernizing the Canada Elections Act. Following the June 1997 federal general election, the Chief Electoral Officer prepared the Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 36th General Election, which was tabled in the House of Commons on September 24, 1997. It contained a number of specific recommendations for legislative changes.

In 1997, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs determined that, in view of all the work that had been done, the issue of electoral reform should be treated as a priority. The members of the Committee also felt that it was important to deal with this matter while the experience of the 1997 general election was still fresh. In late 1997 and early 1998, the Committee consulted with the registered political parties, members of Parliament, the Chief Electoral Officer and others, and undertook a comprehensive review of the various issues and proposals for amendments to the Canada Elections Act. Its report, which was tabled in June 1998, synthesized previous work and compiled the various recommendations made over the years. Bill C-2 is based in part on this all-party committee report.

Much of Bill C-2 deals with administrative issues, including: voting rights for returning officers; extending vouching procedures to all electors regardless of whether they reside in a rural or an urban polling division; adjusting the voting hours for areas that do not switch to Daylight Savings Time; providing for the first time for the merger of registered political parties; allowing registered parties that do not field the required number of candidates to retain their assets in certain cases; ensuring the rights of candidates to canvass and of electors to post election signs in multiple-unit residential buildings; providing a full refund of a candidate's nomination deposit if reports are filed; and adjusting dollar amounts to reflect inflation.

Bill C-2 requires increased disclosure of finances by registered parties. Registered parties will need to complete financial statements for any trust fund established by the party for an election.

In addition, the Bill seeks to legislate in two areas that have been the subject of successful court challenges in recent years. It would impose a new system of regulation and disclosure requirements for third-party spending. It would also prohibit the publication of new public opinion poll results during the final 24 hours of an election (election day).

Recent court decisions

On October 21, 1999, the Federal Court of Appeal handed down its ruling in the combined cases of Sauvé v. Canada (Chief Electoral Officer) and McCorrister v. Canada (Attorney General).

The Court ruled that inmates serving a sentence of two years or more may no longer vote in federal elections. Inmates serving terms of less than two years were still entitled to vote in the November 15 by-elections.

This latest decision overturns a ruling made by the Federal Court (Trial Division) on December 27, 1995. That earlier judgment gave all inmates the right to vote on the grounds that paragraph 51(e) of the Canada Elections Act, which disenfranchised every person serving a sentence of two years or more in a correctional institution, violated section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and was, therefore, unconstitutional.

The issue of whether all, some or none of the inmates in Canada's penitentiaries should have the right to vote in federal elections has been under judicial scrutiny for over a decade. To date, the dialogue between Parliament and the courts has produced no definitive resolution. In the landmark case of Belczowski v. Canada (Attorney General), the Supreme Court of Canada decided on May 27, 1993, that paragraph 51(e) of the Canada Elections Act, as it then read, was unconstitutional. In the Court's view, a blanket disenfranchisement of inmates did not meet the standard of Charter review. The Act was then amended to disqualify only those inmates incarcerated for two years or more.

Both Sauvé and McCorrister were imprisoned for terms longer than two years. They began separate actions, which were subsequently joined in the Federal Court (Trial Division). On December 27, 1995, that court held that the version of the Act then in force was not constitutional either, resulting in all inmates being given the right to vote. The Crown appealed. It admitted that paragraph 51(e) does infringe section 3 of the Charter, and the court's entire focus of attention was, therefore, on whether the restriction could be justified under section 1 of the Charter as reasonable in a free and democratic society.

In that appeal judgment, the Federal Court decided by a two-to-one majority that the provision was a complex mixture of criminal and electoral law, which creates a civil disqualification following criminal conviction. It also held that the section was proportional to the public policy matter which it was designed to address. Paragraph 51(e) was therefore held to be constitutional.

The inmates have applied to the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal; at the time of writing, that application is being considered.

This subject continues to produce conflicting court judgments. As recently as August 23, 1999, the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba, in the case of Driskell and Paul v. Manitoba (Attorney General) held that Manitoba's prohibition on voting for inmates who are incarcerated for five years or more is unconstitutional.

The National Register of Electors

September 1999 release

A National Register of Electors data release was produced in September 1999. It is estimated that this release includes 95.1 percent of Canadian electors, 87.9 percent of whom are listed at the correct address. This indicates that 83.5 percent of Canadian electors are listed at the correct address. After an adjustment of 0.8 percent for deceased electors listed on the release, the overall accuracy of the data is estimated to be 82.7 percent.

October 1999 list of electors

Data from the September 1999 release from the National Register of Electors were used to produce the October 15, 1999, annual list of electors to members of Parliament and registered political parties, in accordance with section 71.013 of the Canada Elections Act.

Because of the unprecedented comprehensiveness of the update process reflected in the September 1999 release, the quality of the data in the October 15, 1999, list is higher than the quality of the data provided to members of Parliament and political parties on October 15, 1998. It is consistent with the quality forecast by Elections Canada during the feasibility study for the National Register of Electors.

Maintaining the National Register of Electors

Between general elections, the National Register of Electors must be kept as up-to-date and accurate as possible, so that it is ready at any time to generate reliable preliminary lists of electors for federal by-elections, and for general elections and referendums. The Register is continually updated with data from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (formerly Revenue Canada), Citizenship and Immigration Canada, provincial and territorial motor vehicle and vital statistics registrars, and the electoral agencies of British Columbia and Quebec, which maintain provincial registers of electors.

As well, the Register reflects the results of two outreach initiatives launched in March and April 1999 as part of the National Register of Electors' comprehensive maintenance program. The first outreach initiative involved sending verification notices to electors whose information appeared to be incorrect or to have been added more than once to the National Register of Electors. This initiative was designed to eliminate duplicate listings. Pairs of possible duplicate listings were identified through similar or identical names, dates of birth and, in some cases, addresses. Some pairs were eliminated from consideration as possible duplicates because both listings in the pair had been matched to one of the administrative data sources used to update the Register. Verification notices were mailed to listings in the remaining pairs asking for confirmation of the elector information. As a result, over 190 000 duplicate listings were removed from the National Register of Electors.

Elections Canada's second initiative involved writing to individuals who turned 18 after the June 1997 federal election and before January 1999, and who were identified using Revenue Canada or driver's licence information. Those individuals were asked to confirm their citizenship and to give consent for their names to appear in the National Register of Electors. The initiative did not include individuals residing in Ontario, Newfoundland, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut, because of recent or forthcoming (at the time of mailing) provincial or territorial elections. Nor did it include individuals residing in Quebec, since data for new electors provided by the Directeur général des élections du Québec are used to update the Register. As a result, more than 42 000 eighteen-year-olds were added to the National Register of Electors.

Sharing National Register of Electors data

Forging data-sharing partnerships is a corporate priority for Elections Canada. Since 1997, Elections Canada has signed data-sharing agreements with more than 60 agencies responsible for the conduct of elections at the provincial, territorial, and municipal levels, including agreements for the supply of Register data and/or the receipt of data from provincial and municipal electoral lists. A key objective of these partnerships is the opportunity for cost savings to jurisdictions using National Register of Electors data to produce preliminary electoral lists. The privacy of the information in the Register is assured by the Canada Elections Act and the Privacy Act, and the information can be used only for electoral purposes.

In September 1999, the inaugural meeting of the Advisory Committee to the National Register of Electors took place at Elections Canada's offices in Ottawa. The Committee was established by the Chief Electoral Officer to provide a forum for discussion of Elections Canada initiatives for sharing National Register of Electors data with other jurisdictions. It also provides an opportunity for the exchange of ideas and information on new initiatives in all jurisdictions that could enhance the quality of the databases maintained by electoral jurisdictions with permanent voters lists, and by motor vehicle and vital statistics registrars.

Membership is drawn from both the data supplier community and from provincial, territorial and municipal electoral agencies using permanent lists of electors.

Information technology: Maintaining election readiness

Y2K preparedness

In the latter part of 1997, a Year 2000 Project Office was created with the mandate of assessing the risk to Elections Canada operations of potential year 2000 failures. The entire operations and information technology infrastructure was assessed and the results yielded a series of risk areas that needed remediation or follow-up action. Subsequently, a series of subprojects was started under the umbrella of the Year 2000 Project Office. They were:

  • detailed assessment and remediation of all computer-based applications
  • creation of a testing methodology and testing lab
  • writing of test cases and testing of the computer applications in the lab
  • assessment and remediation of all hardware (replacement of 250 personal computers) and off-the-shelf software products (251 products)
  • risk assessment of business functions and creation and implementation of contingency procedures
  • due diligence (legal) review of business functions and liabilities of Elections Canada transition management

All of the projects were carried out in accordance with Treasury Board policies.

Field registration: A new system and new administrative procedures

Development of a field registration system is well underway to replace the Elections Canada Automated Production of Lists of Electors (ECAPLE), the current technology for revising electoral lists during an electoral event. The new system is called REVISE. It is year 2000 compliant and will provide increased functionality to meet needs that have evolved since the establishment of the National Register of Electors.

The design phase is now completed and a first release of the system has been delivered to Elections Canada for acceptance testing and performance measurement. Performance measurement was conducted in two experimental returning offices set up at Elections Canada to replicate the field conditions in which the system is to be deployed. Using rigorous security procedures, the REVISE database was successfully loaded with data extracted from the National Register of Electors and experimental revision data were created to simulate a revision environment. Additional testing will take place before the new system is deployed in an actual electoral event.

A new set of administrative procedures for revision has been designed with the triple objectives of further meeting the requirements of the Canada Elections Act, facilitating the administration of revision and making the process easier for electors. These procedures were successfully implemented during the November 1999 by-elections.

Electoral geography

Elections Canada, in partnership with Statistics Canada, has recently completed a digital road network for Canada, called the National Geographic Database. The database will be used for electoral mapping and will make the National Register of Electors more accessible to jurisdictions that operate with different electoral boundaries. As new electors are added to the National Register of Electors, or as electors move to new addresses, the system will allow Elections Canada to identify where those electors' addresses are located on the national road network, and in which municipality or electoral district an elector's residence is located.

We will be working closely with federal and provincial agencies, as well as the private sector, to keep the digital database up-to-date. To ensure that the database reflects the ever-expanding road network across Canada, we plan to gather additional civic addresses resulting from 911 emergency telephone number initiatives and new street development. The acquisition of more corner addresses will further facilitate the location of electors and the creation of accurate electoral maps.

Relations with Parliament and registered political parties

Appearances of the Chief Electoral Officer before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs

On October 28, 1999, and November 22, 1999, the Chief Electoral Officer appeared before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, during the Committee's consideration of Bill C-2, the new Canada Elections Act. Bill C-2 was referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on October 14, 1999, after it received first reading in the House of Commons. (See the section on Legislative issues, above, for more information regarding Bill C-2.)

During his appearances before the Standing Committee, the Chief Electoral Officer supported measures in the Bill aimed at furthering the principle of transparency and the right of the public to know who is influencing the electoral debate. He also took the opportunity to raise the matter of his recommendations to Parliament that were not included in Bill C-2.

The full text of the speech made by the Chief Electoral Officer at his appearance before the Standing Committee on October 28, 1999, is available on the Elections Canada Web site, at, in the News section under Statements and Speeches and also in the General Information section under 1999 Electoral Reform.

Advisory Committee of Registered Political Parties

Since the previous report of the Chief Electoral Officer, the Advisory Committee of Registered Political Parties has met twice.

The objective of the June 11, 1999, meeting was to brief the members of the Advisory Committee on the various provisions of Bill C-83, which proposed the adoption of a new Canada Elections Act. This Bill died on the Order Paper in fall 1999, and Bill C-2 has essentially reintroduced the same provisions, with certain technical modifications.

At the September 10, 1999, meeting, discussions focused on the formulation of an elector identification policy; guidelines on the use of electoral lists by persons authorized under the Act to receive them; and the Special Voting Rules. With respect to these, a representative of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade gave a presentation on the services rendered by foreign missions to enable Canadians residing abroad to exercise their right to vote.

Allocation of political broadcasting time

The Canada Elections Act requires that a new allocation of time for political broadcasting be prepared every year. Under this requirement, the Broadcasting Arbitrator convened a meeting of registered political parties on September 10, 1999. A further meeting was needed on December 3, 1999; two political parties that had been accepted for registration but not yet formally registered were also invited to participate in that meeting. On the basis of the discussions, the Broadcasting Arbitrator issued his annual decision on December 22, 1999.

Conference of Canadian Election Officials

The annual Conference of Canadian Election Officials was held in Ottawa on June 23-26, 1999. The conference was hosted by Elections Canada and chaired by Mr. Rick Balasko, Chief Electoral Officer of Manitoba, who will host this year's conference.

All chief electoral officers – with the exception of those from Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, where provincial elections were in progress – attended, as did senior staff from their organizations. Five members of the Australian Electoral Commission, who were in Ottawa as part of a work-study visit to Elections Canada, participated in the conference.

The Honourable Don Boudria, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, was present at the reception to welcome the participants.

During the conference, several Elections Canada employees made presentations on a number of subjects, including the Administration and Cost of Elections Project, the National Register of Electors, electoral reform, the National Geographic Database, and electronic voting. They also demonstrated Elections Canada's operational systems.

Professor John C. Courtney of the Department of Political Studies, University of Saskatchewan, was invited to share the results of recent research relating to electoral issues.

International activities

Update on missions

During the period of May to November 1999, Elections Canada hosted a number of delegations from other countries, including officials:

  • from Burkina Faso in May 1999, seeking information on the Canadian electoral system
  • from the People's Congress of Guangdong Province in China on June 18, 1999, seeking information on the Canadian electoral system
  • from the Australian Electoral Commission during June 23-30, 1999, seeking information on the acquisition of data and the maintenance and updating of the National Register of Electors
  • from the Diet Affairs Committee, Japan's House of Representatives on August 20, 1999, for a briefing on the Canadian electoral system
  • from the Electoral Advisory Committee of Jamaica, on September 2-3, 1999, to learn about the Geographic Information System
  • from the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa during September 20-24, 1999, to learn about the Canadian model for the funding of political parties and about other issues pertaining to the Canadian electoral process
  • from Haiti on October 4, 1999, seeking information on the National Register of Electors

In April 1999, Elections Canada provided registration and election kits to the Malawi Election Commission. In June 1999, 29 Canadian electoral officials went to assist the United Nations with East Timor's external voting program for the August 1999 referendum.

During June 29 to July 2, 1999, Elections Canada conducted a needs assessment mission in Guatemala, relating to the general elections that took place in November 1999. In November 1999, Elections Canada participated in a needs assessment mission to Kosovo to help prepare for upcoming elections.

Assistance on electoral matters was provided by Mr. Ron Gould, the Assistant Chief Electoral Officer of International Services, to Uzbekistan during July 10-17, 1999 and during August 17-25 in Kyrgyzstan.