Canada’s democratic system is universally respected and generally functions well in the service of all Canadians.
However, an essential part of a well-functioning democracy is the willingness to make needed reforms to the electoral
machinery that is at the heart of our system of representative democracy to ensure it continues to operate effectively
and fairly. Key to such reforms is the need to strike a careful balance between facilitating voting by those who have
the right to vote and ensuring the integrity of the electoral process so that it continues to secure the confidence of
The recommendations in the thirteenth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Improving the
Integrity of the Electoral Process, clearly reflect the commitment of Committee members from all parties to protect our
electoral process. The Committee had the benefit of evidence from the Chief Electoral Officer, the Privacy Commissioner
and representatives from the four political parties in the House of Commons in formulating its recommendations. Further,
as Members of Parliament themselves, Committee members were able to draw on their significant knowledge and expertise
on electoral matters in proposing reforms that will make the electoral process work better for all political parties and
The Government has reviewed the Committee’s recommendations in detail and is pleased to announce that it will be
introducing a bill in the House of Commons to implement almost all of the Committee’s recommendations from the
thirteenth report. We have worked with the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer in developing the bill to ensure that
the proposed measures can be implemented effectively.
As explained in detail below, almost all of the recommendations that are not included in the bill are matters not
clearly appropriate for legislative action at this time, such as those that require an administrative solution or need
greater consultation and study due to the potential impact on stakeholders. The Government invites the Committee to
study any of these issues in greater detail and will be eager to work with Committee members on future reforms that will
ensure the Canadian electoral system is always functioning at its best.
Measures to reduce the potential for fraud or error that could result in voting by individuals not entitled to vote
The bill will implement a number of Committee recommendations that will assist in reducing the potential for fraud or
error that could impair the integrity of the voting system by allowing voting by individuals who are not entitled to
vote. The Committee heard evidence from political parties and Committee members of instances in which non-citizens
have voted. Concerns were also raised about voter information cards that are sent by Elections Canada being left in
bundles in apartment buildings, leaving open the opportunity for individuals seeking to defraud the system to use
these cards as evidence of their entitlement to vote.
The nature of our voting system makes it difficult to conclusively determine how widespread voter fraud may be. However,
each instance that comes to light affects public confidence in the integrity of our electoral process and even a small
degree of fraud can affect the results of a close election. In addition, some individuals may vote out of a mistaken
belief that they are eligible to do so rather than due to any malicious intent. The proposed legislative reforms will
go a significant way in preventing these opportunities from arising, including:
- Implementing a uniform system of voter identification at the polls (recommendation 6.6).
This new system will apply
to electors who are already on the voters’ list and to individuals who are seeking to register to vote at the polls.
Voters will be required to show one piece of government-issued identification with name, photograph and residential
address (e.g. a driver’s licence) or two pieces of acceptable identification establishing identity and residence.
Voters will be advised of the new identification requirements on their voter information cards and the Chief Electoral
Officer will be required to publish a list of acceptable identification. To ensure no one with the right to vote is
disenfranchised as a result of these measures, if an individual does not have identification, he or she may still vote
after swearing an oath as to his or her identity and having a qualified elector vouch for him or her. Individuals swearing
the oath to prove identity will be advised by elections officials as to the qualifications of voters and the legal
consequences of voting fraudulently. The Government encourages the Chief Electoral Officer to undertake public education
and outreach initiatives to ensure that voters are aware of the identification requirements to be implemented in the bill.
Additionally, we encourage the Chief Electoral Officer to take action to ensure, where circumstances warrant, that voters
who do not understand English or French are made aware, in a language they can understand, of what the voting rules are,
that they will be breaking the law if they vote fraudulently, and that there are penalties for breaking the law. We also
encourage the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer to follow the Committee’s suggestion that a random verification
process in relation to oaths be undertaken following an election to ensure ineligible people are not voting. There are
statutory sanctions for taking a false oath. This reform will create a uniform system for identification at the polling
stations across the country, which will also address the Committee’s concern that the current power of candidates’
representatives to demand identification from voters is being unevenly respected in practice (recommendation 6.7).
- Prohibiting “serial vouching” at the polls (recommendation 6.4).
The bill will prevent a practice that has become
known as serial vouching, whereby an individual who was not originally registered to vote is vouched for by someone in
order to be added to the voters’ list, and then vouches for someone else who was not registered, and so on. This
practice raised concerns with the Committee for its potential to affect the integrity of the voters’ list. The
prohibition on this practice will ensure the integrity of the identification procedure that is being implemented and, in
turn, reinforce the integrity of the voting system by preventing previously unverified voters from acting as vouchers for
other unverified voters.
- Adding the date of birth to the voters’ list used at the polls (recommendation 2.7).
Adding the date of birth
of electors, which is already a part of the National Register of Electors, to the revised list of electors used at advance
polls and the official list of electors used on polling day will provide elections officials with another means to ensure
the identity of a person seeking to vote.
- Requiring voters to sign a written affidavit if there is a reasonable doubt as to their eligibility to vote
Only Canadian citizens 18 years or older may vote but, currently, there is no requirement to show
proof of eligibility to vote, even where doubts as to an individual’s eligibility may be raised. The bill will
provide, as recommended by the Chief Electoral Officer and the Committee, that polling officials, candidates, and candidate
representatives be permitted to require a written affidavit or solemn affirmation of eligibility by a potential elector
where a reasonable doubt is raised about that person’s eligibility. This will create a record if enforcement action
is required in the future without creating an unnecessary burden on electors to carry proof of citizenship with them to
The Committee also recommended that warnings be posted at the polls in both official languages advising of the offences
and punishments for voting unlawfully in order to deter fraud or mistakes from occurring (recommendation 6.2). The CEO
indicated during his appearance before the Committee that there are already signs posted in relation to eligibility to
vote and that these could be amended to include warnings about the consequences for violating the CEA and voting unlawfully.
The Government encourages the CEO to post such warnings at the polls for all future elections so that all voters are aware
of the rules concerning voting and the consequences of violating the CEA.
The voter identification scheme to be introduced in the bill will significantly reduce the opportunity for the fraudulent
use of discarded voter information cards. However, the Committee raised concerns in relation to the delivery and
dispersal of voter information cards (recommendation 6.3) and the Government encourages the Committee to study the issue
further if it considers it necessary once the voter identification measures are implemented.
Similarly, the Committee called on Elections Canada to develop guidelines in relation to the registration of voters at
the polls, expressing concern about recent instances of large numbers of polling day registrations affecting confidence
in the integrity of the voters’ list, raising the spectre of fraud, and resulting in the under-estimation of
candidate spending limits (which are largely based on the number of registered electors on the preliminary and revised
voters’ lists in an electoral district). The Government believes that its proposed statutory amendments to clarify
the identification required to register at the polls and to prohibit serial vouching will largely address these concerns.
However, we are open to any other recommendations of the Committee on this issue and will work with Committee members
and Elections Canada to ensure continued public confidence in the voting system.
Measures to improve the accuracy of the National Register of Electors
Under our elections systems, the accuracy of the National Register of Electors is intimately connected to the integrity
of the voting system and the possibility of fraud or mistake harming that system. Duplication or error in the National
Register can affect the voters’ lists that determine who is prima facie entitled to vote. Therefore, the bill will
implement a number of committee recommendations in relation to improving the accuracy of the Register, including:
- Authorizing tax filers to be asked to make an express statement of citizenship on their income tax returns for the
purpose of updating their information on the National Register of Electors (recommendation 2.1).
Tax returns have become
one of the most important tools for updating the National Register of Electors. Currently, there is a box on the first
page of the return that allows Canadian tax filers to consent to sharing their name, address and date of birth with
Elections Canada for this purpose and, while it is specified that the question only applies to Canadian citizens, the
Chief Electoral Officer has found that a significant number of respondents are in fact non-citizens. This impairs the
reliability of the information received through tax returns. By adding an additional question to the return requiring
a positive affirmation by consenting tax filers as to their citizenship, this problem can be addressed and ensure that
only the information of eligible voters is used to update the Register. The bill will make the necessary amendments to
allow this information to be requested on the income tax return.
- Use of income tax returns to inform Elections Canada of the names, addresses and dates of birth of deceased electors
Timely removal of deceased electors from the National Register of Electors will assist in improving
the integrity and accuracy of voters’ lists used during elections. While Elections Canada learns of deceased
electors from provincial vital statistics bureaus, the ability to cross-reference this information with that received
through the Canadian Revenue Agency will improve accuracy and timeliness in updating the Register.
- Clarifying the CEO’s authority to employ returning officers for updating initiatives in relation to the National
Register (recommendation 2.17).
Given the unique knowledge that returning officers have in relation to the geographic and
demographic make-up of their electoral districts, they are well-placed to assist in updating initiatives in relation to the
National Register in between election periods so as to reduce the amount of revision that must be done once an election is
called. In particular, such updating initiatives are useful for identifying areas of high mobility and new development to
ensure better inclusion in and accuracy of the Register.
- Clarifying the authority of the CEO to create, collect, disclose and retain identifying information for the purpose of
updating the National Register (see recommendations 2.8, 2.11, 2.19, and 2.20).
The Committee endorsed a number of
recommendations made by the Chief Electoral Officer, which would facilitate his ability to maintain the Register up to date
while ensuring the privacy interests of electors are well-protected. The Government agrees with these recommendations and
will provide the necessary statutory clarification in the bill.
- Clarifying the authority of returning officers to update the list of electors during an election period based on the
National Register (recommendation 2.18).
Fundamental to the integrity of the voting system is an accurate and up-to-date
voters’ list from which election officials, parties and candidates may work. Amendments will be included in the
bill that will clarify the ability of returning officers to use the National Register to update their lists of electors
during an election period.
While these amendments will contribute to improving the continued accuracy of the National Register, the Government agrees
with the Committee that more can always be done. The Committee noted its interest in studying other means by which the
accuracy of the Register could be improved (recommendation 6.8) and the Government would welcome the opportunity to work
with the Committee on this important issue.
Measures facilitating eligible individuals to exercise their right to vote
As noted above, a key objective of our electoral system is to ensure that those with the right to vote can vote, while
preventing opportunities for fraud or errors that can impair the integrity of our democratic process. The bill will
implement a number of Committee recommendations that will facilitate voting by eligible individuals, including:
- Permitting advance polling stations for a single polling division (recommendation 1.10).
Currently, the Canada Elections
Act permits advance polling stations only for two or more polling divisions. For areas that are geographically substantial
or remote, this can make it difficult for electors to access advance polls, which more electors are doing each year to exercise
their right to vote. The bill will permit advance polling stations for a single polling division where this is seen as
appropriate to accommodate these concerns.
- Removing the time limit under which voters with a disability may request a transfer certificate to a polling station
with level access (recommendation 1.11).
While the Chief Electoral Officer notes in his September 2005 Report that “in
the 2004 general election, only 45 (0.2 percent) of the 18,807 polling stations lacked level access,” this can have a
significant impact on the ability of an elector with a physical disability to vote. The Canada Elections Act permits
electors with a disability to request a transfer certificate to a different polling station in the event that their assigned
station lacks level access. Such requests must be made by 10:00 pm on the Friday prior to polling day; however, some
electors may not know their polling station lacks level access until they arrive to vote. The bill will remove this time
limitation. In the event that someone arrives late in the day on polling day and does not have enough time to transfer to
a new polling station before the close of the polls, polling officers are authorized to bring the ballot box to the elector
so that he or she may exercise the right to vote.
- Permitting transfer certificates for electors whose polling station was changed following the issue of the voter
information card (recommendation 1.12).
On occasion, it may be necessary to reassign some electors to a different polling
station after voter information cards have already been sent to those electors. Correcting voter information cards are sent
to these electors to advise them of their new polling station. However, in the event such electors do not receive these
cards or do not take notice of the change in polling station, the bill will amend the Canada Elections Act to permit these
electors to be issued a transfer certificate to vote at their originally assigned polling station to minimize the chance
that electors are discouraged from exercising their right to vote due to an administrative error. The list of the electors
eligible for a transfer certificate in these circumstances will be available at the polling station and, in combination with
voter identification provisions, will prevent these transfer certificates from being abused.
The Government also agrees with a number of other Committee recommendations that were not statutory in nature, including that
possible guidelines around the location, accessibility and adequacy of polling stations be developed, particularly to ensure
that polling stations have level access and that electors living in remote areas are able to exercise their right to vote
(recommendation 6.5), that the potential for the greater use of mobile polls be examined to assist individuals, such as
seniors or those in hospital who may not be able to travel to their polling station (recommendation 1.13), and that a review
of special voting rules be conducted by the Committee to explore how electors may best be able to exercise their democratic
rights (recommendation 1.17). The Government suggests that the Committee’s recommendation that the restrictions on
voting under the special voting rules by electors absent from the country for more than five years (recommendation 1.16) would
best be considered in the context of this comprehensive review of the special voting rules to be undertaken by the Committee
rather than be implemented at this time.
The Committee also recommended that a statutory process be established to facilitate voting by prisoners in federal
correctional institutions (recommendation 1.15). The Chief Electoral Officer currently uses his adaptation power to provide
a process for voting by federal prisoners. Consistent with its electoral platform, the Government will not be implementing
Measures to improve communication between elections officials, candidates, parties, and the electorate
Connected to facilitating the right to vote of electors is the need to ensure the electoral system supports communication
between elections officials, candidates, parties and the electorate so that voters are able to make an informed choice when
they exercise their right to vote. The bill will implement a number of Committee recommendations that will assist in
meeting this objective, including:
- Affording candidates access to gated communities and public common areas for the purpose of campaigning and affording
elections officials access to multiple residences and gated communities for the purpose of revising the voters’ list
While the right of candidates to access apartment buildings, condominiums, and other multiple
residence buildings for the purpose of campaigning is provided for by law, the Canada Elections Act will be amended to ensure
that this right is extended to the new phenomenon of gated communities, access to which is often controlled by someone other
than the residents of the community. To facilitate an accurate and up to date voters’ list, this same right of access
will be extended to elections officials. In addition, candidates will be granted a right to access to public places for
campaign purposes so that they may communicate with electors more effectively.
- Improving access by parties and candidates to updated voters’ lists (recommendations 2.13 to 2.15).
In order for
parties and candidates to communicate with electors, it is important that they have access to updated and accurate voters’
lists to facilitate their campaigning activities and to encourage electors to “get-out-the-vote”. A number of
amendments in the bill will act on the Committee’s recommendations to meet the objective of enhancing communication
between political actors and the electorate, including distributing an additional list of electors to candidates on the 19th
day before polling day so that candidates have more accurate information earlier in the campaign, authorizing the Chief
Electoral Officer to provide to any registered or eligible political party, on request, in an electronic format, a preliminary
list of electors for any electoral district in which a writ has been dropped, and providing the annual list of electors to
Members of Parliament and, on request, to registered parties on November 15 rather than October 15 so that the list is more
likely to incorporate a number of updates received following the changes in address of many Canadians during the summer
The Government also supports the Committee’s suggestion that the rules for paid and free political broadcasting be made
simpler and fairer (recommendation 3.0). However, it will be necessary to study the issue in detail and consult extensively
with political parties and the broadcasting industry before the best regime can be developed and implemented. The Government
would be pleased to work with the Committee on this issue should the Committee wish to pursue a more comprehensive study on
the matter in the future.
Similarly, while the Government sympathizes with the Committee’s suggestion that candidates’ representatives be
provided with copies of lists showing who has voted at regular intervals on polling day to avoid the disruption of
“bingo-card updating” (recommendation 6.6), it has been determined in consultation with Elections Canada that
implementing such an obligation at this time could cost as much as $23.5 million. The Government would be interested in
working with the Committee and Elections Canada in exploring whether other options may be available to address this issue.
Other operational and technical improvements
The bill will also provide for additional operational and technical improvements that were recommended by the Committee,
based on the suggestions of the Chief Electoral Officer, including:
- Extending the window of time in which the CEO may use the adaptation power (recommendation 1.4).
As recommended by the
Committee, the bill will extend the time in which the Chief Electoral Office may use his or her adaptation power to 30 days
beyond the election period. This will enable the Chief Electoral Officer to adapt the provisions of the Canada Elections
Act in cases of emergency or unforeseen circumstances just after the election period, such as in relation to the validation
of the vote. As is required currently, the Chief Electoral Officer will need to report to Parliament the cases where the
adaptation power has been used.
- Extending the maximum term that can be worked by temporary or casual Elections Canada workers (recommendation 1.9).
To prepare for an election, the number of personnel required by Elections Canada nearly doubles and there are a limited number
of workers who have the elections experience required to ensure elections run properly. The terms of employment of
additional temporary or casual workers hired for the preparation or conduct of an election are governed by the Public Service
Employment Act, which was recently amended to reduce the maximum term of casual employees from 125 days to 90 days. In
accordance with the Committee’s recommendation, the bill will amend the Public Service Employment Act to authorize the
Public Service Commission to permit this extended maximum term.
- Extending the exception period for the production of the annual list of electors from three to six months (recommendation
Annual lists of electors are sent to all Members of Parliament and, on request, registered parties, unless the date
falls during or within the three months following an election period. Final lists of electors are also sent without delay
following an election. The Chief Electoral Officer advised the Committee that more time was required to meet the technical
requirements to ensure that the annual lists are more up to date than the final lists. This additional time will be
provided for in the bill.
- Clarifying the formula for candidate audit fee subsidies (recommendation 4.5).
The bill will amend the Canada Elections
Act to clarify that the amount of the candidate audit fee subsidy is up to a maximum of the lesser of 3 per cent of the
candidate’s expenses and $1,500 and a minimum of $250. The current drafting in the statute could be interpreted to
disentitle candidates without elections expenses from receiving a subsidy, even though all campaign returns must be audited.
- Fixing drafting errors in the Canada Elections Act (recommendation 5.0).
A majority of Committee members also recommended that Elections Canada staff be designated as employees performing an
essential service and would not have the right to strike (recommendation 1.8). While the Government does not disagree that
this recommendation would avoid the potential for labour interruptions jeopardizing the conduct of an election, it feels
that more consultation with affected stakeholders would be required before implementing such a change. The Government
invites the Committee to conduct such consultations should it wish to pursue this issue further.
Similarly, the Government does not disagree in principle that the process for extending the deadline for candidates’
returns could be made more flexible (recommendation 4.4). However, options for making it more flexible should be explored
within the confines of the existing statutory scheme, which was just recently endorsed by the House of Commons Legislative
Committee on Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act, in relation to a new obligation on candidates to submit a statement
on gifts received.
Lastly, the Committee adopted the Chief Electoral Officer’s recommendation for an advance confirmation process, to
allow candidates’ nominations to be confirmed before the electoral period (recommendation 1.1). However, the Committee
specifically rejected the Chief Electoral Officer’s recommendation that this process be run centrally through Elections
Canada rather than the local returning officers. While there would be benefits to an advance confirmation process, the
Government invites the Committee to explore the operational implications of this issue, including costs, in further detail
and would welcome any future recommendations as to how the Committee believes the process could most effectively and
efficiently be run.
Our electoral system is the machinery by which democracy is realized and it must be continually reviewed and updated so
that it meets the needs of Canadians. The Government wishes to thank the Committee for its unfailing commitment in this
regard and looks forward to working with Committee members and all parties in seeing these improvements realized.