Commissioner of Canada Elections Annual Report 2016-2017
I am pleased to present the 2016-2017 annual report for the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections (CCE).
Although the majority of complaints are received and resolved during an election period, our Office does not sit idle between elections: we use the time between elections to pursue more complex and in-depth investigations and to review the referrals we receive from Elections Canada's political financing division.
We also use this time to reflect, provide input and propose solutions to some of the challenges we face now, or may face in the future.
This year, we provided advice to the Chief Electoral Officer and his staff as they compiled their report on recommendations for legislative amendments following the 42nd general election. These included recommendations regarding:
- the ability to negotiate broader terms for compliance agreements and the creation of a regime of administrative monetary penalties (AMPs); and
- the power of the Commissioner to seek a court order to compel witness testimony in appropriate circumstances and subject to strict conditions.
Although the report provides for separate recommendations for compliance agreements and the AMPs regime, these tools could be used together. This would allow for a coordinated use of both mechanisms in a manner that leveraged the compliance effects of each of these tools.
These recommendations are currently under consideration by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I hope that Parliament will see the value of these recommendations and will move to adopt them in the near future.
2016-2017 also brought with it the introduction of new legislation, which, if adopted, would bring about a number of changes to the Canada Elections Act (the Act). Among the changes proposed by Bill C-33, which was tabled in Parliament on November 24, 2016, is the transfer of the CCE back to the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer. This amendment would reduce some of the impediments to obtaining information that currently exist as a result of the CCE being a separate institution. From an operational perspective, any change to the placement of our Office within the machinery of government that Parliament could choose to make, should be adopted at the earliest opportunity, to ensure that all related work is completed well in advance of the 43rd general election.
Elections in other countries captured the attention of many Canadians last year. They have given rise to, among others, allegations of voter fraud and foreign interference. In addition, a number of issues have arisen in connection with the impact of fake news. Clearly, what happened abroad raises questions for the conduct of future elections here at home. These questions should be carefully considered in any review of our electoral legislation.
I close with a comment on the resources allocated to my Office. To ensure that we can continue to effectively carry out our work, we must have the proper resources in place. The Act allows us to supplement the relatively small number of indeterminate positions within the Office with individuals appointed on a temporary or contractual basis. However, the original intent was for these authorities to be used to fulfill short-term needs. Unfortunately, over the years, we have resorted to using them to ensure that ongoing functions of the office are performed. This is clearly not cost-effective and, in addition creates real recruitment and retention issues. I would hope that this can be addressed in the coming year.
None of the work we accomplished would have been possible without the dedicated efforts of the CCE team. My sincere thanks go out to each of them for their continued hard work in support of our mandate.
Yves Côté, QC
Commissioner of Canada Elections