Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and
Issue 43 - Evidence
OTTAWA, Wednesday, December 11, 1996
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which was
referred Bill C-347, to change the names of certain electoral districts, and
Bill C-63, to amend the Canada Elections Act, the Parliament of Canada Act and
the Referendum Act, met this day at 3:25 p.m. to give consideration to the
Senator Sharon Carstairs (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators, the notice for this meeting shows that we have
two items before us. We will deal first with Bill C-347.
This bill was introduced as a private member's bill in the other place. There
was agreement between all parties to amend the names of several constituencies.
This apparently has been done in the past. There was essentially no debate or
discussion in the other place. They passed it in committee of the whole, as I
understand it. It came to our chamber and was referred to this committee.
Frankly, I will be taking the following attitude this afternoon toward it: If
you are prepared to deal with this bill with dispatch -- as I hope you are --
then we will pass it and send it back to the other place. However, it is much
more critical that we deal with the witnesses on Bill C-63. If there is any
discomfort level in dealing with Bill C-347 at this time, then I suggest we
Senator Murray: At whose initiative is this bill presented? I know the amendment
is in the name of Senator Pearson.
The Chair: The original bill was proposed by Mr. Langlois, who is a member of
the Bloc Québécois in the other chamber. It had unanimous
Senator Murray: Senator Milne, I presume that someone from New Brunswick
inspired you to substitute the name Beauséjour--Petitcodiac for Beauséjour?
Senator Milne: The member of Parliament for that riding requested that. The
member of Parliament for Vaughan--King has requested a change, as did the
member Regina--Lumsden--Lake Centre, and he is here today. The new names more
fully represent the actual make-up of the ridings.
Senator Bryden: I live in the riding of Beauséjour--Petitcodiac. With the
new boundaries, the new name is much more descriptive because it picks up the
Petitcodiac portion, which is north of Moncton and was not included before.
Senator Murray: I am in favour of it, Madam Chair. The bill will return to the
Senate with this amendment, and then go back to the House of Commons.
Senator Gigantès: I generally am not strong on tradition, but I shall
suppress the feeling that one must defend tradition, at least in the names of
ridings, and, regretfully, I shall let it pass.
The Chair: Thank you, Senator Gigantès. You have deep appreciation from
your chairperson for that willingness to agree.
Senator Milne: I move:
That Bill C-347 be amended by adding a new clause 13.1 after line 45 on page 3
13.1 In the representation order declared in force by Proclamation of January 8,
1996 under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, effective upon the first
dissolution of Parliament that occurs after January 8, 1997, paragraph 92 of
that part relating to the Province of Ontario is amend by substituting the name
"Vaughan--King--Aurora" for the name "Vaughan--Aurora."
The Chair: Is there agreement to that amendment?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: The motion is carried.
Senator Milne: I also move:
That Bill C-347 be amended by adding new clause 17.1 after line 37 on page 4 as
17.1 In the representation order declared in force by Proclamation of January 8,
1996 under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, effective upon the first
dissolution of Parliament that occurs after January 8, 1997, paragraph 92 of
that part relating to the Province of here of Saskatchewan is amended by
substituting the name "Regina--Lumsden--Lake Centre" for the name "Regina--Arm
The Chair: Is there agreement from the committee?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: The motion is carried.
Senator Milne: I also move:
That Bill C-347 be amended by adding a new clause 19.1 after line 10 on page as
19.1 In the representation order declared in force by Proclamation of January 8,
1996 under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, effective upon the first
dissolution of Parliament that occurs after January 8, 1997, paragraph 92 of
that part relating to the Province of New Brunswick is amended by substituting
the name "Beauséjour--Petitcodiac" for the name "Beauséjour".
The Chair: Is it agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: The motion is carried.
Senator Milne: I move that the bill be reported as amended.
Senator Prud'homme: I wish to comment in order to be on the record for the
These changes represent some difficulty for Elections Canada. Although they may
not say so, word does get around. Soon there will be a geographical map. This
multiplicity of words takes away from the importance that we want to give to
historical figures. We want to honour people. Now we are honouring cities. We
are honouring my district. I resisted a name change even though politically it
would have been very good to split my Saint-Denis. It had that traditional
district name and for 30 years I resisted changing it because of my
predecessors, M. Saint-Denis and my father and others. People were asking to
add Saint-Lawrence because of Saint-Laurent Street.
Someone may read this some day, some scholar, and I wish it noted that I feel it
would be better to stick to the historical names.
Having said that, I would encourage those who work with Elections Canada,
including Senator Milne who is very powerful now in the Liberal Party of
Canada, to honour more Canadians in the next redistribution. Everyone goes
bananas for Canadian flags and Canadian pins, but, to be frank, we suffer from
a lack of imagination in names.
Perhaps the senator would agree that very few names of women appear the 301
ridings in Canada. That is quite unusual, from my point of view. We should use
the opportunity to honour great Canadian figures. Indian names could be used.
Sadly, the riding name of Louis Riel was eliminated.
Senator Milne: The Chief Electoral Officer was here yesterday. We probably
missed our opportunity to suggest that to him.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, I will undertake to send Senator
Prud'homme's statements to the Chief Electoral Officer. If it is some comfort,
Senator Prud'homme, I would have you know that there is, indeed, a Riel
constituency in the province of Manitoba.
Senator Prud'homme: I know that, Madam Chair.
The Chair: Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Is it agreed that I report the bill, as amended, to the Senate?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: The motion is carried.
We will move to phase two of our meeting, which I anticipate will take a little
longer and be more complex.
Honourable senators, we will continue our consideration of Bill C-63, to amend
the Canada Elections Act, the Parliament of Canada Act and the Referendum Act.
We have before us two witnesses. They are Professor John Courtney, from the
Department of Political Studies, University of Saskatchewan, and Mr. Harold
Neufeld, who is a consultant.
I will ask Professor John Courtney to proceed.
Professor John Courtney, Department of Political Studies, University of
Saskatchewan: Thank you, Madam Chairman. I have a very brief statement which I
should like to read.
Let me begin by saying that I think the bill itself represents a fundamental
shift in values in Canada -- away from what I would call a state-generated list
through election-specific enumerations to constant revision of an existing list
by way of a mix of various federal and provincial lists, as well as direct
citizen input at times that are not exclusively election times.
In addition to the electoral register, the bill also addresses other issues such
as staggered voting hours and the shortened election campaign. I would be glad
at the end of my brief comments to address those issues, if you so wish, Madam
Chair. The issue, however, on which I should like to spend some time is that of
voter registration and enumeration.
I think it is fair to say that Canada's enumeration system has been the envy of
the world. It is almost impossible to conceive of a system that is more
current, more complete, and more cost-effective than the enumeration system
that we have used in Canada. I hasten to add, Madam Chair, that the study that
my colleague Professor David Smith and I have done for the Lortie Commission,
certainly in our minds, and I think in the minds of many of our colleagues,
confirmed that these three "C"s of enumeration were met: currency,
completeness, and cost effectiveness. Compared to Australia, New Zealand,
Britain, France or any of the other major western democracies, academics,
certainly, would tend to confirm that as well.
I have three specific comments that I would like to raise concerning the
electoral register in the bill that is now before you, and the first has to do
with the costs of maintaining a register versus an election-time enumeration.
The study to which I have referred determined that costs are, in fact,
difficult to establish in any system of voter enumeration with any degree of
precision. Thus, I would be somewhat skeptical about any claims that might be
made solely on behalf of costs and cost savings with respect to any particular
system of enumerating voters.
I refer you to some of the figures in our study which, for example, compared the
cost of British Columbia's permanent electoral roll in the 1980s with Canada's
cost. We found that the cost per elector in British Columbia, with its
permanent electoral register, worked out to a cost on an average electoral
basis of $3.44, whereas the Canadian enumeration system was about half that,
$1.58. I urge you to bear that in mind.
However, I am sure there have been transition and recovery costs factored into
the feasibility study by Elections Canada. I trust their judgment in making
many of these calls with respect to cost savings down the line. More important,
the question which must be addressed has to do with the accuracy of the poll,
and I will turn to that matter in a moment.
Certainly I would raise a concern about any likely cost projections down the
line to the fortieth and forty-first election. Undoubtedly there are some cost
savings that will result. However, to be able to say these will amount to $47
million in the forty-first general election -- which, after all, is six general
elections away -- seems to me to give rise to some concern. Senators may wish to
address that in some of their comments.
This committee has addressed the issue of confidentiality, and I think rightly
so. The data sets which are prepared for one purpose, whether they be taxation,
health, immigration, et cetera, are not in themselves suitable to other
purposes, nor should they necessarily be so or be seen to be so. When
information is transferred from one data set prepared by one bureau or
department to another, there is always the risk of information being passed on
that is improper or unnecessary to the task of the receiving agency. Thus, the
risk of violating an individual's confidentiality clearly exists no matter what
the stated protective guarantees on the information may be, whether it is an
electronic transmission or a transmission by hand.
Bill C-63's answer to the question of confidentiality presumably comes from the
legislation's opting-in provision which governs the maintenance of the
register. It states that the register should be updated from, among other
sources, according to clause 71.014, information that is held by a federal
department or body and that electors have expressly authorized, which is where I
think the emphasis should be placed, to be transmitted to the Chief Electoral
Officer for Canada. Individuals filing income tax returns, for example, would
be given the option of agreeing or not agreeing to having the information
appropriate to the federal electoral register transmitted to Elections Canada.
My concern with this provision stems not from the opting-in stipulation but,
rather, from our inability to know at this stage the impact of that provision
on the comprehensiveness of the electoral role. It is one thing to determine by
way of a survey, as the Lortie Commission did, that 70 per cent of Canadians
favour a permanent register; however, it is quite another thing for Canadians to
agree, on an individual basis, to have information taken from a document as
personal and as closely guarded as an income tax form passed on to another
federal agency. Survey-generated preferences, among public policy options, are
not sound predictors of individual behaviour.
If, for the sake of argument, as many as 30 per cent of income tax filers chose
to exercise the opt-out provision, a strong reservation is raised about the
utility of that particular database for electoral purposes. For this very
reason, the Lortie Commission, you may recall, specifically recommended against
using the Revenue Canada data.
Combine with this the possible outcome of a related fundamental principle of the
bill, and one has cause to be concerned about the completeness of the so-called
permanent registry. Section 6(2) states that inclusion in the register of
electors is at the option of the elector. Again, this is an opting-out,
opting-in provision, depending on how you read it.
If a sizeable portion of the eligible electorate exercises that option, the
comprehensiveness of the registry has been thrown into serious doubt.
Accordingly, the pressures created on polling officials on election day, or,
for that matter, during the revision period, to ensure that all registrants are
able to both register and to vote could be overwhelming.
Can the system cope with hundreds of thousands of eligible electors seeking to
be registered on election day prior to the act of voting? The truth is that we
do not yet know as we have had no direct experience in this regard.
British Columbia's experience, however, at the time of its 1986 election does
not bode well. Election day transactions in 1986 -- that is additions,
deletions and changes -- totalled some 210,000 names for an electorate of 1.7
million voters. That overwhelmed the system on election day and led Elections
British Columbia to urge the cancellation of election day registration which
applied in 1991. This was ultimately done in the legislation governing the next
election. I hasten to add that election day registration is now back in British
Columbia; however, my point is that you can overload the system with unexpected
or unanticipated results.
I would hope that you would seriously consider an amendment to this bill which
would correct an unfortunate oversight with respect to the registry of voters,
and that is to authorize the Chief Electoral Officer to hold a general
door-to-door enumeration should he deem that necessary at any time. This would
be an enabling power which is essential to allow for all possibilities.
As the bill now stands, one final door-to-door enumeration would be held early
next year in preparation for both the forthcoming election, whenever that may
be, and the preparation of an electoral registry. No further federal
enumerations could be held once that last one is completed. However, we do not
know at this stage, one, how many provinces will share their lists with
Elections Canada; two, how useful and how accurate those lists will be for
Elections Canada purposes; and, three, how comprehensive the federally
generated lists will be.
As Bill C-63 does not allow for specific, special, or potential enumerations
once the register is in place, there could be serious problems in maintaining a
register as complete and authoritative as one would wish. One out of five adult
Canadians moves at least once every year. This does not address those who turn
18, become Canadian citizens,or who die.
Lists, no matter how they may be drawn up, quickly go out of date. The list that
is accurate today is not accurate tomorrow because of the changes. That is why
there is no such thing as a permanent list of electors.
The experience with continuous electoral rolls elsewhere speaks to this issue.
Australia, which permits continuous updating of its electoral roll right up to
and including election time, still conducts a biannual habitation review --
which is their term for what we would call enumeration -- as part of their
efforts to maintain the currency of their electoral roll. I should point out
that in the mid 1980s, part way through the cycle between two of their
elections which occur regularly every three years, they carried out an
habitation review which found that 1.7 million names on their continuously
updated roll were wrong. That is, they had to carry out that many transactions
during that habitation review.
It is equally true that British Columbia, which so far is Canada's only province
with any considerable experience with an electoral registry, also authorizes
its Chief Electoral Officer to conduct a door-to-door enumeration during the
third calendar year after an election, should he deem it necessary. That option
is not always exercised; however, it does exist.
I would think that Bill C-63 should prudently allow for the same possibility of
the updating of the register should the Chief Electoral Officer deem it
necessary to hold an enumeration.
I close by noting that the great strength of the current system of enumeration
in Canada derives from its relative simplicity, its standardization across the
country, and its easy comprehensiveness to the general public. Those are three
very important elements in any electoral system.
Information-sharing between federal and provincial governments sounds
idyllically rational -- possibly too rational, in fact, for a federal system as
diverse as Canada's. Ten provinces and thousands of municipalities do not all
require the same demographic information as one another, or as the federal
government, for electoral purposes. Whether the citizen is a municipal taxpayer
or is Protestant or Catholic are simply two of the more obvious points of
difference between information needed by some localities but not by the federal
This brings into question the need for the federal government to gather
information on behalf of other governments that it itself does not require.
This is contemplated by clause 16 of the bill. It also calls into question the
utility of the exercise when individuals are not obligated to give information
needed by the provincial authorities to the federal authorities.
One can look at it from the standpoint of the provinces, and they might very
well ask if they will get as much out of this as they might think necessary.
Under clause 16(4), provinces must be offered the opportunity of not feeling
obligated to respond.
I have other comments to make, both on the issue of staggered voting hours and
on the shortened election campaign; however in the interests of whatever
questions you may wish to ask, I would end my comments here.
The Chair: We would be very interested in your giving us an overview of both of
those issues. If you would proceed, that would be useful for the committee
Mr. Courtney: On the issue of staggered voting hours, the problem is basically
one of perception. Voters on the West Coast are alleged to feel differently
than voters elsewhere because they may vote at 7:30, go home, turn on the news
at 8:00 o'clock, and find that Peter Mansbridge has just announced that the
country has voted Liberal or Conservative or whatever. They feel a sense of
futility in having cast their vote and not having had a chance to find out
whether their vote really counted or not. The argument is made that the vote
does not count, and this negatively affects turn-out and may, in fact, actually
lead to strategic voting on the part of some voters.
The data on at least the macro level from the recent elections do not confirm
this. British Columbia, of all the provinces, has been second only to Prince
Edward Island in terms of voter turnout. In two of the last three elections, it
has been well above the national average. If you are looking at the negative
impact on voter turnout, it is very hard to demonstrate that from the figures.
Similarly, there is another argument made, apart from the perceptual one, which
is that your vote really does not count. In fact, the data would seem to
suggest that it does.
There is another argument that it is now possible, given the changes
electronically that we live with -- radio, short-wave communications,
telephone, E-mail, fax -- for a voter in Vancouver to phone his cousin in
Halifax or Toronto and find out how the election has gone. Therefore, this makes
unenforceable the broadcast black-out provisions of the Elections Act.
It can be argued, and this is an important point to bear in mind, that the voter
in Vancouver, once he phones his cousin in Halifax and asks how the election is
going and finds out, is then offered several options. Should he vote or not?
This enters into the strategic consideration. Should he maximize the impact of
his vote by voting against the people who are apparent winners or voting for the
people who are apparent winners? This then emphasizes once again the strategic
voter. We know in political science that people will in fact act strategically
given different pieces of information.
This raises a larger concern, and that is differential information that is
available to Canadian voters. The voter in British Columbia has available to
him or to her, as the case may be, information at the drop of a hat or a call
on the telephone that the voter in Newfoundland earlier in the day did not have
available to him or to her. I am not a lawyer, but, in my view, this invites a
Charter challenge. If you treat voters differentially, you have created a
It is very difficult to know how shorter campaigns would play, but it seems to
me they can do one of two possible things. More than likely, they will help
incumbents. If you follow this logically, the shortest campaign is one day. Who
has the greatest name recognition? Who has the greatest resources going into a
campaign? It is the incumbent. The longer the campaign, the greater the
likelihood that the incumbent will not do as well.
Therefore, one can infer, and I hasten to add I do not subscribe to nor am I a
member of the National Citizens Coalition, that the NCC, for example, would
say, "Ah ha, this is Parliament up to its old tricks and putting through a
piece of legislation that seems to act in their own interests." You recall
that they challenged both in 1984 and later in that decade the prohibition on
third party advertising, and that was successful in the courts through a
Charter challenge. I do not for a moment intend to argue the case for NCC
because they have resources that I do not have to argue their case, but it could
be argued that the incumbents stand a greater chance of winning given a shorter
campaign than the challengers.
This is an important point. If you bear in mind that the election rules, the
election campaign, and the broadcasting rules already favour the incumbent, it
seems logical and raises in my mind the question of whether this then makes the
election campaign as important as it might be as a way of defeating the
For that, I rely here on survey data that we have available in political science
from the 1988 and 1993 elections, elections with which we are all reasonably
familiar. In 1988, a shorter campaign would have come in at the very point in
the polls when the Liberals actually passed the Tories. If you recall, there
was a period when the Tory national support dipped and then came back up. The
35-day or 36-day campaign in 1988 would have seen the Liberals ahead of the
Tories by 5 percentage points, 40 per cent to 35 per cent.
Senator Murray: I think that had something to do with the debates. For that to
have happened, one assumes that the debate would have had to take place on day
30 or whatever.
Mr. Courtney: Exactly. I do not argue against that. However, I am saying you
must bear in mind that there are a number of elements like this that must be
factored into your analysis of the situation.
In 1993, it is equally true, and I think the surveys in 1993 confirm this, that
the Tories and possibly Kim Campbell would have won probably in the order of 20
to 25 seats, something that they did not win two weeks or ten days later.
I mention that only because there is an unpredictability that you must factor
in. If the election campaign were longer, you could equally argue that you may
very well see the Tories back up or the Liberals back up or whatever the case
may be. It is important to remember that these decisions will have a bearing on
Whether that is challengeable, I could not pretend to say. I am not a lawyer.
However, it could be argued that incumbents are favoured by that.
In the long run, it probably does not make as much difference in Canada as it
would in the United States because there is greater party attachment in Canada
and greater personal loyalty in the United States. You must bear that in mind.
Much of the literature that exists in this area is American, not Canadian.
Those are the only additional comments I wish to make.
The Chair: Thank you.
Senator Bryden: Professor Courtney, I used to teach political science, and I was
always interested in how we ended up with the term "political science".
There is no reason why you would know this, but many of the people around this
table have been involved in election campaigns on losing sides and winning
sides and having various things happen to cause you to either win a dramatic
victory or lose just as dramatically. There are many factors involved in
addition to the length of the election campaign. I participated in a campaign
that was 49 days long and was called one day before the Constitution required
that it be called, and the incumbent lost every seat. I participated in
campaigns where the length of the campaign was 28 days, and the incumbent won
all but seven seats. There are many factors. Senator Murray referred to the
impact of a debate.
As long as the machinery can be set up, as long as every one has a chance to
vote, most of us would recognize that the communications systems and the travel
systems and the tolerance of the public is such that there may be a good deal
to be said for a shortened election campaign. That is by way of a comment, but
I do have a number of questions, and I will try to be as brief as possible.
You indicated that the registration of voters should have as much currency as
possible, be as complete as possible, and be as cost-effective as possible.
That was part of the position that you and your co-author took in your study
for the Lortie Commission recommending that they not go to a permanent register
but stay with a door-to-door enumeration. I can quote, if you wish, from your
study; however, I think it is fair to say that those were your principal
However, the Lortie report did not agree with those concerns. I would like to
quote from the Royal Commission report, Volume II, page 120 to 121:
During our public hearings much time was devoted to the issue of the register of
voters. There were criticisms of Canada's existing registration process based
on enumeration, and concerns about the effects of the register of voters. These
criticisms and concerns echo those that have been raised in previous
considerations of a register of voters. They are based, however, on assumptions
that do not necessarily stand critical examination.
They went on to say:
Those who question the feasibility of a register of voters do so based on the
assumptions that an enumeration after the issue of the election writs
constitutes the most effective and cost-effective registration process and that
an enumeration conducted properly will also register all voters.
These assumptions are questionable. The experiences of Newfoundland, Alberta and
British Columbia demonstrate that an enumeration conducted during an election
is not the only effective way to compile preliminary voters lists. These
provinces, using different methods, compile preliminary lists outside the
election period. The experience of the 1980 federal general election -- for
which the 1979 voters list was used -- also provided that preliminary lists
could be compiled from other than post-writ enumeration --
Finally, we have this quotation:
The current approach assumes that an enumeration must be as complete as possible
if voter registration is to achieve full coverage. This ignores the fact that
revision and election-day registration are integral components of a
comprehensive process of registration.
The report goes on to discuss the 1979-80 experience and how well it worked.
The 1980 experience demonstrated that a properly managed revision could produce
a final list of high quality and that enumeration is not necessary when a
reasonably complete list of voters already exists.
They did not have available to them the most recent experience where the list
from the 1992 referendum enumeration was used as the base list in the 1993
election. We were informed yesterday by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada
that they were able to achieve in the 1993 election close to 95 per cent
In light of that and the fact that that review was done over five years ago, do
you still maintain that the only way to have an accurate list is by an
enumeration after the writ is issued?
Mr. Courtney: I will set aside the question about political science, which is an
interesting academic question to debate.
Certainly in terms of the three Cs which prompted our perspective in this
particular study, the Lortie recommendations are significantly different from
the recommendations that are in the bill before you.
Senator Bryden: In what regard?
Mr. Courtney: As I understand the Lortie report, there are three recommendations
dealing specifically with registration. They ask that the system come from the
Senator Murray: From the province up.
Mr. Courtney: Yes, from the province up. They work on the operating principle
that it is best to maintain a list that is generated by the -- one hates to use
the word "lowest" -- but the most immediate electoral unit.
Senator Murray: The closest.
Mr. Courtney: The closest electoral unit. Therefore, they have in mind a list
which I think will factor in the differences locally rather than with a
national list through which you would have operating-out provisions, generated
nationally, made available to others.
Senator Bryden: As I read the provisions of the Lortie Commission, they
indicated that keeping the register up to date would be best done by using
vital statistics from the provincial driver's licences. They said, at that
time, at least, that it probably was not advisable to use Revenue Canada data.
With the provisions in this bill, they may very well have changed their mind.
However, I do not recall seeing in the Lortie Commission any indication that,
starting from a door-to-door enumeration, as is proposed here and as happened
in 1992, and using the vital statistics lists from the provinces and the
driver's licence lists and the information provided by those provinces which
have a continuing register of voters, that you could not then bring it up to the
95-per-cent accuracy in the revision period.
Mr. Courtney: I understand perfectly well. Two or three things must be borne in
The Lortie Commission, as I understand their recommendations, did not, for
example, get into the detail of allowing opting-out or opting-in to a list.
That is a special concern which the committee may wish to address in terms of
I cannot speak for the Lortie Commission because I was not a member of it, but I
believe they operated on the principle that if you can capture something in the
order of 80 per cent plus of your total population in your list, then in the
revision period and the final drive into the election itself you will be able
to pick up a very sizeable portion of that remaining 20 per cent. I have no
reason to dispute that.
Where I think there is some difference between the Lortie Commission and Bill
C-63 is that you cannot guarantee that you are actually starting from a
certifiably correct list as were you in 1980 because people have opted out or
they may not feel obliged to give the information. It is important to bear that
Senator Bryden: Can you explain that further? There will be a door-to-door
Mr. Courtney: Exactly.
Senator Bryden: The same questions will be asked. It is not dissimilar to the
situation in 1992 for the referendum. A year later there was a federal
election, and there were not hundreds of thousands of people showing up on
election day to be registered to vote.
Mr. Courtney: I agree. This does not entertain the possibility of subsequent
Senator Bryden: Yes, it does.
Senator Murray: Not specifically.
Senator Gigantès: Anything and everything.
Senator Bryden: In the pre-revision process, one of the ways to do the revision
is the mail out/mail back. As well, there is the use of door-to-door
enumeration where there may have been high mobility and where there may have
been new subdivisions that may not be up to date.
There is no reason you would be aware of this, but yesterday the Chief Electoral
Officer was pressed by Senator Lynch-Staunton, who asked Mr. Kingsley a
hypothetical question about a situation which seems to be going awry and the
possibility of an election coming up. The question was this: Would you be able
to conduct a door-to-door enumeration in a province?
He went through a long list of things he would do first to access the
information. Then he said that under his general authority to act in the best
interests of getting the election done, he believed that he would have the
right to do an enumeration.
Mr. Courtney: That is very interesting. A fax arrived from Elections Canada
yesterday with information to the contrary. I am sorry that I cannot resolve
Senator Bryden: I do not want to put you in the position of having to react to
Mr. Courtney: The question remains whether it is possible to hold a general
door-to-door enumeration throughout the country.
Senator Bryden: If I understood the final answer from the Chief Electoral
Officer yesterday, it was that, all else failing, he would use that provision
in order to be able to do that. It is an omnibus power to get the job done.
Mr. Courtney: If that is his reading of it, and if there is this uncertainty
about what the provisions say, it may not be a bad idea to contemplate ensuring
that that is specifically and clearly understood. It is important to allow for
the possibility that you may have to have an enumeration. The instances to
which you referred, 1979 and 1992, are beautiful examples. I believe we said in
our study that this was a sensible way of doing the 1980 election. I have no
problem with that.
As long as you can capture that 15 or 20 per cent outstanding in a revision
period, you have no problem.
Senator Bryden: I do not want to appear to be arguing, but we were led to
believe that the technology is in place and that either agreements or letters
of intent are in place with the provinces which will allow Elections Canada to
maintain an 80-per-cent level at any time. I do not think they were lying to
us, but perhaps they are wrong or have misjudged. However, on the basis of what
they referred to as their technology and their experience from 1979 and 1993,
they are convinced that they will not go below the 80-per-cent factor and, if
they are correct on that, I think that the revision will pick it up.
Mr. Courtney: I do not challenge that. I accept that. I have no way of knowing
whether they are right or wrong, but it is important to remember that you are
talking about an 80-per-cent threshold which is pretty important to maintain.
Senator Bryden: With regard to whether it is cost effective, you cited some
numbers from British Columbia. You said there it cost $3.44 per voter to
maintain a register and that the federal cost, by using the enumeration list,
The numbers we heard yesterday were quite different. In fairness, I have
obtained some of the information from an interview that you gave to the
Saskatoon Star Phoenix on September 28, 1996. In that interview, you indicated
that the cost of doing a door-to-door enumeration under our present system was
$35 million. We were informed by Elections Canada yesterday that the cost is $60
million to $61 million. You also indicated that there is a dramatic cost saving
on a voter-to-voter basis by maintaining an up-to-date register as against an
I am questioning whether the information upon which you currently rely is as
current as it might be. For example, you say that in Australia they have a
bureaucracy of 800 people to keep their list up to date. We were informed by
Elections Canada that they will have 19 additional man-years and that it will
cost approximately $3 million to actually implement the list.
Am I correct in saying that the cost of the Australian system is due to a
door-to-door enumeration every two years?
Mr. Courtney: I go back to the general point I made in my comments. Relying on
any set of figures to estimate cost is a difficult exercise at best. The
enumeration costs which you quoted from the article in the Star Phoenix did not
include revision, which I think is separate. That may very well help to account
for that difference.
In the package which I believe Elections Canada prepared, there is an estimated
cost of $41 million for the forthcoming enumeration. I am not familiar with
this figure of $65 million, but I am certainly prepared to look at it.
There are several reasons for the very sizeable staff in Australia. Their
elections commission, unlike our Elections Canada office, performs a variety of
tasks, both federally and provincially. That is something I pointed out during
that interview but which did not make it into the newspaper, which I am sure is
not a new experience to you.
In Australia, the elections officials do carry out a door-to-door enumeration.
Part of their task is devolved on what we would call constituency associations.
We do not have a permanent staff at the local level. I have no reason to
question the figure of 19. This bears out the figure that Elections Canada gave
me for the estimated staff requirement, and I think that is a reasonable figure.
However, do not forget that they are also drawing on agreements with provinces,
so part of the cost has been off-loaded on to the provinces.
Senator Bryden: I do not know about "off-loaded". There may be a
mutual sharing of the load.
Mr. Courtney: That may very well be.
Senator Bryden: You gave a number in your interview, and if it is inaccurate you
can tell me. You are reported to have said that enumeration catches 97 per cent
of the electors. That is the first time I heard that number. The highest number
I had heard prior to that is 92 per cent. On what election did you base the 97
Mr. Courtney: Those are figures generated by Elections Canada. They appear in
the study to which reference has been made. The figure was 97.5 per cent, if I
am not mistaken. It would take me a few minutes to find it. It is a long
Senator Murray: Is that after the revision?
Mr. Courtney: Yes, that is true, enumeration and revision.
Senator Bryden: He left the enumeration out of his report, then.
Mr. Courtney: That is not the only thing he left out of his report.
Senator Bryden: The final question that I should like to ask regards the
position on the opting out. It is my understanding from Bill C-63 that there is
no question that the onus is on the state to register every elector and that
the opting out of the register is for the purpose of those people who wish to
preserve, for some reason, their privacy. I may have misinterpreted you, but I
received the impression that you would see tens of thousands of people doing
Mr. Courtney: Clause 6(2) is the one to which you are referring, namely, that
inclusion in the registry is at the option of the elector. That is correct. The
no-obligation clause is clause 16(4). There is also an expressly authorized
clause, which is 71.04.
If you put those in combination, it suggests to me that there may very well be
enough options available to an undetermined number of electors either not to be
included in the registry -- that is, not to have their name listed or included
in the registry because it is the option they may wish to exercise -- or in
some way not pass on information they deem is unnecessary and therefore do not
want that information passed on to the provinces.
This raises a question from the standpoint of the provinces about the utility of
lists that are generated with some of their questions that want addressed still
Senator Bryden: But you are not saying that an elector, for purposes of privacy,
should not be entitled to not have his name on the list.
Mr. Courtney: No, I am not saying that.
Senator Gigantès: As a dean in two universities, I found that the most
impossible people were historians, and I am one of them. The next most
impossible people were political scientists. They were quite divorced from
reality and were given to statements such as "relying on any set of figures
to make an estimate is difficult or impossible at best."
I hear what you say about the figures, but I wonder how I can trust the figures
you advance when you say that relying on any set of figures makes any estimate
Mr. Courtney: I agree. That is a fair comment. One always introduces the best
and most rigorous tests to examine the reliability of these figures. However,
in my view, there is good reason to hold back from saying that any of them are
totally authoritative, and those caveats were introduced in our own study.
Senator Gigantès: You are saying that all figures are unreliable and we
cannot rely on anything.
Mr. Courtney: I am not saying that. I am saying that there is good reason to
hold back from saying that these are totally reliable figures.
Senator Gigantès: Including yours?
Mr. Courtney: I have no reason to discount that. In fairness, we have done that.
This is certain data you can generate that has been produced by elections
officials at the federal and provincial levels and abroad which they are
willing to stand behind. If you accept those figures at face value, you can draw
comparisons from them.
Senator Gigantès: You said that we cannot accept any set of figures.
Mr. Courtney: I am referring to the projected figures that are included for cost
savings over the series of elections yet to come.
Senator Gigantès: That was not the context. You were talking about all
figures in general.
Mr. Courtney: The figures to which I referred specifically compared British
Columbia electoral costs and national electoral costs through enumeration.
Senator Murray: What is "national"? Do you mean "federal"?
Mr. Courtney: Yes. We are prepared to stand behind the figures that Elections
Canada and Elections B.C. provided and say that these are the authoritative
Senator Murray: Does that amount to $3.44 per elector in B.C.'s case?
Mr. Courtney: In the British Columbia election of 1989, if you factor in the
cost per electors, it was $3.44; in Canada as a whole in November 1988, it was
Senator Murray: Was this for an enumeration?
Mr. Courtney: It was an enumeration in Canada, but in British Columbia these are
These figures were presented to us by Elections Canada officials. If you accept
that they are prepared to accept these as reliable, we have no choice.
Senator Gigantès: But you said we should not base ourselves on any
figures. You cannot rely on any set of figures, especially if there are
Mr. Courtney: If I said that, that is not what I intended to say.
Senator Gigantès: You also gave a scenario of how someone in British
Columbia would be able to find out, despite a blackout, what is happening in
Nova Scotia. They can do it now without a blackout by phoning the cousin that
you mentioned in Nova Scotia who could give information concerning the results
in Nova Scotia before the blackout. After the blackout, it should be a little
more difficult because Nova Scotia will not yet have counted the ballots.
Mr. Courtney: If I understand it, the blackout is a broadcasting blackout that
applies until local polls have closed.
The Chair: That exists now.
Mr. Courtney: Yes, that exists now. Is Bill C-63 an amendment to the
The Chair: No.
Mr. Courtney: Presumably the same blackout provisions will apply. If I have done
my sums properly, the polls in Atlantic Canada -- and, in Newfoundland there is
a difference of half an hour -- will have closed two and one-half hours before
they close in British Columbia.
Senator Gigantès: Is that so?
The Chair: Yes, that is correct. With the current bill, the polls in Quebec and
Ontario will have closed approximately one-half hour before the polls in
Elections Canada confirmed yesterday that actual counting figures are not
available before that half hour. The people in British Columbia will not know
how those in Quebec and Ontario have voted. However, they will know how people
in Newfoundland and the other maritime provinces have voted if they have access
through the Internet or phone calls and so on. They will not get that
information on CBC's The National, but they will be able to access it via other
Senator Gigantès: The cousin in Ontario will not be able to tell the
cousin in British Columbia what the results are in Ontario before they start
coming out in British Columbia.
Mr. Courtney: That is right. You have half an hour. I think the example that I
used was Vancouver and Halifax, was not it?
Senator Gigantès: That is a slanted example because, as Senator Bryden
says with some bitterness -- mitigated bitterness -- British Columbia need not
worry about what happens in Atlantic Canada because British Columbia has more
seats than the Atlantic provinces and therefore it can swamp them. It is the
cousin in Ontario or Quebec who matters.
Senator Murray: That is not true. They have exactly the same number.
Senator Gigantès: B.C. has 34.
Senator Beaudoin: It is 32 in Atlantic Canada and 36 in B.C. under the new
Mr. Courtney: Irrespective, sir, of the number, the point still remains that
there is that time differential which I think speaks to the issue I was
raising, and that is treating voters differentially. The question that will be
before a court is not how many seats are in a province or in a district or in a
region but, rather, whether all electors are treated equally.
Senator Milne: Madam Chair, my question is supplementary to that. I do not quite
follow your reasoning on this possible charter challenge because more
information is available to John Doe in B.C. who phones his cousin Jane Doe in
Halifax. It seems to me that the real inequality is under the present system,
so the present system is more open to a charter challenge than would be this
Mr. Courtney: I could not agree more with you, but the bill before you does not
totally address the issue. It only partially addresses the issue.
Senator Milne: It does ameliorate it to a certain extent.
Mr. Courtney: Yes, but is that the consideration a court will bear in mind when
the it considers the differential treatment of voters in Newfoundland and
Senator Milne: It is interesting that it has not yet been challenged, then.
Senator Beaudoin: It will be.
The Chair: I think that there has been less accessibility, partly because of the
blackout. I must make a confession to the committee. I have usually lived
outside of Halifax, but all my family lives in Halifax, and I have always
called them an hour after the polls closed, no matter where I was in the
Senator Milne: That was my question, so you can strike me off the list, Madam
Senator Nolin: Did it influence your vote?
The Chair: Not on your life.
Senator Beaudoin: Since section 3 of the Charter of Rights begins with the
words, "Every citizen has the right to vote," I think there is an
obligation for Canada to have the system that is best for the electors, and I
am a little surprised that we are not paying more attention to that.
Your suggestion that the Chief Electoral Officer be able to call a door-to-door
enumeration makes a lot of sense. There is an emergency power given under
section 9 of the Canada Elections Act, which reads as follows:
Where, during the course of an election, it appears to the Chief Electoral
Officer that, by reason of any mistake, miscalculation, emergency or unusual or
unforeseen circumstances --
Although that is a very good section, it is not good enough, in my opinion.
Since it is our duty to have the best electoral system, and since every citizen
has the right to vote, we are in breach of the Charter every time someone is
not included. In the United States, the Supreme Court has said "one person,
one vote."In Canada, the Supreme Court has not said that. They say that we
should have an effective parliamentary system and that the electoral system
should comply with that.
That being said, I think it makes sense to give the Chief Electoral Officer the
express right to call for a door-to-door enumeration.
Mr. Courtney: The absence of an explicit provision in the bill seemed to me an
oversight, and I would urge consideration of including such a provision. I draw
my conclusion in part from the Australian experience and also from the option
available to Elections B.C. to call an enumeration should it be deemed
necessary. We frankly cannot sit in this room now and anticipate what the
likelihood will be, five or ten or fifteen years down the line, of having a
list that we will consider to be sufficiently inclusive of the population as a
whole, having captured 95 to 97 per cent.
Senator Murray: We do not have in front of us quite yet the testimony of Mr.
Kingsley when he dealt with this point yesterday afternoon. Senator Bryden has
referred to it, and I recall it. He was quite careful in how he explained what
his powers would be under this bill if it becomes an act.
Professor Courtney has received a fax from Elections Canada which he says may
go in the opposite direction. If he does not have a copy of the fax, we should
get it from Elections Canada and determine whether there is anything to be
reconciled between that written opinion and the testimony of Mr. Kingsley
The Chair: That is a good suggestion, Senator Murray.
Senator Murray: Do you have the fax with you?
Mr. Courtney: I do not. I phoned my office this morning. As a matter of fact, I
phoned from the Ottawa airport.
Senator Murray: We will get it from Elections Canada. Their people are here.
Mr. Courtney: I was informed that the interpretation I had given in my reading
of the bill was, in fact, correct.
Senator Oliver: Which was?
Mr. Courtney: Once this next enumeration is called, that is the final general
enumeration that is possible under this bill. I wanted to be sure of this, and
when I was in contact with Elections Canada I was told by one of their
officials that that is a correct interpretation.
Senator Beaudoin: I raise that question because when you read section 9 as it is
-- of course, the Supreme Court may interpret it in another way -- it appears
that it is in the nature of an emergency or unforeseen circumstances. If we
want a permanent list -- and I am in favour of a permanent list -- I think we
should give to the Chief Electoral Officer some powers that are expressly
stated. He cannot always rely on section 9 because it is a special section and
he may only use it at the time of the revision. I think he should have that
power right from the beginning.
Some people are surprised that we do not have many Charter cases with respect to
the right to vote. Staggering voting hours certainly is not against the Charter
if each province has the same number of hours allocated for voting.
The Chair: It is 12 hours everywhere.
Senator Beaudoin: I do not see a problem there.
Regarding the date of the vote, there is a big difference between Canada and the
United States. In the United States, it is right in the Constitution, but in
Canada it is only by convention. The only date noted in the Constitution is
that it shall not exceed five years. Because of the convention, the Prime
Minister can ask the Governor General to dissolve the assembly at any time. It
is a constitutional convention, but it is the basis of our system.
Mr. Courtney: I agree with your comments about the Charter. The question I
addressed was not how many hours are available locally or in a province to
vote. That is treated in the same way across the country and is not an issue.
The issue concerns what happens to the information that is gleaned and
transferred following the closing of the poll and the counting of the vote. I
mentioned the relative advantage of the voter in British Columbia vis-à-vis
the voter in Newfoundland.
Senator Beaudoin: You are discussing the level of the information.
Mr. Courtney: That is right.
Senator Pearson: The matter of staggered hours has always been a challenge and
an unfairness for Canadians. It is a problem only because one knows how many
party people are elected. After all, you are still voting for your local
representative and are not differentiated from anyone else in your province who
is also voting for their local member.
It has always been an issue because it raises what seems to be the germ of the
whole bill -- the challenge of the possible as opposed to the challenge of the
ideal. Politics is the art of the possible.
We certainly have heard explanations of the various scenarios by which one could
make this bill perfect, but the executions would be extremely imperfect on the
human level. It would make people work very late hours, et cetera. I feel
comfortable with this compromise.
With regard to the shorter versus longer campaigns, this is the same sort of
issue. Every campaign has its own history and its own set of unexpected
circumstances. People prepare their minds in terms of the time that they have
in front of them; they do not change midstream. One cannot compare a campaign
of "X" number of days to one which was "Y" number of days.
That is not a big problem.
I do not have the same experience as Senator Bryden and some others in electoral
campaigning, but I do have experience as a voter. I understand why this is
popular. People want shorter campaigns and less bother in terms of
registration. This is a response to a genuine change in the popular mind. Once
upon a time, long campaigns were probably the delight of one's year. That is no
longer the case.
The real issues behind a law like this are political. You are looking at it from
a somewhat different point of view.
Mr. Courtney: I am reminded that we have such long campaigns because this
country was built by railroad. It is that simple. Indeed, 125 years ago,
elections were not even held on the same day. Federal elections were held on
different days, different weeks, different months. If a candidate were defeated
in Halifax on one day, then he may be nominated in a riding in Ontario where the
election was held later.
Senator Prud'homme: That was very early on in Confederation.
Mr. Courtney: Of course, but I am saying that it was part of early history. I
urge caution in not selling the voter too short. Surveys and polls, such as
Lortie's, show nothing new; everyone favours shorter campaigns. However,
everyone favours lower income taxes, too. At the end of the day, you do not
want to sell the voters short.
Electronically, with the kinds of rapid communication and air transportation we
have, 36-day campaigns can be held. Britain has 21-day campaigns. Americans
have four-year campaigns.
Senator Pearson: Theirs are eternal.
Mr. Courtney: That is right.
Senator Murray: You referred to the British Columbia experience in 1986 when
there had been 200,000 transactions on voting day. Was 1986 the first year they
were working with their register? In any case, do you know why there was such a
large number of registrations at the polls?
Mr. Courtney: I would have to check to be absolutely certain. Perhaps the
subsequent witness, Mr. Neufeld, could address that. He is a former official
with Elections B.C.
My understanding is that the register in British Columbia then was not as tight
or well organized. Certainly it was electronically driven, as it is now. I
suspect it was a looser operation which failed to capture the necessary number
of people going into the revision period.
Senator Murray: We will explore that more with Mr. Neufeld.
I tend to share your scepticism about cost projections, especially when those
projections are six general elections away. It is one thing to talk about cost
savings to the federal treasury, but are we also talking in this exercise about
economies which are realized only if these lists are shared for elections and
other electoral events by the federal government, the provinces and, perhaps,
the municipalities, and that they are cost-shared. There must be one list
shared by at least two levels of government. The cost of doing the work is
You refer in your testimony to municipalities and the different demographic
information which is often required. Is it your conclusion that it is
impractical to think of using these lists at the third level of government,
being municipalities and school boards? Did you look into that when you were
doing your study?
Mr. Courtney: No, this was not factored into our study at all.
The information needed by municipalities and school boards about religion,
taxpayers and so on is not needed by more senior levels of government. My
general concern is that the more information accumulated at one level, the
greater the pressure that is put on the system.
Elections Canada would be selling a package to a province, municipality, or
school board as the case may be. Therefore, to give that utility the list that
it really needs, much more unnecessary information will need to be generated.
Senator Murray: Is that an argument in favour of the Lortie option in which the
lists would be generated from below?
Mr. Courtney: I believe the Lortie recommendation commends itself, yes.
Senator Murray: If you were advising the government, would your advice have been
to stick to the door-to-door enumeration?
Mr. Courtney: I find the argument compelling in terms of the completeness and
currency of the list, plus the fact that you have a reminder. The state comes
to your door three or four weeks before an election saying there is an
election. We know the list is being drawn up. We know from studies which have
been done that the closer the election the greater the salience of the Voting
Act and, therefore, the greater the likelihood that the individual will ensure
that his name is on that list.
Senator Murray: Is my interpretation of the Lortie report correct that they
believed that a door-to-door enumeration could be accommodated within a 40-day
Mr. Courtney: I believe that is right, yes.
Senator Murray: You are quite right about the door-to-door enumeration. Its
great advantage is that it gets 92 per cent or thereabouts, and then another 3
per cent or more of the population is caught in the revision.
When you were doing your study, did you consider the problems that everyone who
has been involved in these things has testified to regarding door-to-door
enumeration -- the difficulty parties and, consequently, Elections Canada have
in recruiting enumerators, as well as the problems enumerators face in some
areas of town? Every election brings back voter horror stories to the CEO in
Ottawa of enumerators who have found themselves in dicey situations. On the
other hand, there are people who do not want to answer the door, and so on.
The evidence generally has been that it is becoming more and more difficult to
organize and run a door-to-door operation across the country.
Mr. Courtney: Yes, we did consider that. I hesitate to refer to it once again,
but there is quite a long section in here outlining the problems of
enumeration. No system of voter registration or voter enumeration is perfect.
Our sense is that these problems have actually been around for much longer than
we realize. However, the public's awareness of those problems has been
heightened for a variety of reasons -- for example, electronics, the charter
driven challenges, and so on -- in the last 10 to 15 years. We are much more
aware of it.
On a quantifiable level, it averages out to a relatively small number of
complaints on a per riding basis across the country. My guess is that no system
will be perfect. Somehow, someone with the electoral registration system will
complain at the end of the day. You can only address so many problems.
Senator Prud'homme: I am not sure that I agree with Senator Beaudoin.
We have arrived at the point where we put the entire burden of finding electors
on the shoulders of the government. We are moving away from placing the burden
on the citizen to ensure that they are on the list.
I do not see how someone today, with the efforts being made by Elections Canada
to find them, could challenge them by saying, "According to the Charter, I
have a right of vote."
Having run for an election, I tell you that some people one week before the
election say, "Is there an election?" You would be surprised. You are
making great efforts in Ottawa. You return to your district on Friday,
exhausted, but you say a good member should be out in their district. You have
been agonizing for weeks with every problem in the country, and people look at
you and say,"Hi, how are you? Is Parliament sitting these days?" That
brings you back to reality.
Government is to be the facilitator, but there should be some responsibility on
the people for ensuring that they are on the list.
I was not sure about the inscription on the day of the election. They still have
a last shot by being taken in the street the morning of the election. The
morning of the election, you can find people in a restaurant and say, "You
did not vote, so come with me."
I suppose the bill will pass. I agree with Senator Pearson that a campaign
should be 36 days. For 33 years, I have heard that the reason for a permanent
list has been linked with the number of days. However, we never had a study on
whether we could successfully have an election within 36 days and have an
enumeration at the same time.
Are you of the opinion that we could have an election in 36 days with
Mr. Courtney: I am not of the opinion that it could be done in 36 days.
Senator Prud'homme: Is that because of the revisions of the list?
Mr. Courtney: That is right.
Senator Bryden: The data that is contained in your book on which you based your
conclusions was presented to the Lortie Commission five years ago; is that
Mr. Courtney: It was published in 1991. It was probably presented six years ago.
Senator Bryden: The publication date is July 1991. Was it presented to the
commission six months before that or one year before that?
Mr. Courtney: Yes.
Senator Bryden: Over what period would the information have been gathered?
Mr. Courtney: We go right back to Confederation.
Senator Bryden: When would you have stopped gathering information and started
Mr. Courtney: Probably in the summer of 1989, although that is not when we
stopped. I suspect it would have been the following summer. We have data in
there from as late as 1989. In terms of the data accumulation, my guess is that
we likely wrapped it up one year before it was published. However, that is just
from my recollection.
Senator Bryden: The data is probably seven years old, then.
Mr. Courtney: Yes.
Senator Bryden: In reply to Senator Murray, you indicated that there is
difficulty in door-to-door enumeration and there has always been trouble with
enumeration. However, you said that because of the way communications are now,
we are more aware of it.
With all due respect, I must disagree. Is it not the case that there is also a
higher level of violence in our urban centres? Would you not agree that there
is at least a higher level of awareness among the vulnerable, whether they be
single women or babysitters? Would you not agree that is significantly greater
now than it would have been seven years ago?
Mr. Courtney: Yes. My guess is that those social indicators to which you have
referred would have been greater seven years ago than they would have been the
seven years before that.
Senator Bryden: It is likely they will be greater seven years from now; is that
Mr. Courtney: We have always had problems with enumeration, including double
listing, the deceased, and so on. However, the nature of the problem has
Senator Bryden: Is it not the case that in the last seven years there have been
dramatic advances in technology, communications, and computerization systems
which are able to update data almost instantaneously?
Mr. Courtney: Absolutely. There is no question about that. However, at the same
time, one must exercise a degree of caution about the transfer of data sets
from one bureau or agency to another.
Senator Bryden: Is that a privacy concern?
Mr. Courtney: Yes, of course. This is the confidentiality to which I was
Senator Bryden: Are you aware of the section which provides that if you are
using Revenue Canada or Citizenship and Immigration information, that there be
no link between the computers? Information is physically handed from those
sources to Elections Canada.
Mr. Courtney: Yes, I am aware of that.
The point I make here is that we cannot rule out the possibility that some data
that should not be transferred will be transferred, whether it is hand
delivered or electronically delivered.
Senator Bryden: It is possible that a hacker could get into anything now.
Senator Murray: There is also the terrible breakdown of the whole computer
communications system at External Affairs, which, from what I have heard about
it, is enough to send you back to a quill pen.
Senator Bryden: The point was also made that door-to-door enumeration brings to
everyone's attention that an election is on. We heard evidence yesterday about
a survey done after the 1993 election. People were asked, "Was there an
enumeration?" They did not know whether one had been conducted or not.They
were asked, "Did an enumeration take place before the last election?"
They did not know the answer to that question either.
There was also evidence indicating that the card sent out in the mail which
tells people where to vote was just as valuable or even better than going
Mr. Courtney: I have no reason to dispute survey results of that nature. Indeed,
we confirm that in our own study. When some voters in some provinces are
enumerated for a provincial election, they think that entitles them to vote in
a federal election. I do not for a moment deny that this confusion can arise at
the level of the individual elector, and it should be a compelling reason for
generating one common list that would be used by all.
Senator Bryden: Yes. I take it that that is the end goal of this process.
Senator Beaudoin: Did you say that 36 days is not enough for door-to-door
enumeration but that 40 days is?
Mr. Courtney: I think Lortie recommended 40 or 41 days. I believe Senator Murray
is correct in saying that.
That is the sort of thing that would have to be addressed by Elections Canada. I
could not pretend to answer that question authoritatively.
The Chair: Thank you, Professor Courtney.
Before I invite our second witness, Mr. Harold Neufeld, to appear, I must tell
senators that I have done my best to obtain the information on the difficulty
we confronted yesterday about the use of the birth date. I was promised a
response by four o'clock this afternoon. I do not have it yet. I will share it
with you as soon as I receive it. I will fax it to your offices as soon as I get
it, if that is before 10:30 tomorrow morning when we reconvene. Needless to
say, your chair is not pleased.
Mr. Harold Neufeld is a consultant who has experience with the development of
the voters list in British Columbia.
Mr. Harold Neufeld, Consultant: Madam Chair, I am honoured to have been asked to
appear before you in your deliberations on Bill C-63. I have approximately 10
minutes of prepared commentary, after which I should be pleased to enter into a
discussion and try to answer any questions you might have.
As has been mentioned, I have been involved professionally with the
administration of elections and the development of electoral systems since
1982. My area of specialization is the management of information technology in
its application to electoral administration.
Some of you -- obviously the chair -- know that I was closely associated with
the computerization of the voter register in British Columbia in the early
1980s, as well as the computerization of the federal voters lists in the early
1990. In addition, I have worked on numerous missions with the UN and with
other international organizations, both in the area of building institutional
capacity for election administration and in helping election practitioners find
ways to successfully and cost effectively introduce the tools of automation.
I am sure most of the members of the committee have been extensively involved
with organizing and managing election campaigns. Both politicians and election
administrators know that elections are all about managing information. The
information collection needed to support modern election administration is
surely massive. Not only does it involve listing all the names and addresses of
registered voters and their assigned electoral districts and polling divisions
and polling stations, it must also include a dynamic range of data on
registered political parties, spending limits, nominated candidates, their
agents, polling sites, poll officials, voting results, and the names and party
affiliations of those who are officially elected.
Increasingly, the use of computers to manage this data has come to be regarded
as both sensible and cost effective. I believe that some of the major elements
of the electoral reform bill in front of you have become possible as a result
of increased capacities and reduced costs associated with using information
technology. When there are proper safeguards for maintaining personal privacy,
the use of this new technology is generally well accepted within Canadian
I am also of the opinion that an ability to quickly introduce the reforms
contained in the bill is possible to a large extent because Elections Canada
has become proficient at managing the use of the information management tools
it has acquired.
I believe the thrust of the electoral reforms contained in Bill C-63 are
appropriate steps on the evolutionary path electoral democracy is taking around
the globe. Members of this committee should anticipate that public and
political debate will, in my opinion, in the very near future likely move to
questions of further extending the use of technology into the voting process
At a conference of electoral management bodies from 15 nations which I attended
earlier this year, I was absolutely astonished to learn about the rate at which
electronic voting systems are developing. The Netherlands currently has half of
its population voting via electronic devices while the other half votes with
traditional paper ballots. Brazil recently introduced electronic voting machines
for one-quarter of its population. Switzerland is considering holding its
referendums via the Internet. The state of New Mexico recently had its citizens
vote using their telephones. The country of Costa Rica plans to have its next
election fully automated through the use of computers based in local schools.
It is interesting to note that the single common feature that was identified as
a precondition to implementing any of these electronic voting systems was the
existence of a digitized voter register.
I believe Canada is now ready to move to using a register of electors as the
basis for voter registration. Election Canada's cost analysis documents
indicate that creating and maintaining a register and then making the list
revisions that are necessary during an election will provide significant savings
in comparison to continuing to use an enumeration methodology.
This cost justification stands even if the register is used solely for federal
elections; however, if effective methods of partnership and data updates can be
arranged with provincial and territorial election authorities, the quality of
the register contents can be improved and, therefore, the cost of list revision
during election periods could be significantly reduced.
In 1990, I was involved, as was Dr. Courtney, in research work for the Royal
Commission on Electoral Reform on the topic of register feasibility. During the
study, it became evident that senior election administrators across the
country, from every jurisdictional level, were in fundamental agreement that a
shared register was necessary. Even six years ago there was a realization that
duplicating the efforts of collecting the same names and addresses at every
election and at every level of government was no longer a viable model for the
In 1991 and 1992, I was involved in managing a pilot project with the objective
of technically examining the conceptual feasibility of sharing a register
between three jurisdictional levels: federal, provincial, and municipal. Our
finding was that a technical solution was available. We developed a model
system to demonstrate that solution.
Within an appropriate framework which is made up of three concepts -- a
digitized base of geographic information, electronic maps, what Statistics
Canada calls the street network file; a correlation to residential addresses
where addresses are related to points on that electronic map and the electronic
map has the boundary lines of the jurisdictional units; and then a link from the
addresses to the individual names of duly registered voters -- we found that
that kind of construct of data base allowed each jurisdiction to pull out the
voters list that they needed and have the capability of generating other types
of reports they needed for election management.
The studies of the royal commission, the pilot projects that various electoral
agencies have commissioned, and the analysis and planning that Elections Canada
did prior to recommending the change to register methodology have been paid
careful attention by senior administrators across the country. If for no other
reason than simply to reduce their cost of voter registration and list
production, I am convinced that the formation of partnership arrangements to
share in the use and maintenance of a national register of electors will be
vigorously pursued by provincial and territorial electoral authorities if this
bill passes into law.
I am not convinced by arguments which suggest it is necessary to enumerate
door-to-door in order to advise citizens that an election is underway. In
British Columbia, a register has been used to produce preliminary voters lists
in elections since 1946, and voter turnout at B.C. provincial elections has
consistently been as high or higher than for federal elections.
As has been mentioned in your debates, the design of the proposed register of
electors is based on several years of extensive consultation with political
parties, the Privacy Commissioners' office, the Chief Electoral Officers of the
provinces and the territories, potential data suppliers, as well as the House
of Commons Standing Committee on Electoral Reform.
I am sure that Elections Canada has briefed you on the extensive research and
the detailed analysis that has gone into preparing their plan for implementing
the register. In all the years I have worked in this field, I have never seen a
project in electoral administration undergo such intense, detailed scrutiny
during the feasibility study and implementation planning phases.
I believe the register's final design to be an innovative one, balancing the
availability of valuable information from the data banks of existing
governmental organizations against the need to protect individual privacy. The
big challenges will be associated with the ongoing maintenance of the register
and managing the sophisticated processing infrastructure necessary for
continuously matching in excess of 20 million names against more than 11
However, the approach that has been proposed is based on a conscientious and
scientific analysis of currently available data, with a full informed
recognition of capacity constraints associated with storage and processing
technology. I am convinced that the technical and operational design for the
register is sound and can be made to work. The plans Elections Canada has
outlined for its full implementation are ambitious but entirely achievable.
I believe the privacy management issues that run throughout the proposed
construction, use, and maintenance of the register have been carefully thought
through. My experience with regard to the provision of electronic voters lists
to political parties and candidates does not indicate that this is an area
where abuse should be expected to be a problem.
For example, political parties in British Columbia have been provided regular
access to electronic copies of the data contained in the Elections British
Columbia voter register since 1984. To my knowledge, there has never been a
complaint about any misuse of this data, nor am I aware of any complaints about
misuse of the federal electronic voters lists that were made available to
political parties following the 1992 referendum and to parties and candidates
during the 1993 general election.
It is my belief that the approach to holding the final door-to-door enumeration
outside of the election cycle itself will permit a better quality of data
collection to occur. The careful collection of the full name and date of birth
for every qualified person who wishes to be a voter is absolutely critical to
the long-term success of the register. The abbreviated time-frame for
undertaking such a data collection within the election cycle would not permit
the same level of quality to be obtained in comparison to a carefully planned,
fully scheduled, and well communicated enumeration campaign.
In addition, having the enumeration campaign outside of the election would
permit Elections Canada to hire the best qualified part-time workers, many of
whom become unavailable during election cycles because of their involvement
with election campaign activities.
I read with interest the debate you had over the necessity of requiring people
to give their age in order to be registered. I submit that in order to be
effective in matching data from multiple sources, this one piece of unambiguous
numerical information is absolutely critical to the success of the register. I
would urge you to resist any temptation to remove it as a minimal requirement
The use of data from the Alberta and Prince Edward Island provincial voters
lists which have recently been compiled is an effective way of reducing the
costs of creating the base data for the register. However, extra effort in
revision of the lists in these two provinces will undoubtedly be necessary at
the next election. Given the considerable streamlining of the administrative
procedures proposed in Bill C-63 for list revision, I suspect that the
additional five months of ageing this data will have undergone can be
efficiently and properly addressed.
In summation, I consider the bill to represent an appropriate and timely
evolutionary step in the development of our Canadian electrical system. If the
changes it contains become law, I believe there is significant potential to
reduce election administrative costs for Canadian taxpayers over time, even
beyond the savings indicated by Elections Canada.
In British Columbia, there is indeed the possibility that an enumeration could
be launched in 1999, which will be three years following the most current
election. I spoke with the Chief Electoral Officer on Friday afternoon prior to
his leaving for a conference and asked if he had any desire to go back to doing
enumerations. As you may know, the call in British Columbia was, "no more
door-to-door in 1994," which was the year they eliminated enumerations and
moved to using the provincial driver's licence files as the update source.
Bob Patterson, the Chief Electoral Officer of British Columbia, is not convinced
that that one file is adequate. He is interested in seeing a partnership
arrangement with Elections Canada so that the multiple data sources Elections
Canada has envisioned will become available to update the British Columbia
register. The cost of doing an enumeration in British Columbia under their laws
is $8 million for approximately 2 million people, and he does not want to spend
that. He thinks he can spend a very small fraction of that on technology and
the right kinds of vendors to put the data and the processes together.
I am open to any questions you may have, senators.
Senator Murray: Let me ask a question about the British Columbia situation. As
of now, the law provides that there will be a door-to-door enumeration in the
third year following a general election.
Mr. Neufeld: No, that is not exactly true. The way the law is constructed, it is
possible that there will be an enumeration if the Chief Electoral Officer
Senator Murray: He has not yet dispensed with one.
Mr. Neufeld: No. Unless he finds some other data sources for his maintenance, he
will likely be forced to go into an enumeration. The cost of doing that is so
prohibitive now that he would really rather see other ways of doing it. The new
Election Act, which was introduced in the summer of 1995, provides him with
quite wide-ranging powers to pursue other data sources.
Senator Murray: He has quite an overhead. Professor Courtney offered the figure
of $3.34 per elector in the British Columbia system. I should have asked
whether that refers simply to the cost of the enumeration.
Mr. Neufeld: I am quite familiar with that figure because I remember being in
charge of coming up with a cost estimate.
I was in charge of registration for British Columbia at the time. At that time,
the law required us to do an enumeration three years following each election as
well as to maintain the register of electors on an ongoing basis. We had both
the enumerations costs and the registry maintenance costs.
Senator Murray: What have you done away with?
These notes are prepared by the research people at the parliamentary library.
They tell us about the door-to-door enumeration in the third year following a
general election. They go on to say that at other times voters are responsible
for updating the information on the list, with applications being processed in
60 government access offices located across the province and then forwarded to
six regional offices. There is also other government information in data banks
reviewed after each election.
Are the 60 government access offices and the six regional offices of this peace
time operation still in place?
Mr. Neufeld: Basically, this is what I call a case of paving the cow paths.
From 1946 until 1981, they had a manual system based on actually embossing
plates and unloading these plates into addressograph machines.
Senator Murray: Some of us are old enough to remember the addressograph machine.
Mr. Neufeld: I trained many people who were good on those machines. After a few
months, they thought computers were better as tools of efficiency.
As happened with all kinds of computerization projects in that era, they simply
considered the manual process and asked, "How can we use computer
technology to do this with computers instead of by mechanical means?"
The approach Elections Canada took -- and I take my hat off to them -- was to
rethink the whole process. They did not use existing models and simply continue
Yes, in British Columbia there are still 61 government agents who do a
multiplicity of things. Every one of them wears a cap as a registrar voter or a
deputy registrar voter. They are very active when there are elections and at
various other times when there are registration campaigns of one sort or
In addition to that, there are six regional offices where they have computer
terminals. The physical files are contained in boxes, poll by poll, in
alphabetical order. There is a huge overhead associated with that. Many of the
same processes have existed since 1946. The computerization has only taken it
forward to a certain extent.
With the new act in 1995, the chief electoral officer has some leeway to
introduce different methodologies to maintain that list. He is under pressure
to bring down the costs. The costs of voter registration in British Columbia,
because of that system, are higher than the costs anywhere else in the country.
The cost of maintaining that system is approximately a dollar a voter per year.
It is too high. He recognizes it is too high. The politicians who put the new
Election Act together recognize it is too high.
The recommendation that the Lortie Commission made about provinces running their
own registers and, at the federal level, taking that data from the bottom up
has faltered because the only model to look at was British Columbia. People saw
the costs and said, "This is outrageous. We cannot possibly suggest that
we replace what we have with something that costs two or three times as much."
Senator Murray: It says here that the cost of B.C.'s voter register is high but
is partially offset by the fact that municipalities purchase the provincial
lists rather than conducting their own enumeration.
How is that done? How do they purchase the provincial lists?
Mr. Neufeld: It is a bit of a misnomer to say that they purchase them. I was
involved in the negotiations where we set that up with municipalities through
the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. The UCBM is the umbrella
organization of all the municipalities which are members. We went through a
process where we recovered our costs, the costs of the analysts, the
technicians and the clerks doing the work of saying that these polling divisions
are within this municipality. We will take a cut of that off the data base and
put it to tape in the format the municipality wants. We will then courier that,
with security around it, and we will create an invoice just to recover those
For example, the cost for Surrey, with almost 700,000 voters, was $500. That was
simply a recovery cost because this is not the kind of work for which Elections
B.C. normally budgets.
Senator Murray: When there is a municipal election in Surrey, do they simply use
that part of the provincial voter list which is applicable to them?
Mr. Neufeld: That is correct.
Senator Murray: I am sure that this can be done, and I want you to tell me that
it is being done. You control for people who are eligible to vote in a
provincial election but not eligible to vote in a municipal or school board
election, there being perhaps a property, residence or religion qualification.
Are all these controlled through your computerized list? Are there school board
elections in Surrey, for example?
Mr. Neufeld: School board elections would be run by the municipality as part of
its elections. We do not have private schools/Catholic schools/public schools
issues in British Columbia to a great extent.
The real issue was not a technical solution to this; it was a blending of the
legal requirements. The municipal law was changed, and there was suddenly a
requirement in the mid-1980s that the municipal lists could no longer have
British subjects on them. This had happened in 1981 for the provincial list.
Therefore, the provincial list already required that you had to be a Canadian
citizen, you had to have lived in British Columbia for six months, you had be
18 years old, and so on. There was, in the law, a blending of the requirements.
The issue of property ownership is special. The municipalities have dealt with
that by saying that if you live in Ottawa or Vancouver and you own a piece of
property in Surrey, you have a right to vote in Surrey because of your
property-owner status. However, because you are not a resident of Surrey, you
are not automatically on this list, so a separate list is created.
Senator Murray: What about the people who live in Surrey and are eligible to
vote in the provincial election but are not eligible to vote because of the
property qualification, or some other reason, in the municipal election? When
you hand that list over to the city of Surrey, is there such control in your
system that those people are removed from the list and Surrey gets a clean list
of all the people who are eligible to vote in the municipal election?
Mr. Neufeld: The property qualification has been taken out from all municipal
elections in British Columbia. You do not have to own property in order to vote
in a municipal election.
Senator Murray: There is no difference in qualification. You do not have to
control for anything.
Mr. Neufeld: You are right. The base requirements are identical.
Senator Murray: On base requirements, there is no difference. If I am 18 years
of age and a resident of Surrey, regardless of whether I own property or what
my religion is, I can vote in a municipal or school board election there. Is
Mr. Neufeld: Yes, provided you have lived there for 6 months.
Senator Murray: I can also vote in a provincial election, can I not?
Mr. Neufeld: That is right.
Senator Murray: Therefore, the list is exactly the same. You need control only
Mr. Neufeld: The non-resident property owners.
Senator Murray: You cannot do that from your voters list. All you need do is
give the municipality of Surrey the names of those voters in the federal
constituency of Surrey--White Rock--Cloverdale who are within the municipal
boundary. That is very simple.
The more difficult case is the one I am getting at. There are people who may be
eligible to vote in the provincial and the federal election but not in the
municipal election. I am sure that the technology is such that it can control
for those matters, but you have told us that you developed a
federal-provincial-municipal model. You explained the digitalized base,
electronic maps, correlation to residential address and links from the
addresses to the names. Each jurisdiction then pulls out the voters lists they
I take it that there is a difference in qualification in this model that you
developed. The model must have some relevance to some place on earth, does it
Mr. Neufeld: To Vancouver Island; both rural and urban ridings.
Senator Murray: If the model controlled for or accounted for differences in
qualification, I would have asked you where you start. Do you start with a
provincial list, or is it better to have a national list for which the federal
government alone is responsible?
Mr. Neufeld: It does not make any difference who does the initial registration,
provided that you collect the same compatible data.
The critical one for those three jurisdictions -- and this was a requirement
both provincially and municipally, but not federally -- was the date of
registration. We had to be able to eliminate all those who had not already been
resident for six months. The only way we could consistently do that is by
saying that six months after the date of registration everyone who is on the
list meets the qualifications for municipal and provincial.
Senator Murray: However, they are eligible from day one in terms of Canada, are
Mr. Neufeld: That is right. If we had caught them in a federal enumeration, we
would know that in six months they would be qualified for a provincial or
municipal election. In that interim period, we are not sure.
Senator Murray: In the province of Quebec or Ontario, for example, the greatest
number of people eligible to vote is the number that are eligible to vote in a
federal election. To the extent that there may be a residential qualification
which disqualifies some people, there is arguably a smaller number eligible to
vote in a provincial election.
Senator Milne: I believe it is not federal but municipal.
The Chair: There are residence requirements in provinces which do not exist at
the federal level.
Senator Murray: Are there still property qualifications in some provinces?
The Chair: I would be surprised if there are because there have been court cases
Senator Milne: I do not believe that there are residence requirements in
Ontario. Also, you need not be a citizen to vote in municipal or school board
Senator Murray: You do need to be a citizen to vote in a federal election. There
is a residence qualification of six months in Quebec.
I wish to press you a little on the question of the savings. You agree, of
course, that the great economy that can be effected here is if there is one
list shared at elections by the three levels of government, and cost shared by
Mr. Neufeld: Even in the case where there are duplicate systems, which for the
present I think will be the case in British Columbia, they have requirements
quite in excess of the federal requirements.
You may know that in British Columbia they have introduced initiative and recall
legislation. For that reason, there are petition requirements and so on. They
must have the signature of every voter recorded. They have quite a few demands
beyond what is needed federally. Nonetheless, even some initial analysis would
show that there are millions of dollars to be saved in both directions.
Senator Murray: With regard to your statement about cost savings even if the
permanent register solely applies to federal elections, I must ask you whether
you have done your own independent analysis on this matter, whether it is just
an educated guess, or whether your instinct is telling you that that would be
the result. If it is just the federal list or register that is involved here,
what independent analysis have you had done on the cost savings for that?
Mr. Neufeld: I am not sure that it would qualify as independent analysis because
I was retained by Elections Canada to help them with parts of the very
elaborate cost models they have used to create these scenarios of saving.
I found that they were consistently erring on the side of caution. Where they
could not be sure, they would put in what I thought were generous contingency
figures. Many of their figures were based on extremely careful research that
they did during the summer of 1995.
Senator Murray: This concerns an obvious saving from not having done a
door-to-door enumeration. Do you believe that they have factored in properly
all the potential costs of keeping the register up-to-date, including the cost
of whatever operation will be required on a permanent basis, as distinct from
the operation that we pay for every four years or so? Have you looked at that
and are you satisfied that, even allowing for a considerable permanent,
year-round operation here, there are significant savings?
I will put it another way. You have seen the numbers that Elections Canada has
put forward in the briefings they have given to parliamentary committees. Do
you endorse those numbers?
Mr. Neufeld: I do. As orders of magnitude, they are as accurate as could be made
with human effort at this point.
I do not doubt that some numbers will come in lower and some numbers will come
in higher. The technology, for example, is a bit of a moving target. Things
that were being predicted when these cost models were being put together a year
ago are, in some cases, much less expensive now.
On the other hand, some of the privacy issues and opt-out clerical processing
that will be involved have higher figures. I know that Elections Canada has
been involved in adjusting their cost models throughout the period of the
evolution of this bill, but from what I saw, yes, I would say that they were
very professional and the figures are likely accurate.
The Chair: From my understanding of what is happening here, the federal
government prepares a list. They may then give, lend, or sell that list to a
province or municipality; that is to be worked out in the future. However, we
do not want to overexaggerate. At another level, that list, in and of itself,
will not be the ultimate. They will have to do additional work on that list. Is
that your reading of it as well?
Mr. Neufeld: I will speak of the ideal world. Let us say a province, for example
Manitoba, is about to have a provincial election. They have that data from the
register translated into their geographic units and they do a conscientious
list revision during their election and then pass that back to the federal
register, thereby adding value to the quality of the data that is contained in
the register and, at the same time, saving tremendous amounts of dollars by not
having to go out and do a door-to-door enumeration.
Senator Nolin: Do you recall the annual cost of maintaining the federal
Mr. Neufeld: There has been no annual maintenance of the federal list.
Senator Nolin: What about the future cost? You have referred to extensive
calculations and model testing. Do you recall that number?
Mr. Neufeld: I would not want to be quoted on having the exact figure. We do
have our colleagues from Elections Canada here.
Senator Nolin: We want to hear from you. You have mentioned that your cost is $1
per year. If I were to tell you that they told us yesterday it was 25 cents a
year, what would your reaction be?
Mr. Neufeld: I would say that they may even be able to do it cheaper than that.
Senator Nolin: Cheaper than 25 cents a year? Why does yours cost $1 and theirs
Mr. Neufeld: Because we paved the cowpaths in British Columbia. We did not
redesign and re-engineer. We did not start out working with existing data on
which millions of dollars had already been spent. We started out with a
mechanical method, having decided that we would put some automation on it. It
is not something that I would recommend.
Senator Nolin: That is $3. A few minutes ago, you said, "It will cost us $1
a year to maintain it electronically."
Mr. Neufeld: In British Columbia, it costs $1 a year now. In British Columbia,
the Chief Electoral Officer desperately wants to move it in the other
Senator Nolin: You referred to $3 earlier. What was that cost? Was that to do it
Mr. Neufeld: Professor Courtney quoted approximately $3 to do it in British
Senator Nolin: I thought Senator Murray asked you about the $3.
Senator Murray: He said that he was involved in coming up with that figure.
Mr. Neufeld: In the mid 1980s, the figure was something in the order of $3.50 in
order to register the voters for one particular election.
Senator Moore: It was $3.44.
Mr. Neufeld: That included all the costs associated with registration from the
end of one election to the end of another, including the enumeration and the
Senator Nolin: When you were referring to $1, it was the actual costs, including
electronic and manual maintenance of the list?
Mr. Neufeld: That is right.
Senator Nolin: The Chief Electoral Officer in B.C. intends to reduce that.
Mr. Neufeld: Significantly.
Senator Nolin: Is that the 25 cents that we heard about yesterday a reasonable
cost per year?
Mr. Neufeld: That would be in the ballpark of what I would expect.
Senator Nolin: Perhaps you are not the perfect witness to give me this answer,
but I will ask the question anyway. In the discussions between Elections Canada
and B.C., do you know if there were discussions on the cost of the exchange of
information between the two jurisdictions?
Mr. Neufeld: That is an interesting question.
The British Columbia Chief Electoral Officer has agreed to provide, at no cost
to Elections Canada, all his data.
Senator Nolin: Is that a situation by which you do not pay now but you do pay
after the relationship has been established?
Mr. Neufeld: I think there is value in the data from British Columbia, and there
would be value coming back from the data federally held. If they can establish
a relationship where it is exchanged, I think the taxpayers are ahead.
Senator Bryden: I wish to cover this because it took me a while to understand
it. In our discussions, I believe there is a great deal of confusion in using
the words "election lists." There are a number of them.
The register of electors is the preliminary list of electors, and it has all of
the information. There is then the preliminary list of electors which goes to
the candidates and political parties and which does not contain gender or age
information. The third list is the revised list of electors arrived at from
revising, during the writ, that which would normally be the preliminary list.
Then fourth list is prepared three days before and is the official list of
electors. The final list of electors is prepared as soon as possible after
polling day, and it catches the few people who come in and register and vote but
who are not on the list.
I find it useful to keep those terms clear. We ask many questions about the
register of electors when we really mean the preliminary list of electors.
Senator Murray: This is very helpful. To what use is the final list put?
Senator Pearson: It is used for the next time.
Senator Bryden: It should be the foundation.
Senator Murray: I have the right to register and vote if my name is not on any
list. I also have the right not to be on any list. Surely they do not put me on
the list just because I voted and then keep it for the next time.
Senator Bryden: The Chief Electoral Officer communicates with people who are on
the final list but who are not on the previous lists and asks whether they want
to be on the register. If they say yes, they go on. If they do not answer, he
does not put them on.
Senator Murray: He takes them off.
Senator Beaudoin: What happens if they refuse?
The Chair: They can do then in the next election what they did in the past
election. They can take their pieces of identification and vote at the poll.
Thank you, Senator Bryden.
Thank you, Mr. Neufeld. It has been useful.
Senators, I still have not received the ruling. I am given to understand it will
read something like this: When an enumerator knocks on your door, it will be
compulsory for them to ask for the birth date. That is a piece of information
they will seek. It will not be a piece of information, however, that you cannot
refuse to give. You may say, "No, I do not wish to give my birth date."
Senator Murray: We have Mr. Neufeld at the table. He insisted on this point, and
none of us raised it with him.
How big a problem is it that this information is optional and not obligatory? In
the overall scheme, is that a problem?
Mr. Neufeld: The birth date is the only hook for linking two data sets. John
Smith who lives in Ottawa at this address is the same John Smith who now lives
in Montreal at this address.
Senator Murray: Why do you need to know that?
Mr. Neufeld: The big thing in maintaining the register will be tracking
Senator Murray: If John Smith moves, Revenue Canada would have that, and so
would the driver's license register. If I moved here from Montreal and went
down to the motor vehicle branch to try to get a licence, they would need to
know whether I now have a license and at what address. They must have such
Mr. Neufeld: You are correct if both the previous address and the current
address are provided on the data file.
Senator Murray: That is certainly the case with your income tax. We all know
Mr. Neufeld: It is not necessarily the case with driver's license files because
they do not keep that kind of audit trail in all cases.
Senator Murray: Is that the main reason you think the age information is vital?
Mr. Neufeld: It is the data hook for correlating data sets. You need one hook
which is always reliable.
Senator Murray: How big a problem is it? You have looked at this thing. You are
a consultant on the technological side. Elections Canada have not flagged it as
a terribly serious problem. Obviously, they have accepted the fact that the
politicians in the House of Commons have decided not to insist on date of
Mr. Girard is here to speak to that.
The Chair: Yes, please come to the table.
Mr. Jacques Girard, Director, Legal Services, Elections Canada: With your
permission, I would like to relate to you the sequence of events. As we
indicated, we drafted the bill in consultation with the Privacy Commissioner.
Initially, he expressed a number of reservations and therefore, when the bill
came before the government, no mention was made of the date of birth. I believe
the matter was first raised by Mr. Côté, who will be here
tomorrow. Mr. Côté felt, as Mr. Neufeld did, that it would
complicate matters for Elections Canada if no mention were made of the date of
birth. This led to an amendment on third reading making disclosure of the birth
date mandatory. That is how events unfolded.
Senator Murray: Nevertheless, this will complicate matters for you.
Mr. Girard: In fact, the opposite is true because the date of birth will be
Senator Murray: It will be mandatory --
Mr. Girard: Now it will be. Senator Beaudoin will agree with me that the right
to vote is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Charter. Could we in good
conscience deny the right to vote to a person who refuses to disclose his date
of birth for a personal reason which does not concern us? I do not believe we
After discussing the matter with the parties in the House, we concluded that
disclosure would be a mandatory requirement, but that common sense would
prevail and flexibility would be exercised in as much as this information could
be obtained from other sources. This will enable us to match data, which is
ultimately the sole purpose of this exercise. The date of birth will not appear
on the voting lists. Furthermore, we can look at what happened in Quebec.
Yesterday, I told you that very few people in that province had refused to
disclose their date of birth. I checked the recent enumeration data used to
compile the list of electors in Quebec and found that only .0019 per cent of
voters had voiced some concerns and refused to disclose their birth date. We
are talking about a very small number of people.
This legislation will make disclosure mandatory, but our enumerators will be
instructed to comply with the Charter and with the other provision of the
Elections Act which states that a person must be 18 years of age and a Canadian
citizen to be eligible to vote in Canada. This provision does not say that a
person must disclose his date of birth.
Senator Murray: If a person whose name does not appear on the voters' list comes
down to the polling station on election day, is he required to disclose his
date of birth in order to vote?
Mr. Girard: We have not covered every possibility, but I think the same logic
would apply. Currently, in order to cast a vote, a person must prove that he is
18 years of age and a Canadian citizen. He is required to provide a document
listing his address to ensure that he is at the right polling station. I
believe this will continue to be the procedure followed. Basically, that is the
information contained in the letter.
Senator Murray: It will be in the letter.
Mr. Girard: Yes, along with your reservation concerning missionaries.
Senator Murray: Missionaries pray for all of us, now and forever.
Senator Beaudoin: We always hear the word "privacy" mentioned, but has
there ever been a case where someone has been permitted not to disclose his
date of birth when it comes to voting? I am not aware of any such cases.
We joke about it, but has the court every ruled on this matter?
Mr. Girard: No, because disclosure was not and still is not mandatory. The issue
has never been examined by the court.
Senator Beaudoin: You know that the person is 18 years of age?
Mr. Girard: As a rule, the enumerator asks three questions.
First, "Are you a Canadian citizen?" Second, "Are you 18 years of
age?" Third, "Is this where you ordinarily reside?" That
person's name is then put on the voters list. The voter verbally confirms that
he is 18 years of age or older, and is thus entitled by law to vote. The
enumerator does not ask the person's age.
Senator Nolin: I would just like to clarify something. You stated that in
Quebec, .0019 per cent, or 95 people, refused to disclose their age. There are
five million voters in Quebec.
Mr. Girard: That was the figure I was given this morning. I have not done the
calculation. Again, I may be wrong and have one too many zeros. Mr. Côté
will be here tomorrow and he can confirm the exact figure for you.
Senator Nolin: In any event, not too many people had a problem with this. There
are five million voters in the province.
Senator Beaudoin: Yes, and .0019 per cent represents how many? Is it 95?
Senator Nolin: That is what I calculated.
Mr. Girard: I thought the total number province wide was 9,000 out of 5,600,000
Senator Nolin: We will do our calculations this evening. Since you raised the
matter in the course of your discussions with the Privacy Commissioner, you
know that there are still some problems with the bill. Is that not correct?
Among other things, is there not a problem with the possibility of your selling
this list? Are you aware of this problem?
Mr. Girard: Yes, I am aware of it.
Senator Nolin: Would you care to comment?
Mr. Girard: The Privacy Commissioner was referring to a provision which states
that the chief electoral officer may require valuable consideration to be
provided in exchange for the information given.
I can understand his concerns, but as we have already explained, this provision
has been in the current legislation for several years. The words "valuable
consideration" mean "cost recovery", as Mr. Neufeld explained.
We have already entered into similar arrangements with the municipalities.
Obviously, we are not about to sell our lists to the highest bidder. The
government clearly did not share our concern since it did not amend the bill.
Senator Beaudoin: Personally, I am satisfied since the Constitution states that
each citizen has the right to vote. The Elections Act states that a person must
be a Canadian citizen and be 18 years of age or older to vote. You claim to be
freely interpreting the legislation. If a person says: "I am a Canadian
citizen, I am over 18 years of age and I have resided here for six months",
then I think that is sufficient. However, the privacy principle does not exist
than. I have not seen a case involving this.
Mr. Girard: You are correct. I may not be ideally placed to defend the
commissioner, but it is in keeping with the general spirit of the Privacy Act
for us to ask about what is fundamentally required to implement a program. Is
it really necessary to know a person's age? This information can be quite
useful. Mr. Neufeld talked about this and that is why is has been made a
mandatory requirement for the purposes of the bill. The Commissioner reached
the same conclusion, stating that if the legislation demands that a person be
18 years old or older, then the privacy issue is somewhat resolved by
requesting that person's date of birth. That settles the problem.
Senator Beaudoin: I see.
Mr. Girard: As our discussions have progressed, so too have our positions
evolved. This is the reason why he did not raise this matter in his
presentation to the committee.
Senator Nolin: The cost issue was raised, as well as the question of protecting
information. The latter in particular concerns me.
Senator Beaudoin: I have a general concern. How far can a person go in refusing
to disclose his date of birth if the person requesting the information is
entitled in some respects to have this information?
Mr. Girard: For the purposes of --
The Chair: We have now received a more detailed explanation.
Mr. Girard: I would like to draw an analogy. For the past 40 or 50 years, in
compliance with the legislation, enumerators have asked three questions. In
addition, they have asked the person's sex. Often in the past, women living
alone especially have not wanted the voters list to reflect their situation,
that is the fact that they are women living alone. This information did not
appear, therefore, in the enumeration record. However, there was no question of
denying that person the right to vote because of this concern. I am merely
drawing an analogy because the same kind of reasoning applies somewhat when it
comes to the birth date.
Senator Murray: With regard to the first part of this letter --
Senator Bryden: I hate to complain; however, I should like to look at the letter
The Chair: We are making copies and, unfortunately, my assistant did not bring
enough of them here.
Senator Murray: I was about to defer to Senator Bryden and other experienced
legal practitioners; however, on eye-balling the first part of this letter
which refers to our friends the missionaries who had been disenfranchised, my
layman's view is that it is excellent and suits our purposes admirably.
Senator Nolin: That is why I gave him my copy.
Senator Murray: Herb Gray, Jan Brown, and I will be rewarded, if not in this
world then the next.
Senator Bryden and others who have professional qualifications in this field
might want to look at it.
The Chair: We should review the letter overnight. If there are any further
questions, we can address them at our meeting tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.
I am not the pope; however, I will give plenary indulgences to many people for
having been able to clarify this matter.
Senator Bryden: On a quick scan, I find myself in agreement with Senator Murray
on the first part.
I am glad to have someone from Elections Canada here as well. As I understand
it, it is mandatory for the person asking the questions, the enumerator, to ask
for the person's date of birth; is that correct?
Mr. Girard: That is correct, yes.
Senator Bryden: However, it is not mandatory for that person to give the date of
Mr. Girard: That is the way we will apply it. You are correct.
Senator Bryden: However, that person still goes on the list?
Mr. Girard: Yes.
Senator Bryden: Which list is that?
Mr. Girard: The register from which the lists are produced.
Senator Bryden: A person may not provide the date of birth or may not want their
sex referred to on the list.
If a person provides all the information, however, they are on the register; if
then, for whatever reason, they decide they do not want their personal
information provided on this, they can apply to their chief electoral officer
to have information removed. He deletes that, but he does not delete that
person from the register.
Mr. Girard: That is correct.
The Chair: If there are no other questions, the committee will adjourn.