Canada’s chief electoral officer is stepping down from his post after nearly 10 years on the job — a tenure marked by public spats with the former Conservative government over its controversial Fair Elections Act and its attempt to block veiled Muslim women from voting. Marc Mayrand, who assumed the role in 2007, informed the Speaker of his decision Monday, citing the need for a new chief ahead of the Liberal government’s push for ambitious electoral reform. He will step down on Dec. 28, 2016. “I have concluded that it would be preferable to leave my position at the end of the year to allow my successor the necessary time to assume the responsibility and guide the future direction of Elections Canada,” Mayrand said in a statement. “Given Elections Canada’s ambitious electoral services modernization plans and the government’s consideration of fundamental reforms to our electoral system, I believe the early appointment of a successor to lead Elections Canada well ahead of the next general election is essential and should not be delayed.”
Manitobans may notice fewer government announcements over the next three months and it’s all about ensuring a fair election, says Elections Manitoba. On Wednesday restrictions on government announcements go into effect which ban government agencies, Crown corporations, or elected officials from using public funds or a public office to promote political parties. “There are no government ads or notices allowed in this 90-day period with a few exceptions,” said Alison Mitchell, manager of communications with Elections Manitoba. Exceptions include emergency announcements in cases where the public’s safety or health is at risk or if government is required to publicize information at a particular time during the 90-day period for things like requests for tenders or employment, she said.
A Canadian woman who recently met Justin Trudeau in London says the prime minister indicated a willingness to review a law disenfranchising long-term expats. In an interview from the U.K., Laura Bailey says she met Trudeau at a reception at the Canadian High Commission on Nov. 25 as he moved through the crowd and shook his hand. “I hope you can reinstate my right to vote in the next election,” Bailey said she told Trudeau. “He said to me, ‘We’ll work on that,’ with a little cutesy smile. Then I took a selfie with him.”
Voters in ridings across Canada reported confusion at the ballot box on Monday, with many attributing the issues to the Fair Elections Act, a controversial bill that ushered in many changes to the electoral process, from campaign finance to voter identification. “Canadians shouldn’t have to be experts in electoral law to cast a ballot,” said Josh Paterson, the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. The group intervened in an ongoing case against the bill that sought to have its provisions suspended for this election. That argument was turned down in July, but a full court challenge will be heard after the voting. “We’re stuck with it for today, and hoping to get changes for next time around,” said Mr. Paterson, who himself was asked for unnecessary ID when he voted at the advance polls.
With the parties neck-and-neck across the country ahead of Monday’s election, the stage is set for a number of races too close to call — and recounts that could throw the total result in doubt. “The election results could be so close in ridings that there potentially could be eight to fifteen election appeals,” estimates Adam Dodek of the University of Ottawa. When a riding contest is decided by a small margin — “less than one one-thousandth of the total votes cast,” according to Elections Canada, a judicial recount is required. Candidates may also request a recount if they otherwise feel the results are in error. A judicial recount, which, if granted, occurs within four days of the request being filed, involves a ballot-by-ballot re-tabulation under the supervision of a judge of a superior court of the province.
Christie Leblanc has lived at exactly the same address in Aylmer, Q.C. since 2002. She has voted in four federal elections since then, and received valid voter information cards at her doorstep every time. This year however, Leblanc not only failed to receive her voter card — when she called Elections Canada, she found herself registered at an address she hasn’t lived in for 25 years. “It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen,” she told National Observer after going through a lengthy process to have her information corrected. “It makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.” The local representative she spoke with told her that Elections Canada has had “a lot of problems” with registration in Quebec, particularly with rural ridings. When National Observer called Elections Canada however, media advisor Francine Bastien told a different story. She said Quebec has not experienced an unusual influx of complaints about voter registration, certainly not more than any other province.
Some Canadians are getting creative in an effort to make their vote count this election. They’re “vote swapping” and a Facebook page called Vote Swap Canada is promoting the idea in an effort to defeat Conservative leader Stephen Harper. The idea is that if you don’t think your preferred party will win your riding, you can go online and swap your vote with another person in a different riding. Political scientists think it could have an impact on this year’s outcome, but Elections Canada is warning against the idea.
Like rocket-packs and hover boards, the ability for a Canadian to vote in a federal election via the Internet continues to be a sci-fi dream. “With elections it’s unlike any other system in a cyber security system because everyone’s a potential adversary — the voters, the voting vendors, election officials, third parties. So you have to imagine how to protect against all those possibilities,” explains Aleksander Essex, an Assistant Professor of Software Engineering at the University of Western Ontario. “Internet voting has been used at the national level in other countries, but none as big as Canada,” says Nicole Goodman, Research Director, Centre for e-Democracy and Assistant Professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs. She has a list of factors that she says are stopping us from implementing it at the Federal level “from concerns about security and the process of authentication, to the reluctance of government to embrace digital technology to policy and scalability.”
More than 9,000 people are pledging to vote in the federal election with their faces covered in order to make a point. Launched on Facebook by a Quebec woman, the movement suggests people have the right to vote while wearing anything at all, whether it’s a potato sack, a Darth Vader mask or a black veil. The page’s creator, Catherine LeClerc said she started the page on her own in her living room after growing frustrated with the government’s inability to ban religious garb, such as the niqab, while taking oaths of citizenship or while voting. But she denied it being against Muslims and said it’s more about transparency. “It’s not against a religious group,” said Leclerc, adding that the movement she started is merely pushing for secularism in democratic processes. The page links to an Elections Canada webpage that indicates people can refuse to take their masks off and still vote.
How convenient would it be if you could vote from the comfort of your own home, at work or if you were out of the country? According to tech experts if you can file your taxes online there’s no reason Canadians couldn’t cast their ballots the same way. … Both he and Jones still aren’t sure the traditional pencil and paper should be replaced with a more modern approach to voting. For Rayner, the single biggest obstacle has nothing to do with the security of the system if internet voting was made available. “The issue is that it’s fundamental to our democratic system that our ballots should be free, free from influence, free from pressure of any kind and that’s why we go to the polls so we that we can be observed making our vote individually without being pressured by anyone.” For Jones, the biggest con of internet voting would be if the system wasn’t secure and if an election could be swept because a technology compromise.
A ban on long-term expatriates voting from abroad has drawn the ire of Canadian business groups in Asia, who argue the measure runs contrary to both their rights and the country’s interests. In an open letter decrying the rule, the five groups based in Asia call on members of Parliament and Canadians to help their cause. Their appeal, which comes as Canada attempts to close an important Pacific trade deal, carries the signatures of Canadian chamber of commerce members in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan under the heading, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Really?
Elections Canada has reissued some Saskatchewan voters their voter information cards, this time with the correct information. It admits some voters received the wrong information about where their polling station was. “If you received your voter information card and something seems off, if you’re unsure, if it seems like your polling station is 70 kilometres away, I invite you to call Elections Canada,” says Marie-France Kenny, the regional media advisor for Elections Canada. “Most likely, we’re already aware. But just to be on the safe side, and to make sure you are going to the right station and that we do give you those voter information cards with the correct information, call your local Canada Elections office.”
Elections Canada has quietly warned staff to be on the lookout for increasingly sophisticated tactics aimed at discouraging — or even stopping — voters from casting a ballot. The advanced voter suppression techniques flourishing in the United States are likely to spill into other countries, employees were advised in a presentation aimed at raising awareness prior to the Oct. 19 federal election. The digital revolution has fuelled intensive data analysis south of the border that allows political parties to zero in on people who support rival candidates and then find ways to prevent them from voting. The development prompted Elections Canada to comb through academic papers and media reports and talk to experts and lawyers about the phenomenon of electoral malpractice.
Despite the uproar over the Conservative government’s new election law, the country’s chief electoral officer said Monday he’s confident those who want to vote on Oct. 19 will get a chance to do so. Marc Mayrand said his agency is going to great lengths to inform people, particularly online and in aboriginal communities. New, legislative requirements for identification should not cause problems, as long as voters prepare themselves, he said. “I think we’ll see a good election,” he said. “We have taken various measures to ensure no one is denied the right to vote.” Mayrand downplayed opposition party warnings, which resounded during the divisive debate over Bill C-23, that thousands will be unable to vote because of the new rules. However, he placed the burden of exercising democratic rights on the shoulders of electors. “If anybody is turned away from the polls, or anybody stays home because of concerns, I think there should be no concerns there,” he said. “I think there is a way (to vote). If you’re concerned about your ability to establish your ID and address, please contact us.”
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.
Elections Canada’s recent efforts to make the voting process more accessible across the country have addressed but not eliminated the challenges that disabled voters often encounter at the polls, observers say. The national electoral body has poured resources into improving accessibility protocols and procedures in the five years since it was taken to task by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. But advocacy groups and observers say disabled voters will likely still encounter some inaccessible polling stations, ballots that cannot be marked independently and a shortfall of election day supports on Oct. 19. James Hicks, national co-ordinator with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, said Elections Canada has made accessibility an evident priority in the 18 months since it began consulting with disability organizations across the country.
Estonians can vote over the internet in their national elections. Brazilians vote using electronic terminals that have Braille on the keypads and that have cut the tabulation time from a month to six hours. Some local British elections have let people vote by text message. It’s the year 2015, after all. So why do Canadian elections still happen the centuries-old way — by marking paper ballots and depositing them in a box? Especially when advocates say higher-tech voting methods could make the process more accessible? “There’s a number of reasons,” said Nicole Goodman, research director at the Centre for E-Democracy and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s global-affairs school. Goodman has extensively researched internet voting at other levels of government in Canada, particularly municipal elections in Ontario, where in last year’s contests 97 local governments out of 414 offered online voting. At the municipal level, Canada is a world leader in voting via the internet, Goodman says. But so far, no province or federal electoral authority has attempted it even in a small trial. One reason? “Lack of political will,” Goodman said. Elections Canada, by law, has to takes its cues on how to run elections from Parliament, and no recent government has made it a priority to introduce potentially radical new voting methods — especially one such as internet balloting that might get whole new demographics, including traditionally non-voting youth, to suddenly take part. Another concern that has held back any internet voting system is security. “People want 100 per cent assurance that this cannot be tampered with,” said Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Canada’s former chief electoral officer. “I’m absolutely sure that we’ll be able to find something, but at this stage we’re not there yet.”
Long-term expats determined to cast a ballot for the Oct. 19 election have found a way to do so — against the wishes of the Conservative government and despite a court ruling upholding their disenfranchisement. However, the method costs money, travel, and time, prompting some to argue the rules have effectively made their right to vote subject to financial ability. “Voting should not be something you must purchase,” said Natalie Chabot Roy, 38, who was raised in northern Ontario but lives in Bonney Lake, Wash. Earlier this year, the government successfully appealed a court ruling that would have allowed Canadians abroad for more than five years to keep on voting by way of a mailed “special ballot.” Nevertheless, at least one enterprising expat has already cast his ballot for the Oct. 19 election under another section of the Canada Elections Act that amounts to a barely accessible backdoor around the ban, and others are considering following suit. That section allows expats who show up in the riding in which they lived before leaving Canada to vote — if they show proof of the former residency along with accepted identification.
In the 2014 U.S. midterm elections, the Republican and Democratic Party candidates for one of North Carolina’s Senate seats, together with the various political action committees backing and attacking them, spent a combined total of $111-million (U.S.). That’s more than Canada’s three main political parties, including 900-plus candidates, spent in the 2011 federal election. Canada’s system of political finance isn’t perfect, and it has grown slightly worse in the past year. Thanks to the Fair Elections Act, the current election’s spending limits are more than double 2011’s. Canada’s process of figuring out who gets to vote has also become a little less perfect, again courtesy of the Fair Elections Act. But compared to the way elections are run in the United States, Canada’s system is still awfully close to nirvana. Which explains why, if you’re an American hoping to fix what’s wrong with America’s broken democratic process, you end up proposing reforms that look a lot like, well, Canada.
Canada: More than two dozen ‘third parties’ have registered in hopes of influencing federal election | National Post
Dozens of groups with their own political agendas could, combined, spend millions in this federal election campaign trying to influence voters. These so-called “third parties” (they aren’t actually political parties) are registered to advocate and run advertising during the federal election campaign. They include public and private-sector unions; an anything-but-Conservative veterans group; animal rights supporters; the small-government National Citizens Coalition; environmental groups; the Canadian Medical Association and even one called “Voters Against Harper.” To date, more than two dozen third parties have registered with Elections Canada. Many will run ads either nationally or in specific ridings to support their agendas. Others will rely on grassroots approaches to targeting voters. Their goals include boosting funding for the CBC, improving seniors’ care, restoring door-to-door mail delivery, securing better services for veterans, electoral reform, and strategic voting, to name a few.
When Stephen Harper’s Conservative government passed the Fair Elections Act last year, 160 university professors warned in an open letter it “would damage the institution at the heart of our country’s democracy: voting in federal elections.” The proof of the pudding will be in the eating once we see whether voting rates are affected by the new law. The Oct. 19 federal election is ushering in new rules on voting that experts fear could discourage participation by certain groups, like youth and indigenous peoples. “It will have an impact, but just how big it’s going to be is open to debate,” said Brian Tanguay, a professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. The turnout in the 2011 election was 61.1 per cent, up slightly from 2008’s all-time low of 58.8 per cent.
Ottawa-based advocacy group Democracy Watch announced it will launch a private prosecution against the Conservative Party for its role in the 2011 robocalls scandal, which misled some Canadians to go to wrong polling stations in key ridings. The group decided to take action after government lawyers refused to press charges. At time of writing, Democracy Watch is focusing legal efforts on one individual in at Conservative Party Headquarters who booked calls that gave voters across the country incorrect polling station locations, even after Elections Canada warned all political parties not to engage in such activities during the 2011 campaign.
An Ontario Superior Court justice has rejected a bid for an injunction to suspend voter identification provisions of the Fair Elections Act, despite acknowledging the risk eligible Canadians will be denied the vote in the next federal election. Lawyers for the Canadian Federation of Students and the Council of Canadians had argued that the law, passed by the Conservative government in 2014, was an act of voter suppression, and could prevent as many as 250,000 voters — those least likely to vote for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government — from voting in the Oct. 19 election. They had argued that the Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, had gone on record saying he would be willing to replace the 28 million voter information cards (VICs) already printed with the words “Please note that this card is not a piece of ID,” if the injunction had been allowed.
A bid to stop a key provision of the Conservative government’s Fair Elections Act from being implemented in this fall’s election has been denied by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Justice David Stinson ruled on Friday that a request by the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students for an interim injunction against new rules for voter identification could not be granted. The activist groups that brought forward the challenge had been seeking to allow Canadians to use the voter-information cards they receive in the mail as proof of identity at polling stations – something that Elections Canada had been planning to allow before changes to the Canada Elections Act were passed by Parliament in 2014. They argued in court that the effect of those changes, which require government-issued photo identification with proof of address in order to vote, would effectively disenfranchise tens of thousands of people – especially aboriginals, students, the homeless and elderly people living in care homes – who might not have driver’s licences, the easiest such form of ID.
The last unresolved legal appeal of the 2011 robocalls scandal is at an end after the Federal Court of Appeal tossed out a bid to overturn the federal election results from Guelph, Ont. The judge’s ruling states that a looming federal vote in October now makes it moot to further challenge the 2011 election outcome — notwithstanding a raft of as-yet unsolved Election Act offences. Kornelis Klevering, who ran for the Marijuana Party in Guelph, was seeking to overturn the Liberal victory in the riding on the grounds that thousands of eligible electors may have been misdirected by fraudulent, automated phone calls purporting to come from Elections Canada. Klevering, however, launched his legal challenge of the Guelph election results too late under the rules, and a succession of courts rejected his suit on the grounds there was no evidence the fraudulent calls affected the actual election outcome.
The first fixed-date election in Canadian history is just around the corner, but some observers are raising concerns about overspending because of a law they say is flawed. When the Conservatives introduced a fixed election date nine years ago, political financing rules were not adjusted accordingly, says Elections Canada boss Marc Mayrand. “We must not be blind,” said Mayrand. “As much as it is easier for Elections Canada to plan for the election, it’s just as easy for political parties and third parties” to plan their spending before the election. Those expenses generally go “beyond the rules outlined in the electoral law,” he added.
Canada: Groups seek court order to ease new voter ID rules for fall federal election | Winnipeg Free Press
A left-leaning advocacy organization and a national student group will be in Ontario Superior Court on Thursday and Friday hoping to relax voter identification rules for the looming federal election. The court factum prepared by the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students argues that tens of thousands or more of eligible voters will be denied a ballot this October due to changes enacted last year by the Conservative government. The groups want the court to issue an interim injunction allowing Elections Canada to recognize as valid ID the voter identification cards that are mailed to everyone on the voters’ list.
Elections Canada is urging all voters who may be missing appropriate identification to get their paperwork done in the few months remaining before the country goes to the polls. “We’re encouraging electors to be aware now, moving into the general election, that if they don’t have two pieces of ID, they really need to act…
Last year, an Ontario Superior Court judge struck down a rule that barred citizens living abroad for more than five years from voting in federal elections. The government has rightly appealed that decision, while also introducing legislation that will enshrine expats’ voting rights, but with a twist. Expats will get to vote – it will just be really, really hard. So hard, in fact, that many of the 2.8 million expats around the globe may well not bother. Others will try but won’t be able to meet the onerous new requirements in Bill C-50. Under the bill, currently in committee after second reading, Elections Canada will eliminate the international register of electors, the long-established list of expat Canadians eligible to vote federally. In future, expats will have to re-register for each election, and can only do so after the writ is dropped.
Two advocacy groups are asking the courts to set aside new Conservative election rules that they say will make it more difficult for thousands of Canadians to vote in this year’s federal election. The Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students have filed evidence to support a constitutional challenge of last year’s legislation, dubbed the Fair Elections Act by the Harper government. “The very legitimacy of the government is at issue if these rules stand, in our submission,” lawyer Steven Shrybman told a news conference Monday. The groups say new voter identification rules contravene Section 3 of the charter, which states everyone has the right to vote, as well as the equality provisions in the Constitution. The office of Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre did not respond to a request for comment on the court challenge.