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Subjects: CPN, CFG

Minister LeBlanc introduces legislation to further strengthen Canada's electoral process

OTTAWA, ON, March 20, 2024 /CNW/ - Today, the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs, introduced amendments to the Canada Elections Act (CEA) to enhance citizens' participation and trust in Canada's electoral process.

The amendments brought forward in Bill C-65, the Act to Amend the Elections Act build on the Government of Canada's work to remove barriers to voting and encourage voter participation, better protect personal information, and further strengthen electoral protection measures, including against foreign interference.

The Bill seeks to enhance voter participation, including by:

Safe and secure elections are essential to voter engagement and trust. The integrity of the electoral process will also be enhanced by changes to the CEA to help counter disinformation, the misuse of technologies, and foreign interference, including:

The Government of Canada is also taking further steps to better ensure that Canadians can confidently engage in the electoral process knowing that their personal information is protected. Bill C-65 proposes new privacy policy requirements for federal political parties, and those acting on their behalf, including physical, organizational and technological safeguards, new disclosure requirements in the event of a breach, and enforcement measures under the administrative monetary penalties regime of the CEA.

The Government of Canada is committed to strengthening and protecting our democratic institutions. The amendments to the CEA have been informed by recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer and the Commissioner of Canada Elections following the 2019 and 2021 general elections, commitments outlined in the Supply and Confidence Agreement, as well as the evolving global and domestic context.

Canada's democracy is among the strongest and most stable in the world. Regular review of and updates to the CEA help ensure that the fundamental legislative framework that regulates Canada's electoral process continues to keep pace with the realities and challenges facing Canadian democracy.


"Canada has one of the strongest, most resilient democracies in the world. By making it easier for Canadians to vote and further cracking down on money from unknown or foreign sources, we are further strengthening it. Our government believes that a strong democracy begins with enabling all Canadians to freely exercise their fundamental right to choose their representatives ? and we'll always be there to defend that right."

?The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs

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Proposed amendments to the Canada Elections Act

In Canada, the strength and resilience of our democracy is enhanced by a long tradition of regular evaluation and improvements to the Canada Elections Act (CEA). The CEA is the fundamental legislative framework that regulates Canada's electoral process. It is independently administered by the Chief Electoral Officer and Elections Canada, with compliance and enforcement by the Commissioner of Canada Elections. The CEA is renowned for trailblazing political financing rules, strict spending limits, and robust reporting requirements intended to further transparency, fairness, and participation in Canada's federal elections.

Recent experiences and lessons from the 2019 and 2021 general elections highlighted opportunities to further remove barriers to voting and encourage voter participation, protect personal information, and strengthen electoral safeguards. The amendments to the CEA would advance these key priorities, reinforcing trust in federal elections, its participants, and its results.

Encouraging participation in the electoral process

A broad suite of measures in the amendments would foster greater participation in federal elections. They include: 

Two additional days of advance polls

Since at least 2000, voting at advance polls has increased in every general election. In response, and to give voters more choice and flexibility, there would be two additional days of advance polls. This would give electors a total of seven days to vote in person going forward: six advance days and election day. 

Easier to vote by mail (special ballot)

More and more Canadians are choosing to vote by mail (i.e., special ballot), a trend that is expected to continue in future elections. The 2021 election saw issues with late ballots that had to be set aside and some electors reported being unable to vote because they missed the mail-in deadline. To recognize the growing demand and lessons learned, the special ballot process would be improved from start to finish. The Act would require that Elections Canada offer online registration. For a fixed date election, registration would open earlier, specifically during the regulated pre-election period (i.e., June 30) to give more time and reduce the number of late ballots. Electors would also have the choice to return special ballots in person ? a popular temporary measure introduced in 2021 ? except where the Chief Electoral Officer deems it will not be possible (e.g., in some remote communities). Electors who registered for, but did not cast, a special ballot would still be able to vote in-person on election day with added safeguards to ensure people do not vote twice. Electors would also have the ability to vote by special ballot by marking the name of the political party, which would be deemed as a vote for the party's candidate in that riding.

Voting on campus

Building on the success of the Vote on Campus program in the 2019 general election, first launched as a pilot in the 2015 general election, the program would be formalized in the CEA, providing certainty to post-secondary students and institutions that this program would continue.  

Making voting easier for electors in long-term care and electors requiring assistance

The CEA amendments would  enable returning officers to work with long-term care facilities staff to identify the best date and time for residents of long-term care facilities to vote. The proof of address requirement for long-term care residents voting onsite would be removed, recognizing the unique circumstances of these electors. Additionally, electors who are sometimes unable to mark their own ballots, would now be able to select anyone they wish to assist them when voting, including personal support workers. A declaration from the assistant would be required to maintain the integrity of the vote.

Ensuring an election is not held on a day of religious or cultural significance

Should a fixed date election be held in 2025, it would be held on Monday October 20th. However, many communities in Canada will be celebrating Diwali at this time. Therefore, a one-time change to the date is proposed so that the potential election would not conflict with Diwali. Instead, the election would be held the following Monday. 

Taking steps towards the implementation of vote 'anywhere' in the electoral district

To increase the efficiency of voting in person and avoid long lineups, the Chief Electoral Officer committed to enabling electors to vote at any desk in their assigned polling location at the next fixed date general election. Before then, the Chief Electoral Officer would table a report to Parliament on the measures needed to implement "vote at any desk" at a polling station as a first step. The Chief Electoral Officer would also be required to table a second report to Parliament in 2027 on enabling electors to vote at any polling station in their electoral district by 2029. These are important steps towards fully implementing a vote-anywhere model in the future.

Assessing challenges and solutions in moving to an expanded "Election Day" to three days of voting 

The Chief Electoral Officer would explore holding three-day election periods for general elections held in 2029 and beyond. Based on the findings, the Chief Electoral Officer would issue a report to Parliament on a path forward, identifying the challenges and potential solutions.

Safeguarding the electoral process

A broad suite of measures in the CEA amendments proposes to further safeguard the integrity of the electoral system from foreign influence, disinformation, and evolving technologies. They include:

New and expanded prohibitions

While the CEA already contains extensive and robust prohibitions, several existing elements would be expanded, including:

The CEA would include new bans, including against:

To respond to the growing misuse of artificial intelligence (AI) including deepfakes, several offences?those dealing with publishing false statements to affect election results, impersonation, misleading publications, and making false statements to disrupt the electoral process or its results?would be clarified in the CEA that they apply regardless of the means or method used to commit the offence. 

Further transparency for third party financing

The new rules for third party financing would provide increased transparency on the source of funding third parties use in order to prevent foreign and dark money from making its way into Canadian elections. Going forward, third parties may receive and pay for regulated activities only using contributions received from Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Third parties who wish to use their own funds in addition to any contributions would have new rules to ensure such funds are not an indirect avenue for foreign contributions.

Enhancing the protection of personal information

Enhanced national federal political parties' privacy regime

The CEA accounts for the fact that outreach, contact, and engagement between federal political parties and voters are essential to a healthy, modern democracy. The collection and use of personal information is crucial to ongoing engagement. 

In Budget 2023, the Government took another step forward by establishing that the CEA is a national regime that applies across Canada that governs federal political parties' collection, use, disclosure, retention, and disposal of personal information.

To further ensure personal information is protected, the mandatory privacy policies of all eligible and registered federal political parties would need to include a suite of new requirements, including:

Federal political parties, as well as any person or organization acting on their behalf, would be required to comply with their privacy policy, or may be subject to an administrative monetary penalty, issued by the Commissioner of Canada Elections. The privacy officer would need to attest annually that the party is in compliance. Having a privacy policy that meets the legislated requirements remains a condition of registration under the CEA.

SOURCE Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs

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