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Message from the Chief Electoral Officer

Elections Canada successfully delivered the 41st general election in May 2011, the fourth within a seven-year period. Although the agency implemented some administrative and infrastructure improvements over that time, our efforts and resources were primarily dedicated to maintaining a high level of election readiness.

The current majority government and a fixed date of October 2015 for the next general election have brought about a new operating environment: with a return to readiness scheduled for the spring of 2015, the agency now has a window of opportunity to pursue longer-term efforts to modernize the electoral process.

In the spring of 2012, I will present my report on the evaluations of the 41st general election. While electors and political entities were generally satisfied with the conduct of the 40th and 41st general elections, the issue of alleged fraudulent telephone calls has recently attracted much attention. The Commissioner of Canada Elections continues to review and investigate alleged fraudulent telephone calls. Parliament can also expect to receive a report on this matter during the coming fiscal year.

Looking to the next general election, it is critical to modernize the electoral framework so that it can better respond to the evolving needs and expectations of Canadians. Electors are looking for services that are available wherever they happen to be, when they want them and on their own terms. Increasingly, electors and political entities alike expect to be able to conduct their business electronically, including when and how they engage in the electoral process.

To respond to this changing environment, Elections Canada's long-term vision, in keeping with its enduring goals of trust, engagement and accessibility, is to provide electors with more varied and modern ways to register and vote. With the current window of opportunity and the advanced services already introduced by provincial and municipal electoral management bodies, there is a pressing need to align the federal electoral process with Canadians' expectations and begin delivering the next generation of services, while continuing to maintain the integrity and security of the electoral process.

On February 27, 2012, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs tabled its report on the recommendations for legislative change that I had submitted to Parliament in 2010 to modernize the electoral process. The Committee endorsed the vast majority of my recommendations. Elections Canada awaits the Government's response to the Committee's report as well as the subsequent House motion to strengthen the agency's investigation capabilities.

Elections Canada is also adopting a comprehensive plan to guide its efforts over the 2012–2015 period as a step toward its long-term vision. Developed in the context of fiscal restraint, this three-year plan will see Elections Canada introduce several enhancements for the 2015 general election and pilot a number of other transformative initiatives.

For 2015, our focus is on improving convenience and accessibility to Canadians, including groups who face various barriers to participation. We will be considering options for expanding the use of the voter information card as proof of identity and address, offering an online voter registration service and establishing new locations to vote by special ballot, such as university and college campuses and community centres serving electors with disabilities. We are also planning to conduct pilot projects to test Internet voting as well as more efficient voting processes at ordinary and advance polls.

Political entities will also benefit from our efforts to reduce the administrative burden and improve services, such as e-filing capabilities for certain financial transactions, easier maintenance of registration information and improved access to demographic data by polling division.

Although Elections Canada has the authority under the current legislative framework to implement many of these improvements, pilot projects for Internet voting and re-engineered voting services require parliamentary approval. We look forward to working with parliamentarians as we prepare for the 42nd general election.

Canadian society does not stand still, and Elections Canada needs to continue to pursue its efforts to research and adapt to the evolving needs of Canadians. By applying recent lessons learned, the coming fiscal year will see Elections Canada continue to make progress towards its strategic outcome of providing an accessible electoral framework that Canadians trust and use.

As we work toward achieving our priorities, Elections Canada remains sensitive to the current climate of fiscal restraint. In keeping with the spirit of Canada's deficit-reduction action plan, the agency has taken steps to reduce its annual operating budget beginning in 2012–2013, as outlined in my January 2012 letter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. We will provide further information regarding the implementation of our reduction plan in the agency's 2012–2013 Departmental Performance Report.

Marc Mayrand
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada

Section I: Organizational Overview

Raison d’être

The Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, commonly known as Elections Canada, is an independent, non-partisan agency that reports directly to Parliament. Its mandate is to:

  • be prepared to conduct a federal general election, by-election or referendum;
  • administer the political financing provisions of the Canada Elections Act;
  • monitor compliance with and enforce electoral legislation;
  • carry out investigations into allegations that would amount to offences under the Act;
  • conduct voter education and information programs;
  • provide support to the independent commissions in charge of adjusting the boundaries of federal electoral districts following each decennial census; and
  • carry out studies on alternative voting methods and, with the approval of parliamentarians, test online voting processes for future use during electoral events.


In fulfilling its mandate, Elections Canada appoints, trains and supports returning officers and retains the services of 30 field liaison officers across Canada. It also maintains the National Register of Electors, which is used to prepare preliminary lists of electors at the start of electoral events, as well as electoral geography information, which provides the basis for maps and other geographic products used during electoral events.

The agency also:

  • registers political entities, including political parties, electoral district associations, candidates, leadership contestants, third parties that engage in election advertising and referendum committees;
  • administers the allowances, reimbursements and subsidies paid to eligible candidates, registered political parties and auditors;
  • monitors compliance with the Canada Elections Act, including compliance with political financing rules, during and between elections;
  • discloses information on registered parties and electoral district associations, registered parties' nomination and leadership contestants, candidates, third parties and referendum committees, including their financial returns; and
  • recommends to Parliament amendments for the better administration of the Canada Elections Act. It does this by submitting a recommendations report after each general election, as well as by providing expert advice when Parliament studies electoral reform.

In addition, the Chief Electoral Officer appoints the Commissioner of Canada Elections. The role of the Commissioner is to protect the integrity of the electoral process by ensuring that the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act are complied with and enforced. The Commissioner carries out his or her duties independently of any political or government interference and is assisted by investigators, lawyers and administrative personnel. In carrying out the Office's mandate, the Commissioner is guided by the principles of independence, impartiality, good faith and fairness.

The Chief Electoral Officer also appoints the Broadcasting Arbitrator. The Broadcasting Arbitrator is responsible for allocating free and paid broadcasting time among political parties and for arbitrating disputes that may arise between parties and broadcasters.

Strategic Outcome and Program Activity Architecture

Elections Canada has a single strategic outcome supported by the following Program Activity Architecture (PAA):

Chief Electoral Officer of Canada's Program Activity Architecture

[text version]

Organizational Priorities

The following tables summarize the contribution of Elections Canada's priorities to its strategic outcome.

Priority 1 Type Program Activities
Enable the electoral boundaries readjustment process Previously committed to
  • Electoral Operations
  • Internal Services

Why is this a priority?

Federal electoral districts and the distribution of seats in the House of Commons are reviewed and adjusted after each decennial (10-year) census to ensure that constituencies reflect population changes and movement among and within regions. This electoral boundaries readjustment process is mandated by the Constitution Act, 1867, the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act and the Fair Representation Act. The Fair Representation Act, which received royal assent in December 2011, amends the representation formula found in the Constitution Act, 1867, by creating 30 additional electoral districts. This Act also shortens the time frame for both the readjustment process and the implementation of new boundaries. The process is led by independent commissions in each province,1 which began their deliberations in early 2012 following receipt of the 2011 Census population counts from the Chief Statistician of Canada. Elections Canada is responsible for providing support to these commissions. Elections Canada concluded preparatory work in 2011–2012.

Plans for meeting the priority

Elections Canada will continue to enable the 10 independent commissions to carry out their obligations in 2012–2013 by providing administrative and technical support. Elections Canada will also begin the planning and preparatory work required to integrate the new boundaries following the completion of the readjustment process, expected in the fall of 2013.

Priority 2 Type Program Activities
Improve services to electors and political entities (a multi-year priority) New
  • Electoral Operations
  • Regulation of Electoral Activities
  • Electoral Engagement
  • Internal Services

Why is this a priority?

While the 40th and 41st general elections were general successes, post-event reports indicate that it is time to modernize the current electoral framework. The needs of electors are evolving: they expect to exercise their democratic right to vote through a modern electoral process that incorporates technological advances and provides more convenient and accessible services. Political entities often face an administrative and regulatory burden when meeting their obligations under electoral legislation as the current system is outdated and often paper-based. With a fixed election date of October 2015, Elections Canada has a window of opportunity, before returning to election readiness, to focus on selected improvements.

Plans for meeting the priority

Elections Canada's business cycle spans the period between two general elections. As such, the agency's efforts under this priority will proceed on a multi-year basis. In 2012–2013, Elections Canada will begin to implement its three-year plan to improve services to electors and political entities. The agency will identify specific initiatives to improve the coherence of the voter identification regime, increase registration of target groups, enhance voting options and convenience for electors and reduce the administrative burden on political entities. To support such improved services, the plan will include specific initiatives to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the electoral process, such as improving voting operations and strengthening information management and technology infrastructure. Elections Canada will focus on initiatives that are feasible under the current legislative framework. Some pilot projects will require parliamentary approval. The agency will also continue to engage key stakeholders as initiatives evolve.

Risk Analysis

Elections Canada's operating environment sets the context for fiscal year 2012–2013:

  • The three successive minority governments over the last seven years required Elections Canada to focus its resources on maintaining a state of constant election readiness. This limited our capacity to undertake new initiatives to enhance operations. With a majority government elected in 2011 and the date of the next general election fixed for October 2015, Elections Canada now has the opportunity to focus on enhancing the agency's services and modernizing the electoral framework.
  • In the current climate of fiscal restraint, Elections Canada plans to undertake limited improvements over the next three years, guided by the results of its post-event evaluations.
  • Fiscal restraint and current priorities mean that Elections Canada will not invest resources in referendum readiness and remains unprepared to conduct a referendum.

In 2012–2013, Elections Canada will focus on managing the risks resulting from the cost-containment measures flowing from the March 2010 federal budget. Beginning in the 2010–2011 fiscal year, Elections Canada, like other federal departments and agencies, absorbed the costs associated with increases in collective agreements. These cost-containment measures are impacting Elections Canada's annual appropriation, which covers the salaries of our personnel who perform ongoing functions. Elections Canada will not be able to manage its indeterminate salary expenses within its annual appropriation by 2014 without additional funding. We are currently examining strategies to address this critical situation, including the application of provisions related to workforce adjustment.

Planning Summary

This section summarizes the agency's plans, priorities and expected budgets for the next three fiscal years. The instructions for the preparation of this report were not to include information pertaining to deficit-reduction action plan measures. However, as noted earlier in this report, Elections Canada has already outlined its approach in its January 2012 letter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. We will provide further information regarding the implementation of our full reduction plan in the agency's 2012–2013 Departmental Performance Report.

Financial Resources ($ thousands)

2012-13 2013-14 2014-15
136,223 110,499 94,825

Human Resources (FTEs)

2012-13 2013-14 2014-15
497 476 447

Planning Summary Table

Program Activity Forecast
($ thousands)
Planned Spending
($ thousands)
2012-13 2013-14 2014-15
Electoral Operations2 201,278 41,528 34,840 32,526
Regulation of Electoral Activities3 104,913 38,675 28,296 19,988
Electoral Engagement 8,351 10,310 9,524 9,458
Subtotal 314,542 90,513 72,660 61,972
Internal Services4 37,828 45,710 37,839 32,853
Total Planned Spending 352,370 136,223 110,499 94,825

1 In 2011–2012, the 41st general election was held; some post-event activities are planned for 2012–2013 and 2013–2014.

2 The gradual reduction in planned spending on the Electoral Operations program activity over these three fiscal years is primarily a result of winding down and finalizing, in 2014–2015, the activities related to the readjustment of electoral boundaries; 2012–2013 will be the most significant year in terms of planned spending.

3 The gradual reduction in planned spending on the Regulation of Electoral Activities program activity over these three fiscal years is primarily a result of phasing out the quarterly allowances to political parties, as set out in Bill C-13, An Act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget as updated on June 6, 2011 and other measures.

4 The gradual reduction in planned spending on Internal Services over these three fiscal years is primarily a result of the Office Consolidation and Relocation project, with 2012–2013 being the most significant year in terms of planned spending. The project will end in 2013–2014.

Expenditure Profile

Departmental Spending Trend

Expenditure Profile - Spending Trend Graph

[text version]

*The significant variances in spending between the 2008–2009 and 2011–2012 fiscal years and the remaining years are a result of the 40th and 41st general elections, held in 2008–2009 and 2011–2012, respectively.

Elections Canada's financial framework

While Elections Canada performs a number of ongoing functions, a key component of its mandate is to be prepared to conduct general elections and by-elections. Under our parliamentary system, by-elections can happen at any time. While a fixed date for the 42nd general election of October 19, 2015, facilitates Elections Canada's long-term planning, six provincial and territorial elections are also scheduled to be held in the fall of 2015. These overlapping electoral events will pose challenges to electors, political entities and Elections Canada. Under these circumstances, should a federal election be called earlier than expected, Elections Canada will need to be ready. The agency is therefore planning to return to full general election readiness by April 1, 2015.

The agency's dual funding mechanism and planning practices reflect the unique characteristic of its mandate. Elections Canada is funded in part by an annual appropriation that covers the salaries of the agency's permanent staff and is not affected by the electoral cycle. Given the unpredictability of electoral events, the agency also has a statutory authority that allows it to draw directly from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

Elections Canada's statutory authority covers all of its other expenses, including the additional expenses related to conducting elections, reimbursing election expenses to eligible candidates and parties, and enforcing the Canada Elections Act. These election expenses are not included in the agency's planned spending.

In keeping with the spirit of Canada's deficit-reduction action plan, the agency has taken steps to reduce its annual operating budget beginning in 2012–2013, as outlined in the Chief Electoral Officer's January 2012 letter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. These measures exclude non-discretionary expenses related to transfer payments required by statute (e.g. quarterly allowances to political parties), costs related to the delivery of electoral events, costs related to the readjustment of electoral boundaries and costs associated with the consolidation of Elections Canada's offices and its relocation to Gatineau in 2013. We will provide further information regarding the implementation of our deficit-reduction plan in the agency's 2012–2013 Departmental Performance Report.

Estimates by Vote

For information on our organizational appropriations, see the 2012–2013 Main Estimates, available in the 2012–13 Main Estimates publication.

1 Commissions are not needed for Nunavut, the Yukon or the Northwest Territories as each territory constitutes a single electoral district.