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Chief Electoral Officer's Message

Elections Canada successfully met its main objectives during fiscal year 2010–2011.

With Canada's third successive federal minority government retaining office, the agency continued to operate in election readiness mode for a seventh consecutive year. Following the 40th general election in October 2008, we returned to full readiness by September 2009. We designed and planned a number of administrative enhancements and conducted ramp-up activities at strategic intervals to ensure that we were fully prepared when the call came, on March 26, 2011, for Canada's 41st federal general election.

On November 29, 2010, Elections Canada successfully delivered three by-elections in the electoral districts of Dauphin–Swan River–Marquette (Manitoba), Vaughan (Ontario) and Winnipeg North (Manitoba). The agency took advantage of the by-elections to introduce several new processes and technologies aimed at making it easier for electors to vote and, in general, making the electoral process more accessible. Remedial measures following the ruling on the accessibility of polling sites in Hughes v. Elections Canada (the Hughes ruling) were also in place for the by-elections. In addition, a community relations officer for seniors was added in two of the three electoral districts to lessen the specific difficulties faced by these voters.

Our positive experience during the by-elections made it possible to implement a number of these processes in time for the 41st general election. For example, the list of authorized pieces of identification was amended to include the voter information card for polling sites serving seniors' residences, long-term care facilities, Aboriginal reserves and on‑campus student residences, thus reducing the barriers to identification often faced by these electors.

Although our attention and resources shifted, as of late fall 2010, to the final preparations for the 41st general election, we continued to make progress on initiatives in support of our Strategic Plan 2008–2013.

By spring 2012, electors will be able to verify or modify their voter registration information online; this reflects our commitment to offer Canadians additional and convenient ways to register. We have launched several online tutorials as part of our efforts to allow political entities to better understand the regulatory requirements and to improve compliance. To encourage greater participation by Aboriginal electors, we developed communications products and strategies for the 41st general election in collaboration with the National Association of Friendship Centres and the Assembly of First Nations.

In support of youth engagement, during 2010–2011 we conducted research into, and developed, a new advertising campaign and other targeted communications materials. As well, we worked with Elections Ontario to develop a new civic education program entitled Voting Rules! Designed to be integrated into the Ontario primary and secondary school curricula, its purpose is to provide teachers with dynamic and easy-to-use materials to engage students in a dialogue about democracy, elections and voting in Canada and Ontario.

The agency's long-term initiative to renew its information technology infrastructure continued to progress. We completed the relocation of our data centre from our central Ottawa location to a more modern, secure and effective facility, and the development of a new central information repository is targeted for implementation in 2012. However, one of our initiatives, to migrate a number of software applications used by our local offices to a Web-based platform, encountered difficulties during the year. The disappointing performance of this project required us to terminate it. While the goal of migrating field applications to a centralized, Web-based architecture remains sound, it will be reassessed in the context of other emerging priorities for the next general election.

During the next year, Elections Canada will revise its plans in the context of its new operating environment. The recent election of a majority government and a fixed date of October 2015 for the next general election offer the first opportunity in nearly seven years to focus on fundamental improvements to the electoral process rather than maintaining constant readiness. We intend to address existing challenges while at the same time remaining sensitive to the need for fiscal responsibility as the country continues to emerge from the global economic recession.

To respond to this changed environment, and to renew its commitment to the enduring goals of trust, engagement and accessibility, Elections Canada will be developing a renewed vision and implementation plan to guide its efforts over the 2012–2015 period.

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 at all times 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
  • 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
  • carry out studies on alternative voting methods and, with the approval of parliamentarians, test electronic voting processes for future use during electoral events


In fulfilling its mandate, Elections Canada appoints, trains and supports 308 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 and registered political parties and to 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
  • recommends to Parliament amendments for the better administration of the Canada Elections Act. It does this by submitting a recommendations report after a 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 and the Broadcasting Arbitrator. The role of the Commissioner is to ensure that the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act are complied with and enforced. 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):1

Program Activity Architecture Diagram

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Organizational Priorities

Priority Status Legend2

Exceeded Met All Mostly Met Somewhat Met Not Met
> 100% 100% 80%–99% 60%–79% < 60%

Priority 1 Type Key Program
Maintain a state of readiness to deliver electoral events and implement a number of administrative changes for events called after spring 2011 Ongoing Electoral event readiness and improvements
Status: Met All

Elections Canada targeted two predetermined readiness dates – October 1, 2010, and February 1, 2011. As a result, the agency was able to maintain a full state of readiness throughout the fiscal year and was fully ready when the 41st general election was called on March 26, 2011. It incorporated administrative improvements into the readiness timeline to enhance services to electors; these improvements were tested during the November 2010 by-elections and implemented in the 41st general election.

With the approval of parliamentarians, Elections Canada conducted a pilot project of an assistive voting device (AVD) for use by electors with visual impairments or limited dexterity in the November 29, 2010, by-election in Winnipeg North. The objective was to assess whether this technology would be a viable option allowing electors with disabilities to cast their ballot independently and in secrecy. The agency would then evaluate the feasibility of large-scale implementation in a future general election. The agency has concluded that it will not proceed further with this device, but will continue to study additional methods that could facilitate the voting process for electors with disabilities.

Three other administrative improvements were tested during the November 2010 by-elections:

  • Remedial measures following the Hughes ruling on the accessibility of polling sites. For example, the polling sites were verified at least three times a day to identify and rectify any accessibility issues. In addition, electors had various means at their disposal, including a new form, to file a complaint if they encountered difficulties accessing the polling site, and there were posters notifying them of the new complaint mechanism. All returning officers were trained on these new procedures in September 2010.
  • Elections Canada amended the list of authorized pieces of identification to include the voter information card (VIC), which it issued during the election to all registered voters, for polling sites serving seniors' residences, long-term care facilities, Aboriginal reserves and on-campus student residences. These groups of electors have experienced challenges in meeting the voter identification requirements, especially proving their address.
  • Previously, Elections Canada's community relations officers had served four groups of electors: youth, ethnocultural communities, Aboriginal communities and homeless electors. During these by‑elections, we added another group: seniors, who can encounter specific difficulties, particularly when it comes to providing information, as evidenced by feedback received after the 40th general election.

More information on these initiatives is available in the Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Following the November 29, 2010, By-elections Held in Dauphin–Swan River–Marquette, Vaughan and Winnipeg North.

Priority 2 Type Key Program
Complete the online tutorial for political entities Previously committed to Electoral event delivery, political financing, and compliance and enforcement
Status: Somewhat Met
Elections Canada completed three in a series of five online tutorials to enable it to deliver political financing training to political entities who are widely dispersed and who might otherwise not have access to it. Developing these training products ourselves as opposed to contracting them to an external resource has created valuable in-house expertise and resulted in cost savings. Reduced capacity resulting from financial constraints has slowed completion of the project, but a fourth module is ready to go into production.

Priority 3 Type Key Program
Engage youth in the electoral process Previously committed to Public education and information, and support for stakeholders
Status: Mostly Met
Elections Canada completed a baseline review of current research. We also developed and began to implement a research action plan aimed at identifying and addressing barriers to youth voting. While the initial design of an advertising campaign was established, it was not ready to be implemented when the 41st general election was called. Based on the feedback received from students, student associations and school administrators, we launched new communications materials aimed at students. We developed, in partnership with Elections Ontario, a new civic education curriculum for grades 5 and 10. We also completed an evaluation of the Student Vote program, which underlined its benefits.

Priority 4 Type Key Program
Support the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act commissions Previously committed to Electoral boundaries redistribution
Status: Met All
The core team has been assembled, including the senior director and two assistant directors. Governance has been defined to support this initiative; it includes a senior steering committee chaired by the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral Events. Software tools to support the commissions are being developed and are on track to be completed in 2011. Elections Canada is on schedule to launch the redistribution process in spring 2012, once it receives the 2011 census population counts from Statistics Canada, and to support the independent provincial electoral boundaries commissions.

Priority 5 Type Key Program
Implement the agency's long-term human resources strategy and incorporate risk management into the senior management decision-making process New Internal services
Status: Mostly Met

Elections Canada has made progress toward implementing its long-term human resources strategy. It has begun to integrate risk management into its decision-making processes.

Our focus for the first year was to increase access to employee training and professional development. Milestones included providing employees with access to a minimum of seven days of training each year and launching the Leadership Assignment Program. Of the nearly 600 employees who completed the annual employee survey, 76.5% reported that they had good access to training and the other tools they needed to perform their jobs well. New-employee orientation sessions were attended by 103 of 109 new employees, who collectively scored the training at 4.6 out of 5 for its effectiveness in helping them learn about the role, mandate and key activities of Elections Canada.

Our approach to incorporating risk management practices into the organization concentrated on identifying corporate-wide risks. We developed an initial corporate risk profile, which is being used to prepare the 2011–2012 Report on Plans and Priorities. Further work on this file was put aside while we prepared for the general election, but we expect to make further progress in the coming fiscal year.

Priority 6 Type Key Program
Renew information technology (IT) infrastructure Previously committed to Internal services
Status: Mostly Met

The objective of IT renewal is a comprehensive renewal of all IT infrastructure and processes. It aims to establish a foundation for improving the agility and flexibility of internal systems while preparing the agency for the next generation of e-services, such as registration and voting online.

The multi-year renewal of Elections Canada's IT environment continued. In October 2010, we completed the relocation of the data centre from our main Ottawa office to a more modern facility. By improving the performance of our business systems, we were able to renew our core technologies, thus enabling the central information repository project and e-registration project to continue to make significant progress toward their 2011–2012 implementation targets.

However, one of our initiatives, to migrate the software applications used by our local offices to a Web-based platform, encountered difficulties during the year. The disappointing performance of the project required Elections Canada to terminate it. While the goal of migrating field applications to a centralized, Web-based architecture remains sound, it will be reassessed in the context of overall priorities for the next general election.

Risk Analysis

Elections Canada's 2010–2011 Report on Plans and Priorities identified a number of risks, some of which materialized and affected the implementation of its priorities. These risks included the uncertain business cycle; the need to engage parliamentarians, political entities and other stakeholders in modernizing the electoral framework; and the agency's capacity to manage financial pressures.

Following is a brief overview of how Elections Canada managed these risks and what the implications are for its performance.

Uncertain business cycle – With the 2011 federal budget increasing the likelihood of a general election being called in the February-to-March time frame, Elections Canada made the decision, in late fall 2010, to ramp up to full election readiness. We initiated just-in-time activities, which included distributing materials to local offices and recruiting and training event-delivery staff in Ottawa, to ensure that we were ready to deliver an election at any time. As a result of our increased focus on readiness activities, other projects, including online registration and voting, were delayed.

The need to engage parliamentarians, political entities and other stakeholders in modernizing the electoral framework – A primary objective outlined in Elections Canada's Strategic Plan 2008–2013 is to engage stakeholders on key issues related to modernizing the administration of Canada's electoral framework. The Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations report following the 40th general election, which was submitted to Parliament in June 2010, meets this objective by offering recommendations for the better administration of the Canada Elections Act. The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs began its review in 2010–2011 but has not yet completed it. In addition, further to the Referendum Regulation that the Chief Electoral Officer adopted in 2010, the Committee initiated a review of the Referendum Act. This review has also yet to be completed. As a result of needing to maintain constant readiness in recent years, Elections Canada is not in a position to conduct a referendum as provided under the Referendum Act.

Elections Canada also engaged representatives of individuals with disabilities in response to the Hughes ruling, in which the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal required Elections Canada to make significant changes to its approach to accessibility at polling sites. Elections Canada succeeded in fully complying with the Tribunal's decision by February 2011, well in advance of the 41st general election. Similarly, in response to recommendations from organizations representing individuals with disabilities, the agency also conducted a pilot project of an AVD for use by persons with visual impairments or limited dexterity. The AVD was used in a by-election but did not prove to be a practical solution for enabling electors with disabilities to vote independently and in secrecy. The attention that Elections Canada devoted to these files meant that its progress in addressing issues involving other stakeholders was put aside for the year.

Capacity to manage financial pressures – A key challenge to Elections Canada's capacity to make progress is managing its financial resources in support of longer-term priorities. Over the last year, Elections Canada concluded its A-base review, aimed at identifying resource gaps, and has been implementing the resulting recommendations using existing resources. This has included reallocating resources and absorbing fiscal restraint measures arising from the March 2010 budget.

Summary of Performance

2010-2011 Financial Resources ($ thousands)
Planned Spending Total Authorities Actual Spending
121,821 148,212 147,018

2010-2011 Human Resources (FTEs)
Planned Actual Difference*
404 551 147

*This variance is explained in "Elections Canada's Funding and Financial Framework".

Strategic Outcome

This section summarizes Elections Canada's key programs (mandated priorities and internal services), which complement its single strategic outcome.

Strategic Outcome

An electoral process that contributes to fairness, transparency and accessibility for all participants, in compliance with the legislative framework

Program Activity 2009-10
($ thousands)
2010-11 ($ thousands)

Key Program 1

Electoral event delivery, political financing, and compliance and enforcement

43,672 46,815 46,815 49,320 49,142

Key Program 2

Electoral event readiness and improvements

46,882 41,582 41,582 40,730 40,361

Key Program 3

Public education and information, and support for stakeholders

5,670 8,514 8,514 9,953 9,809

Key Program 4

Electoral boundaries redistribution

91 600 600 497 497
Total 96,315 97,511 97,511 100,500 99,809

Program Activity 2009-10
($ thousands)
2010-113 ($ thousands)
Internal services 41,447 24,310 24,310 47,712 47,209

Expenditure Profile

Elections Canada's Funding and Financial Framework

While Elections Canada performs a number of ongoing functions, a key component of its mandate is to be prepared at all times to conduct an electoral event. Under our parliamentary system, this can happen at any time. The agency's dual funding mechanism and planning practices reflect this 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 the electoral cycle, 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. These expenses are not included in the agency's Main Estimates (i.e. planned spending).

The variance between actual ($147 million) and planned ($122 million) resources for 2010–2011 is due to the electoral events that occurred in 2010–2011 and the additional resources required across all key programs to deliver the November 2010 by-elections, remain prepared for a general election, and to conduct the 41st general election. As indicated above, such additional expenses are funded through the statutory authority and are not included in Elections Canada's initial plans.

Agency Spending Trend

($ millions)

Departmental Spending Trend Graph

[text version]

The $9.3 million increase in expenditures in 2010–2011 over 2009–2010 is mainly a result of delivering the 41st general election – i.e. writs were issued on March 26, 2011, and expenditures totalled $7 million. As well, within our appropriation envelope, salary expenses increased by $3 million.

As spending related to a general election spans several fiscal years, the bulk of the costs of the 41st general election (held on May 2, 2011) will be incurred in 2011–2012. While the 40th general election was held on October 14, 2008, the above graph indicates that the bulk of the costs ($226 of $287 million, or 79 percent) were incurred in 2008–2009.

The total cost of a general election includes direct election delivery and evaluation expenditures as well as incremental election readiness and deployment costs and the cost to maintain the National Register of Electors between elections. Direct election delivery costs include salaries of election personnel, office rental and equipment, and printing of electoral material for all 308 electoral districts; salaries of election officers and rental of over 15 000 polling sites across Canada; as well as reimbursements of election expenses to political parties and candidates.

Estimates by Vote

For information on our organizational votes and/or statutory expenditures, please see the publication Public Accounts of Canada 2010–2011, Volume II.