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Serving the public trust demanded more than simply administering the electoral legislation – it demanded an approach that was strategic and proactive.As the politically independent custodian of the , the Chief Electoral Officer was in a unique position to help legislators mould its provisions into conformity with the rights and freedoms set out in the Charter, while retaining the spirit of the act.The achievement of these ends was assisted by the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing (also known as the Lortie Commission).It was appointed by the federal government in 1989 to review, among other matters, the many anomalies in the electoral process identified by Charter challengers.In 1990, Elections Canada faced a number of challenges.It employed a management system that functioned on a case-by-case basis.One of the outcomes was the passage of Bill C-78 in 1992 and Bill C-114 in 1993 – which together initiated significant changes in the way electoral law dealt with access to the vote.Another was a host of recommendations by the Chief Electoral Officer that paved the way for major reforms to electoral finance regulation (most notably through Bill C-24 in 2003).
This unprecedented stream of legal challenges to federal legislation gave the new Chief Electoral Officer an opportunity not afforded his predecessor: foreknowledge of the Charter's sweeping effect on how Canadian legislation would henceforth be conceived, interpreted and executed. Kingsley's assessment, the Charter – along with developments in technology and the growing global interest in democracy – had fundamentally changed the function of his Office.In 1992, the Commission's recommendations were reviewed by the Hawkes Committee, a special eight-member panel that produced additional recommendations concerning the .Both reports were reviewed by Parliament, with advice and support from the Chief Electoral Officer.Many Canadians probably assumed that their right to vote was assured well before 1982.
As we have seen throughout this book, however, many people had been denied the franchise – some on racial or religious grounds, others because they could not get to a poll on voting day.
It faced a pending increase in the number of electoral districts following the 1991 census, and the need to implement recommendations from the Lortie Commission that included a means for expatriate Canadians to vote and a permanent register of electors.