C-33 – Canada’s former chief electoral officers eager for successor, laud proposed electoral legislative changes

Interesting that the provision to extent non-resident voting rights not raised as an issue, again suggesting lesser priority:

Canada’s former chief electoral officers Marc Mayrand and Jean-Pierre Kingsley are lauding changes proposed in new legislation, including moving the elections commissioner back under the authority of Elections Canada and removing restrictions on who can apply for the job of commissioner.

But they also say there are other issues to be addressed, and with only an acting chief electoral officer in place since Mr. Mayrand stepped down at the end of December, both say they’re eager to see a new permanent chief electoral officer of Canada named.

“I don’t think it’s desirable to have too long of an interim in those positions [officers of Parliament]. I think these positions require people who have a firm ground and can make the difficult decision that they have to make from time to time,” Mr. Mayrand told The Hill Times in an interview last week. “There are other bills that I understand are coming forward and it’s important to have somebody in the position [of chief electoral officer] who can steer the organization.”

Having given notice of his plans to retire in June, Mr. Mayrand, who officially exited the role on Dec. 28, said, “It seems to be a long process, to say the least.”

The Liberal government will select its nominee to become the next chief electoral officer “in a manner consistent with the merit-based appointments process,” which the government has put in place, John O’Leary, communications director to Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould (Burlington, Ont.), said in an email.

That process involves advertising for open positions on a government appointments website, among other things.

“I haven’t seen any advertisement for the position,” said Mr. Mayrand in a telephone interview last week with The Hill Times. He said from his experience, once a candidate has been identified, the process “unfolds very quickly.” However, finding the right candidate can be “hard to do,” he noted, given the knowledge and skills required for the job.

Since Mr. Mayrand retired on Dec. 28, deputy chief electoral officer Stéphane Perrault has been the acting chief electoral officer.

Former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley held the job for 17 years until Feb. 17, 2007 and was succeeded by Mr. Mayrand days later on Feb. 21 after the House of Commons unanimously approved his appointment.

“I am disappointed because there is no reason why the government did not initiate staffing action immediately when Mr. Mayrand announced that he was retiring [in June]. … At that very time, they should have set the ball in motion, and we would have a chief electoral officer as I speak. Acting appointments in the officers of Parliament positions is a very bad process,” said Mr. Kingsley.

The Liberal government is currently faced with a backlog of hundreds of unfilled appointments.

Mr. O’Leary said finding a new chief electoral officer “is a priority for Minister Gould, and we will have more to say about this in due course.”

Paul Thomas, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Manitoba, said he thinks there’s a “very small community of professionals” in Canada with the expertise needed for the job of chief electoral officer.

“Election law is not the simple, straightforward thing of the past,” he said.

Prof. Thomas noted the next federal election in 2019 is “not that far away now, and it would be better if we had a permanent CEO with all the status and authority and confidence of the government and Parliament presiding over the administration of that election.”

Source: Canada’s former chief electoral officers eager for successor, laud proposed electoral legislative changes – The Hill Times – The Hill Times

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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