Canada: Elections chief Marc Mayrand stepping down ahead of Liberal reforms | CBC

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.”

Canada: Elections Canada chief hopeful voters won’t be turned away because of new ID rules | CTV

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.”

Canada: Freed from constraints, Elections Canada set to launch its own campaigns | Ottawa Citizen

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.

Canada: Federal election 2015: Voter ID rules stand, judge rules | CBC News

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.

Canada: Online voting still years away at the federal level | Northern Life

While it was a success in Greater Sudbury last October, online voting is still years away at the federal level, says Canada’s chief electoral officer. Marc Mayrand, who was in Sudbury on Sunday getting local election workers ready for this year’s federal election, said there are still too many issues with online voting for it to be done on a scale as big as a national vote. “The technology is there,” Mayrand said. “But there’s still issues around security (and) verification … Hackers are getting ever more sophisticated. And there are also concerns around transparency.” There’s also worry about switching from a system where election officials personally witness people voting, to one where voters use a PIN number to cast a ballot at home, or wherever they happen to be.

Canada: Chief electoral officer hopes public remains vigilant over political dirty tricks | Calgary Herald

The upcoming federal election will see tougher rules around the use of robocalls, but Canada’s chief electoral officer hopes greater public awareness will help stamp out improper use of automated calls and other political dirty tricks. Fraudulent robocalls to direct voters to the wrong polling station in the 2011 election in Guelph helped lead to new rules requiring political parties and service providers to register with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) before contacting voters. Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand said in an interview that Elections Canada will be watching closely for abuse of any robocalls on election day, set for Oct. 19 under the federal fixed election date law. But he said there are also other potential issues to watch for, including false Facebook and Twitter accounts and the risk of someone hacking into party or Elections Canada computer systems.

Canada: Tories refuse to reveal cost for splitting up Elections Canada | CBC

The Harper government is refusing to disclose how much it will cost taxpayers to separate the commissioner of elections from Elections Canada — a move Conservatives insisted upon even though electoral experts said it was unnecessary. The government says all briefing materials on the cost and logistics of transferring the election commissioner’s operations to the director of public prosecutions are cabinet confidences. As such, they can’t be released in response to an access-to-information request. Moving the election commissioner under the auspices of the public prosecutor was a key measure in a controversial overhaul of election laws pushed through Parliament by the Conservatives last spring despite near-universal condemnation by electoral experts at home and abroad. Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre insisted the move was necessary to ensure the commissioner’s independence from the chief electoral officer, who Conservatives contend is biased against their party.

Canada: Guelph case sees Election Canada pledge to make polling station accessible | The Record

Elections Canada will make sure all polling stations in the next federal election are barrier free after reaching a settlement with a Guelph man who filed a human rights complaint. The complaint was settled through mediation and will ensure all polling stations have either a power assisted door or someone there to help anyone with accessibility issues enter the polling station. “This will be a great step forward for all persons with disabilities in Canada,” said Matt Wozenilek of Guelph. Wozenilek, who is confined to a wheelchair due to a rare neurological disease, took Elections Canada to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal after he went to cast his ballot in the 2011 federal election and found there was no automatic door opener or anyone to help him get into the polling station. A passerby eventually helped him into the polling station. Wozenilek felt this is a violation of his human rights and an act of discrimination.

Canada: Elections chief pleased with changes to voting bill | Toronto Star

Canada’s election chief says he is pleased with the “significant improvements” made to the Fair Elections Act — a bill he originally slammed as a serious threat to Canadians’ voting rights. “I think there’s been substantive improvements to the legislation,” Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand told reporters on Thursday — his first public pronouncements since the Conservative government bowed to critics and made amendments to the legislation. The big improvements, Mayrand said, revolve around closing political-fundraising loopholes and allowing voters to continue to prove their identity through the vouching system at the ballot box. These were among his top concerns when he told the Star earlier this year that no election reform would be better than the first draft of the Fair Elections Act.

Editorials: A less bad Fair Elections Act is still not good enough | The Globe and Mail

The Conservative government may finally be waking up to the enormity of its own recklessness. With the Fair Elections Act, Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre wasn’t just taking aim at Canadian democracy. He wasn’t just going to war against evidence and experts. He was taking a gun, loading the magazine, cocking the hammer and pointing it at his own head and the government’s. Finger on the trigger, he’s now wondering if anyone might suggest ways to lessen the chance of injury. The Conservative majority on the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, having barely begun its study of the bill, is already recommending that he remove some of the bullets. Some, but not all. Here’s a better idea, for the country and the Conservative Party: Put the gun down. On Tuesday, the Senate committee’s Conservative majority offered an interim report, containing nine suggested amendments. Their proposals make the bill less bad, which is something. Less bad, but still not good. Is it too much to ask for legislation that leaves our democratic system no worse off, or even makes it better?

Canada: Pierre Poilievre attacks head of Elections Canada | Toronto Star

As criticism of the Conservatives’ electoral reform bill continues to mount, Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre launched an attack on Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand.
Poilievre said Tuesday that Mayrand, the independent head of Elections Canada appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is criticizing the so-called Fair Elections Act out of a desire for more power. “The reality is that regardless of amendments and improvements that the bill potentially will have included, the CEO will not ultimately approve it,” Poilievre said.
“(Mayrand’s) recommendations really boil down to three broad requirements for him: he wants more power, a bigger budget, and less accountability.” Poilievre also accused Mayrand of “grasping at straws” and making “astounding” claims about Bill C-23 in an attempt to scuttle the legislation. Poilievre was asked to take back his comments in the House of Commons Tuesday. He declined, saying he stood by his testimony.

Editorials: How the Fair Elections Act might actually hurt the Tories in 2015 | National Post

The federal government has recently introduced legislation aimed at significantly revising the powers of Elections Canada. Critics of the Fair Elections Act (Bill C-23) contend that the bill offers an electoral advantage to the governing Conservatives, suggesting that its provisions have been designed to suppress voter turnout among segments of the population traditionally unfriendly to the Conservatives. That may be true, though we would suggest there are at least two ways in which the Fair Elections Act might actually hurt the Tories come 2015. No wonder the Tories were so nervous. The government had been noticeably skittish about what Marc Mayrand would say before the Commons Procedure and House Affairs committee Thursday: not only had it kept the chief electoral officer largely out of the loop in the months before it introduced its landmark Fair Elections Act, but there was doubt whether he would even be allowed to testify about it afterwards. A promise to that effect had been made to the NDP’s David Christopherson the night before to persuade him to end his filibuster of the Act in committee. Yet on the day Mr. Mayrand’s testimony was interrupted by the calling of not one but two votes in the Commons just as he was scheduled to speak.

Canada: Author of elections report cited by Poilievre contradicts minister on voter fraud | CBC

The author of a report cited repeatedly to justify cracking down on potential voter fraud says the Harper government is misrepresenting his report and ignoring his recommendations. Indeed, Harry Neufeld says there’s not a shred of evidence that there have been more than “a handful” of cases of deliberate voter fraud in either federal or provincial elections. “I never said there was voter fraud,” Neufeld said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “Nor did the Supreme Court, who looked at this extremely carefully.” Neufeld said the government’s efforts to prevent voter fraud are aimed at a non-existent problem. And he predicted they’ll wind up disenfranchising thousands of voters and resulting in a rash of court challenges.

Canada: Conservative bill may ‘compromise’ elections, Marc Mayrand says | Toronto Star

The man in charge of elections in Canada has warned the Conservative government that voters are going to be turned away from ballot boxes in significant numbers in 2015 and that the new “Fair Elections Act” may create real unfairness among the political players. Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand was blunt when he spoke to one of the lead Conservative MPs during an often-testy Commons committee meeting on Thursday. “In the next election, if those rules go through, you will see in your riding how many people will be sent away,” Mayrand told MP Tom Lukiwski. “And that will be an issue.”

Canada: Courts will have to decide if Elections Canada CEO can be ‘muzzled,’ say experts | The Hill Times

Elections Canada and critics of proposed government legislation that will restrict communications between the chief electoral officer and the electorate say the measure will also limit information the chief electoral officer will be able to distribute to news media. A source told The Hill Times the electoral agency remains concerned despite assurances Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre (Nepean-Carleton, Ont.) made on a political talk show that he was open to amending a section of the legislation, Bill C-23, to address Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand’s concerns. And Ottawa lawyer Steven Shrybman, an expert on Canada’s electoral law who represented voters in a Federal Court challenge of results from the 2011 federal election, said the statement from Mr. Poilievre (Nepean-Carleton, Ont.) will have no effect unless the government eliminates the section entirely.

Canada: Election reform bill an affront to democracy, Marc Mayrand says | CBC

The government’s proposed overhaul of the Elections Act includes elements that constitute an affront to democracy, according to Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand. In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio’s The House, Mayrand said “my reading of the act is that I can no longer speak about democracy in this country.” “I’m not aware of any electoral bodies around the world who can not talk about democracy,” Mayrand told host Evan Solomon. Under the proposed bill, the only role of the chief electoral officer would be to inform the public of when, where, and how to vote. Elections Canada would be forbidden from launching ad campaigns encouraging Canadians to vote. Surveys and research would be forbidden under the new bill, Mayrand said. “Most of the research will no longer be published because these are communications to the public.” The chief electoral officer and the commissioner of Canada elections would also no longer be allowed to publish their reports, Mayrand said. “These reports will no longer be available. In fact, not only not available. I don’t think it will be done at all.”

Canada: New election law to crack down on robocalls, voter fraud | The Record

Canada’s election law is getting a major overhaul, aimed at making it tougher to play on the dirty-tricks side of the political game. A crackdown on automated “robocalls” and voter fraud are among the measures contained in the 242-page bill unveiled Tuesday by Democratic Reform minister Pierre Poilievre. And in what’s being widely viewed as a rebuke to Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand, the Conservatives have taken away his oversight of investigations into election-law abuse. The commissioner of elections, who conducts those probes, will now report to Canada’s director of public prosecutions, who has an arm’s-length relationship with government and political entities. “What we are doing is making sure that office has full independence,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in the Commons on Tuesday. Poilievre said the change gives Canada a new breed of political-crimes investigator — one with “sharper teeth, a longer reach and a freer hand.”

Canada: Elections Canada finds more than 165,000 voted improperly in 2011 | National Post

More than 165,000 people seem to have voted improperly in the last election, a new Elections Canada report has found, and the system for voting needs to be overhauled, although there isn’t enough time to do that before the next election. Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand commissioned the report after irregularities in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke Centre led to a court challenge that went to the Supreme Court of Canada. Former Elections Canada executive Harry Neufeld audited 1,000 polls from the last election as well as three recent byelections, and discovered systematic errors in the processing of the 15 per cent of voters who show up on election day without having been registered.

Canada: Irregularities widespread in Canadian elections, report finds | Ottawa Citizen

More than 165,000 people seem to have voted improperly in the last election, a new Elections Canada report has found, and the system for voting needs to be overhauled, although there isn’t enough time to do that before the next election. Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand commissioned the report after irregularities in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke Centre led to a court challenge that went to the Supreme Court of Canada. Former Elections Canada executive Harry Neufeld audited 1,000 polls from the last election as well as three recent byelections, and discovered systematic errors in the processing of the 15 per cent of voters who show up on election day without having been registered.

Canada: Elections Canada calls for crackdown on ‘deceptive’ political phone calls | National Post

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand wants Parliament to overhaul Canada’s elections law to prevent deceptive telephone calls by adding stiffer penalties and giving new powers to investigators. In a recommendation aimed directly at the calls received in Guelph, Ont., on the 2011 election day, Mayrand says Parliament should close a loophole in the Criminal Code and make it illegal to impersonate an Elections Canada official. He advises maximum penalties on conviction of violators of $250,000 in fines and five years in jail. In a report tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, Mayrand suggests that political parties develop “codes of conduct” aimed at preventing the kind of misleading phone calls reported by more than 1,400 Canadians in 247 ridings in the last election. The report, entitled “Preventing Deceptive Communications with Electors,” also recommends that Elections Canada investigators be given a new power to apply to a judge for an order compelling witnesses to provide information during an investigation.

Canada: Elections Canada wants more people to cast ballots, but online voting is still out | The Globe and Mail

Elections Canada is trying to ease registration for young voters and is pushing for more civic education in elementary classrooms, according to the federal elections watchdog. But online voting is still out of the question. Marc Mayrand, Canada’s chief electoral officer, delivered the remarks in an online discussion with Globe and Mail readers Thursday night. “Online voting would certainly make voting more convenient for everyone, including young voters,” Mr. Mayrand wrote. “That being said, there are still issues surrounding the integrity, verifiability and secrecy of the vote.” As for the robocalls affair – alleged misleading automated calls during the 2011 federal election – Mr. Mayrand said the investigation continues but he couldn’t give a timeline.

Canada: Elections Canada boss breaks silence over robo-call controversy | The Globe and Mail

The man in charge of Elections Canada has broken his silence on the fraudulent robo-calls controversy, divulging that the agency has received 700 specific complaints about phony dialling from the 2011 ballot in the past three weeks. In his first statement on the matter, Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand also strongly hinted Thursday that he would like to be called before a parliamentary committee so he can offer more detail about the allegations received. His office is already investigating what it has alleged in court filings is an operative connected to the Conservative campaign in Guelph, Ont., one it believes used an alias “Pierre Poutine” and misleading robo-calls to try to suppress voting by supporters of rival parties. A senior Conservative government official said later Thursday that the Tories, who control House and Senate committees, are “amenable” to having Mr. Mayrand speak before MPs. The Commons, however, is rising for a spring break after March 16 and MPs won’t be sitting again until March 26.