After almost having its chief electoral officer “muzzled,” Elections Canada is launching a new advertising campaign this week, and will target youth, seniors and aboriginals, in a pilot project to help Canadians cast ballots Oct. 19. Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand was expected Monday to lay out what voters need to know to register and vote. The agency will also launch the first phase of its ad campaign. The Conservatives have been criticized for changes to Canada’s election laws that some say will make it more difficult for students, seniors and indigenous people to vote – and also make it tougher for Elections Canada to communicate with Canadians. The original version of the Conservative government’s Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act, would have significantly limited the chief electoral officer’s ability to talk to Canadians about their right to vote — something opposition parties and other groups called an affront to democracy that would have “muzzled” the elections boss.
The initial version of the bill removed parts of Section 18 of the Canada Elections Act that gave the chief electoral officer the authority to use “any media or other means” to help provide the public with information on the “democratic right to vote.”
It also axed a part that gave the chief electoral officer the power to “implement public education and information programs to make the electoral process better known to the public, particularly to those persons and groups most likely to experience difficulties in exercising their democratic rights.”
The Conservative government argued at the time that Elections Canada’s advertising wasn’t improving voter participation. The agency, however, maintains that it has never had a get-out-the-vote role that encourages people to go to the polls. Rather, Elections Canada says its job has been and continues to be informing Canadians about their democratic right to vote, including when, where and how to cast ballots.