Commissioner of Canada Elections Annual Report 2022
Year in review: 2022
CCE’s compliance and enforcement tools
Each file is unique, and one complaint is all that’s needed.
When choosing the appropriate measure to ensure that the Act is respected, the Commissioner always strives to use the compliance or enforcement tool that will best serve the public interest, taking into account the unique circumstances of each file and the relevant provisions of the Act.
Offence or violation: How do they differ?
An offence is a contravention of the Act that may be subject to a criminal investigation and for which the perpetrator may be prosecuted in court. If the perpetrator is convicted, the court may decide to impose a fine or a prison sentence.
Unlike an offence, a violation is a contravention of the Act that may be subject to an administrative investigation but does not carry the risk of criminal prosecution in court. However, an official notice of violation issuing an administrative monetary penalty may be served to anyone who has committed a violation of the Act.
Criminal or administrative process: The CCE’s toolkit
[Text description of] "CCE's toolkit" graph
Criminal or administrative process: the CCE's toolkit
- Criminal route
- Applies to most contraventions of the Act
- Formal measures may be taken:
- Laying of criminal charges
- Compliance agreement
- Administrative route
- Applies only to specific contraventions: illegal voting, communications*, third parties and political financing
- Formal measures may be taken:
- Administrative monetary penalty
* Contraventions specific to communications include those related to election advertising, election surveys and online platforms, for example
It is worth noting that sometimes, a contravention of the Act can be both an offence and a violation. In those instances, the facts of the case are taken into consideration to decide whether to go the criminal or administrative route. These two routes cannot be used simultaneously.
Fostering respect for the Act through formal and informal measures
The Commissioner may use formal and informal measures to ensure that the Act is complied with and enforced.
Formal measures include:
- Laying of criminal charges
If the Commissioner has reasonable grounds to believe that an offence was committed under the Act, she may lay criminal charges.
- Compliance agreement
When the Commissioner has reasonable grounds to believe that an offence was committed, she may enter into an agreement with the person or entity that admits responsibility for the offence. Compliance agreements may contain any conditions that the Commissioner considers necessary to ensure compliance with the Act, including the obligation to pay an amount of money to the Receiver General of Canada.
- Administrative monetary penalty (AMP)
An AMP is a financial deterrent imposed with the intention of promoting future compliance with the Act. It is not intended to punish the individual or entity that committed the violation. AMPs serve as an additional tool that the Commissioner – or the person to whom she has delegated this power – can use to quickly and effectively respond to certain situations of non-compliance, without unduly adding to the courts’ workload.
When the Commissioner, or the person to whom she has delegated this authority, has reasonable grounds to believe that a person or entity has committed a violation of the Act, she may serve them with a notice of violation setting out the amount of the AMP and a description of the act or omission. AMPs may only be applied to specific contraventions in the Act, including those related to illegal voting, communications, third parties and political financing.
- Acceptance of an undertaking
An undertaking is a pledge, voluntarily signed by a person or entity – and subsequently accepted by the Commissioner or the person to whom she has delegated this power – acknowledging failure to comply with the Act. It is an administrative tool that seeks to ensure compliance with the Act. The CCE can accept an undertaking for violations of the Act.
Under the Act, all files subject to the use of formal means by the Commissioner must be made public. This information is published on the Commissioner’s website. It is also provided to the public and the media via press releases, email alerts, and the CCE’s social media accounts.
Keep up to date with CCE news
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You can also follow the CCE on social media to stay informed of developments related to compliance and enforcement of the Act.
When circumstances warrant, in the case of unintentional acts or omissions or those considered to be minor, the Commissioner may use informal means to resolve a file. These tools, including information letters and caution letters, seek to encourage the person or entity involved to take all necessary measures to foster compliance with the Act. If the person or entity subsequently contravenes the Act, the new contraventions may be handled using formal tools.
- A caution letter is a warning. It may be issued, particularly for minor contraventions, when the Commissioner finds that it is not in the public interest to take formal measures. In the event of a repeat contravention, the CCE could consider the caution letter as an aggravating factor.
- An information letter may be sent when the Commissioner finds that there was no contravention of the Act or that the evidence of a contravention cannot be obtained, but it would be useful to provide information to the person or entity involved to prevent any future contraventions of the Act.
Compliance and Enforcement measures taken in 2022
Among the informal measures taken during the year, 520 caution letters and 78 information letters were issued.
During the period covered by this report, the Commissioner and her predecessor did not enter into any compliance agreements, and no charges were laid.
Outreach and engagement
Over the year, the Commissioner has continued to strengthen relationships with stakeholders both within and outside the federal government. These stakeholders have knowledge that is directly related to elections or issues of interest falling within the CCE’s mandate. These exchanges are key for the office, as they allow it to stay informed of developments and best practices around issues such as cryptocurrency or improper conduct on digital platforms including misinformation and disinformation, and the illegal use of artificial intelligence, including certain uses of deepfakes.
Written opinions, guidelines and interpretation notes
Tools to ensure consistency in interpreting and applying the Act
The Act states that the Commissioner must provide comments on draft written opinions, guidelines and interpretation notes proposed by the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO).
- Interpretation notes provide clarification on a specific area of the Act, with a view to ensuring consistency in its interpretation and application, as well as its enforcement. They can be issued by Elections Canada or at the request of the chief agent of a registered party. Interpretation notes relate to how the provisions in the Act apply to regulated political entities. They are published for informational purposes only and are not binding on regulated political entities.
- Guidelines may cover different areas of the Act and help make them more accessible and understandable for political entities. In particular, they are found in guides published by Elections Canada for political entities. Like interpretation notes, guidelines provide direction and promote consistency in interpreting and applying the Act. Guidelines are published for information only. They are not binding on regulated political entities.
- The CEO also issues written opinions after being consulted by a candidate or registered association about an activity or a practice they wish to undertake. Before a written opinion is issued, registered federal political parties and the Commissioner are consulted and invited to provide comments on a preliminary version. Written opinions are binding on Elections Canada and the Commissioner until such time as the activity or practice in question undergoes a material change, a contrary opinion is issued or the Act is amended.
In 2022, the CCE provided official comments on one written opinion and two interpretation notes:
- Contributions Made Pursuant to Certain Agreements or Representations
- Assets of Deregistered Electoral District Associations
- Voter Databases and Election Expenses