The Fair Elections Act and Student Vote

The Fair Elections Act: What about the children?

What the bill might mean for Election Canada’s civic education efforts


The New Democrats are now pursuing a new angle on the Fair Elections Act: the bill’s impact on Elections Canada’s civic education efforts.

At issue here is Section 18 of the Canada Elections Act. At present, the statute dictates that “the Chief Electoral Officer may implement public education and information programs to make the electoral process better known to the public, particularly to those persons and groups most likely to experience difficulties in exercising their democratic rights.”

Under C-23, that clause is replaced with the following.

18. (1) The Chief Electoral Officer may provide the public, both inside and outside Canada, with information on the following topics only:

(a) how to become a candidate;
(b) how an elector may have their name added to a list of electors and may have corrections made to information respecting the elector on the list;
(c) how an elector may vote under section 127 and the times, dates and locations for voting;
(d) how an elector may establish their identity and residence in order to vote, including the pieces of identification that they may use to that end; and
(e) the measures for assisting electors with a disability to access a polling station or advance polling station or to mark a ballot.

That would seem to not cover the sort of  educational programming that Elections Canada currently participates in—see this backgrounder from the agency explaining its efforts and partnerships. In the 2008 and 2011 elections, Elections Canada provided 100% of the funding for Student Vote, the parallel election program for schools run by CIVIX ($743,655 in funding and in-kind donations, with 3,750 schools participating). The new Section 18 wouldn’t necessarily mean an end for the Student Vote program, but, as CIVIX’s Taylor Gunn explained in an interview with me today, Elections Canada has the benefit of being an objective source of funding that might allay any concerns about the program. CIVIX’s best hope now is for an amendment to the bill.

At committee and in the House, the minister for democratic reform has brushed aside questions on this front. And the response from his office was mostly the same when I asked if there was any concern that bill would impact the agency’s civic education efforts.

Elections Canada’s own data shows that the emphasis of the agency’s promotional campaigns is misplaced.  For example, in the last election, half of youth in this country are unaware that they can vote using three different methods prior to Election Day.  That is why the Fair Elections Act will focus promotional campaigns on the basic information Canadians need to vote: when, where and what ID to bring to vote.


The Fair Elections Act: What about the children?

  1. Why is Elections Canada deliberately targeting students to get out and vote? Simple. Because students overwhelmingly vote for left leaning parties.

    The Conservatives are right. Elections Canada has no business picking and choosing who to target in “get out and vote” campaigns. They are right to stop this type of messaging from Elections Canada. It is up to political parties to give people a reason to overcome their apathy and vote. It is not for EC to target demographics favorable to their world view.

    • I think you got that exactly backwards John. It is the responsibility of EC to encourage voting – period. That means that if they see a particular demographic that has a particularly low voter turnout, then it is (until this bill passes, at least) their responsibility to try to increase voter turnout in that demographic. Who they vote for shouldn’t matter.
      But it clearly does to the CPC – and so activities designed to increase political engagement are out. Just another form of voter suppression, brought to you by the robocall specialists and in-and-out convicts.

      • But of course, there is no self interest in that at all. The only party guilty of self interest is EC.

        It is so sad to see how well the CPC have brainwashed their followers.

    • Sigh. Last time you argued EC was biased it was because they did not prosecute liberals for something they could not legally prosecute them for. Now it is because they promote voting amongst a group of individuals who historically have a low turnout at elections, and you naturally jump to your tried and true “they are all picking on conservatives” whine. Seriously John, it is readily apparent why they try to educate the group with lowest voter turnout about voting. Rather than constantly complaining about bias, try to be objective yourself. Just once.

    • Obviously Elections Canada is doing something wrong. They need to contact Putin and Dear Leader. Russia and N. Korea know how to get voters in the booth AND get the results they want at the same time. No claims of illegitimate governments from their citizenry. With 96% and 100% of the vote, who would complain that their choice for leader did not get in?

  2. OK Macleans – you posted my reply to John, but once again my main comment was eaten. You REALLY don’t want us commenting on here, do you?

    • sigh, I know, isn’t this “new” Macleans UI annoying, this has also happened to myself a few times already.
      I bet though, if we were paying full subscribtion rates then no problems ?

      and I agree, but unfortunately YES, this so-called “new” UI layout is purposely designed to discourage comments/feedback, amazingly just like most of Macleans’ “stories”

    • I had the same problem. Two times I posted a comment on the article about lonely people and both times it went into oblivion. Thus, I gave up. I noticed no comments were posted on that article. I wonder if everyone who tried had the same problem I did.

      • Hi all – would like to help get to the bottom of this, but hoping for a little more detail. In the cases where your comments were lost, what happened after you hit ‘Post comment?’