His Excellency the Governor General recommends to the House of Commons the appropriation of public revenue under the circumstances, in the manner and for the purposes set out in a measure entitled “An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts”.
This enactment amends the Canada Elections Act (“the Act”) to require the Chief Electoral Officer to issue interpretation notes and guidelines on the application of that Act to registered parties, registered associations, nomination contestants, candidates and leadership contestants. It also requires the Chief Electoral Officer, on request, to issue a written opinion on the application of provisions of the Act to an activity or practice that a registered party, registered association, nomination contestant, candidate or leadership contestant proposes to engage in.
The enactment also modifies the Chief Electoral Officer’s power under section 17 of the Act so that the power may only be exercised to allow electors to exercise their right to vote or to allow votes to be counted. It also limits the Chief Electoral Officer’s power to provide information to the public and requires the Chief Electoral Officer to ensure that the information is accessible to electors with disabilities.
The enactment further amends the Act to permit the Chief Electoral Officer to seek approval from parliamentary committees to test an alternative voting process (but where such a pilot project is to test a form of electronic voting, the Chief Electoral Officer must first obtain the approval of the Senate and House of Commons). The enactment also eliminates the mandatory retirement of the Chief Electoral Officer at age 65 and replaces it with a 10-year term. It provides for the establishment of an Advisory Committee of Political Parties to provide advice to the Chief Electoral Officer on matters relating to elections and political financing. The enactment also amends the Act to provide for the appointment of field liaison officers, based on merit, to provide support to returning officers and provide a link between returning officers and the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer. It also enables the Chief Electoral Officer to temporarily suspend a returning officer during an election period and provides for the appointment of additional election officers at polling stations. Finally, it empowers registered parties and registered associations, in addition to candidates, to provide names of individuals for election officer positions and changes the deadline for providing those names from the 17th day before polling day to the 24th day before polling day.
The enactment also adds to the Act Part 16.1, which deals with voter contact calling services. Among other things, that Part requires that calling service providers and other interested parties file registration notices with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, provide identifying information to the Commission and keep copies of scripts and recordings used to make calls. That Part also requires that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission establish and maintain a registry, to be known as the Voter Contact Registry, in which the documents it receives in relation to voter contact calling services are to be kept.
The enactment also replaces Part 18 of the Act with a new, comprehensive set of rules on political financing that corrects a number of deficiencies in the Act. Notably, the enactment
(a) increases the annual contribution limits for contributions to registered parties, registered associations, candidates and nomination and leadership contestants to $1,500 per year and by $25 per year after the first year;
(b) increases the amount that candidates and leadership contestants may contribute to their own campaigns to $5,000 and $25,000, respectively;
(c) permits registered parties and registered associations to make transfers to candidates before their nomination is confirmed by the returning officer;
(d) requires a registered party’s auditor to complete a compliance audit in relation to its election expenses return indicating that the party has complied with the political financing rules;
(e) requires registered parties, registered associations and candidates to disclose details of expenses for voter contact calling services in their returns;
(f) reforms the rules governing unpaid claims, making it an offence for claims to remain unpaid after three years and strengthening the reporting of unpaid claims;
(g) reforms the reporting requirements of leadership contestants;
(h) permits higher spending limits for registered parties and candidates if an election period is longer than the 36-day minimum;
(i) includes new rules on political loans;
(j) defines “capital asset” for the purposes of reporting the distribution cost of advertising or promotional material transmitted to the public using a capital asset, so that the expense is reported as the corresponding rental value for the period in which it was used, and for the purpose of the disposal of the campaign surplus; and
(k) exempts from what constitutes an election expense the commercial value of services provided to a registered party for the purpose of soliciting monetary contributions only from individuals who have made at least one contribution of $20 or more to the registered party or to one of its registered associations, nomination contestants or candidates in the last five years.
With respect to voter identification, the enactment amends the Act to require the same voter identification for voting at the office of the returning officer in an elector’s own riding as it requires for voting at ordinary polls. It also prohibits the use of the voter information card as proof of identity, eliminates the ability of an elector to prove their identity through vouching and requires an elector whose name was crossed off the electors’ list in error to take a written oath before receiving a ballot.
The enactment also amends the Act to provide an extra day of advance polling on the eighth day before polling day, creating a block of four consecutive advance polling days between the tenth and seventh days before polling day. It requires a separate ballot box for each day of advance polling and details procedures for the opening and closing of ballot boxes during an advance poll. Finally, it gives returning officers the authority to recover ballot boxes on the Chief Electoral Officer’s direction if the integrity of the vote is at risk.
The enactment also amends the Act to, among other things, establish a process to communicate polling station locations to electors, candidates and political parties, to provide that only an elector’s year of birth is to be displayed on the lists of electors used at the polls, instead of the full date of birth, to permit candidates’ representatives to move to any polling station in the electoral district after being sworn in at any polling station in the district and to establish a procedure for judicial recounts.
The enactment further amends the Act to change how the Commissioner of Canada Elections is appointed. It establishes that the Commissioner is to be appointed by the Director of Public Prosecutions for a seven-year term, subject to removal for cause, that the Commissioner is to be housed within the Director’s office but is to conduct investigations independently from the Director, and that the Commissioner is to be a deputy head for the purposes of hiring staff for his or her office and for managing human resources.
The enactment also amends the Act to add the offence of impersonating or causing another person to impersonate a candidate, a candidate’s representative, a representative of a registered party or registered association, the Chief Electoral Officer, a member of the Chief Electoral Officer’s staff, an election officer or a person authorized to act on the Chief Electoral Officer’s or an election officer’s behalf. It also adds the offences of providing false information in the course of an investigation and obstructing a person conducting an investigation. In addition, it creates offences in relation to registration on the lists of electors, registration on polling day, registration at an advance polling station and obligations to keep scripts and recordings used in the provision of voter contact calling services.
The enactment further amends the Act to provide for increases in the amount of penalties. For the more serious offences, it raises the maximum fine from $2,000 to $20,000 on summary conviction and from $5,000 to $50,000 on conviction on indictment. For most strict liability offences, it raises the maximum fine from $1,000 to $2,000. For registered parties, it raises the maximum fine from $25,000 to $50,000 on summary conviction for strict liability political financing offences and from $25,000 to $100,000 on summary conviction for political financing offences that are committed intentionally. For third parties that are groups or corporations that fail to register as third parties, it raises the maximum fine to $50,000 for strict liability offences and to $100,000 for offences that are committed intentionally and for offences applying primarily to broadcasters, it raises the maximum fine from $25,000 to $50,000.
The enactment amends the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act to authorize the Chief Electoral Officer to provide administrative support to electoral boundary commissions. It amends the Telecommunications Act to create new offences relating to voter contact calling services and to allow the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to use the inspection and investigation regime in that Act to administer and enforce part of the voter contact calling services regime in the Canada Elections Act. It amends the Conflict of Interest Act to have that Act apply to the Chief Electoral Officer. It also amends the Director of Public Prosecutions Act to provide that the Director of Public Prosecutions reports on the activities of the Commissioner of Canada Elections.
Finally, the enactment includes transitional provisions that, among other things, provide for the transfer of staff and appropriations from the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to support the Commissioner of Canada Elections.
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