Evidence of meeting #24 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was election.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Marc Mayrand  Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada
  • Stéphane Perrault  Senior General Counsel and Senior Director, Legal Services, Office of the Chief Electoral Officer

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

I'd like to call this meeting to order, please. This is the 24th meeting of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

With us today, we have the Chief Electoral Officer. We'll be looking at his report to the House.

We'll give you a chance to do an opening statement, and I recognize there's a test that you'd like to do. We want to handle that first, and then we'll move on to the general report piece. Then we do have a bit of committee business at the end, so we will excuse you a little bit early today, because we have just a little bit to handle at the end of the meeting, and we would like to move with that.

Thank you to all the members for being here on time, and we're ready to start.

Monsieur Mayrand, we'd like you to give us your opening statement, and we'll go that way, introduce the guests that you have. Again, I apologize, this meeting does take place at lunch time, and some of the members will be eating lunch in front of you, because this may be their only chance to stop and eat today.

Thank you for coming, and I give the floor to you.

11 a.m.

Marc Mayrand Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm really pleased to be here today to discuss two topics: first, regarding a voting device that would allow disabled electors to cast ballots autonomously and secretly; and secondly, my report of recommendations following the last election.

With me today are Mr. Rennie Molnar, deputy chief electoral officer responsible for electoral events; Mr. François Bernier, deputy chief electoral officer responsible for political financing matters; and Mr. Stéphane Perrault, senior legal counsel at Elections Canada.

If you allow me, I'll talk briefly about what's called an AVD, assistive voting device. Some of you who visited our premises in June will recall that we had the opportunity to do a demonstration of equipment that would allow disabled electors to cast ballots without assistance, so autonomously, and cast their ballots secretly.

We are proposing this initiative in response to various responsibilities under the human rights legislation, as well as the United Nations international convention dealing with disabled people. This legislation encourages or requires that officials, when providing services, adapt their services to the particular circumstances, in our case, of electors. We have also received a number of requests from various disabled electors, or groups representing disabled electors, seeking alternative ways of casting ballots that would allow them to cast their ballots independently, without assistance from other individuals, and ensuring also thereby the secrecy of their vote.

The proposal that's before the committee builds on the experience that's been taking place both in Canada and very much also in the U.S., so the equipment has been well tested before. It's been used in the most recent general election in New Brunswick. It's going to be used in municipal elections that are taking place in many provinces across the country this fall, and it was used also in a pilot in Ontario last year.

We would like to test the device in a byelection, and there's one that has to be called by October 27 in Winnipeg North. The latest time it can be called would be October 27. Therefore we would like to get the authority of the committee, as required pursuant to section 18.1 of the act, to use that equipment in that riding. Particularly, we will deploy the equipment at the returning officer's office, at advance polls, in long-term-care facilities, and possibly at other sites that we will be able to identify through consultation with the local community.

I don't know if I need to add any more at this point. The committee is generally aware of the initiative. I'll be pleased to deal with any questions on this aspect.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Thank you so much for that part. We have some general knowledge of what you're doing, and there was some information passed out to members.

I will take any questions from members on the assistive voting devices, but let's do this one fairly quickly so we can get to the general report.

Monsieur Proulx.

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Mayrand, when we visited your facilities, your staff gave us a demonstration. I had to leave early, but I assume that when you set up this equipment at polling stations, an operator is on site to show people how to use it. Is that correct?

11:05 a.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

Yes. There will be an operator on site who works for the company providing the device. He will be able to quickly resolve any issues that arise. There will also be election staff on site to direct voters.

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

I see. So, people will be given instructions and receive assistance.

Thank you.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Thank you.

Mr. Weston.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rodney Weston Saint John, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm from New Brunswick, and certainly we went through the process just recently with the provincial election. New Brunswick had some experience with electronic voting devices with the previous municipal election as well. There was a pilot project. I think it was in 2008 with the previous municipal election.

I'm just kind of wondering what sort of feedback you got from the Province of New Brunswick. The general election was the first full run of it. The pilot that the province did was in the municipal election. I'm assuming that you had contact with the chief electoral officer in the province of New Brunswick and I'm assuming that you received some feedback from the chief electoral officer, whether positive or negative.

11:05 a.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

Generally, quite positive. We had observers at both the provincial election and municipal election to see how this equipment worked, and how the process around it also functioned.

Again, the experience has been positive enough in the pilot in New Brunswick that the act was amended to allow it to be used during the provincial election. It's been well received by the community of disabled electors.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rodney Weston Saint John, NB

With the general election just last week in New Brunswick, one of the items from your remarks that you provided to us that stood out for me was the hope to be able to allow people to vote in another riding, but vote for the candidate in their riding. That was something that was done in New Brunswick.

When it came to the recount that was required, which was just completed, apparently it was quite onerous, trying to collect the data from all the various ridings throughout the electoral districts throughout the province and trying to pull that data together. There was a riding on election night where the result was a nine-vote difference and it went through a judicial recount. It took quite some time for the judicial recount. From what I read in the media, the time that was required wasn't for the data from that specific riding, it was to bring the data from the other ridings.

If someone lived in a riding, say in northern New Brunswick, or was attending school in northern New Brunswick, and wanted to vote for a candidate in the riding that was receiving the recount, all that data had to be brought together. There were some issues in bringing that data together.

Is that something you've looked at? Did you have any feedback from the observers that you had present during the provincial election?

11:10 a.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

We got some feedback, but I just want to point out that the pilot that's proposed here is not allowing electors to cast a ballot from another riding. They would still have to attend a site, either the RO site or their advanced poll site. The ballots would be where the poll of the elector is located, so we wouldn't face this problem with this pilot.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rodney Weston Saint John, NB

To your comment there, that was never the issue when the pilot was run in New Brunswick as well, but in the general election there was a decision made to go this route based on the information that was collected. During the pilot project, it was felt that the information and the gathering of this data was very quick and easy to collate.

For me, and from the general public's perspective, I thought that with the electronic voting devices there were no issues when going to the polling station. I voted. There was security. There were no questions I had with security at all. I thought the process was terrific.

It was the second time that I had voted with the electronic voting devices, but I thought that the results would be gathered more quickly and I thought on election night that the results seemed to be a long time coming, to be very frank. Maybe it was because I was sitting on edge waiting for the riding results, but it didn't come any quicker than the normal process. Why is that? Do you have any comments on that?

11:10 a.m.

Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Marc Mayrand

It would be premature, but we'll have a meeting of all chief electoral officers later in November, and I think my colleague from New Brunswick will certainly debrief us on the experience of the recent general election.

One thing I would also note also is that in New Brunswick they use tabulators. The system we're proposing here does not use a tabulator. It produces a paper ballot that's deposited in a ballot box like any other ballot. We won't face the issues you mentioned with this style.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Monsieur Laframboise.

October 7th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Because I'm a visual kind of person, I would like you to explain how things are going to work in the riding of Winnipeg—North. The voters will present themselves, and what will happen next?