Chief Electoral Officer of Canada — Marc Mayrand
Mr. Mayrand is the 6th person to hold the office since the position was established in 1920. Did you know Mr. Mayrand and the Assistant Chief Electoral Officer are not permitted to vote in a federal election?
- My first experience running a federal election
- "Democracy 24/7" — How can we practise democracy in our everyday lives?
- What I've learned since becoming Chief Electoral Officer of Canada
- How I got my children excited about democracy and voting
- Why getting involved in our democracy is important
- The first time I ever voted
September 21, 2012
My first experience running a federal election
I was appointed Chief Electoral Officer of Canada in February 2007, so my first experience running a federal election was in the fall of 2008. It came as a surprise to me that special ballots would be delivered to ships navigating the St. Lawrence Seaway so that the workers on board could vote. In fact, Canadian citizens working in out-of-the-way locations all across Canada — even those who are temporarily out of the country — have the opportunity to cast their ballot during an election.
In the 2011 federal election, we had flooding in Manitoba to contend with. But thanks to the efforts of the local returning officer and their team, evacuees from the affected areas were still able to vote.
The efforts that were displayed locally by the returning officer for the affected areas that had sustained flooding in Manitoba during the 2011 federal election were commendable. It demonstrates that people are going out of their way to serve Canadians and providing them with the opportunity to vote. Evacuees from the Manitoba nations were able to cast their ballots despite these circumstances. Each election brings its own challenges and I think that these things are too often forgotten or ill known and should be reflected upon.
September 20, 2012
"Democracy 24/7" — How can we practise democracy in our everyday lives?
Democracy isn't something to be practised once every four years on election day. We need to practise it every day. I've always tried to convey, especially to my children, the fact that democracy is an ongoing part of our lives. To make an educated choice on election day, we have to keep ourselves informed.
It's important to be aware of ongoing issues and opinions. People need to get over the perceptions, biases and template messages out there and inform themselves about the issues. We need to examine their social and economic impact, and we need to pay attention to different sources of information to get different points of view. If you feel strongly about something, share your views with others by writing a letter to the editor of your local paper, signing a petition or broadcasting your message on social media. Don't hesitate to speak up on issues that are important to you. If you agree or disagree with something that a political party or government is saying or doing, write to your member of Parliament. Never underestimate the impact you can have. Even though it doesn't always appear so, he or she will pay attention to what you say. But in the end, don't forget to vote — it remains the best way to ensure you will be listened to!
September 19, 2012
What I've learned since becoming Chief Electoral Officer of Canada
One thing I've learned since I've been in this position is that the electoral process has a long history. Change doesn't come quickly or easily; it takes time. One reason is that people have an attachment to the voting process, and political participants have a vested interest in it.
We have a very old system, and its long tradition speaks to its value. There is something to be said for the ritual of voting and marking your ballot in a public place. People are very attached to this tradition. The younger generation may not place as much value on it as older generations, but I believe it's important to respect the traditions of previous generations.
I think we may start to see people becoming more directly involved in democracy, both formally and informally, than has been the case up to now. And social media is going to play a significant part in that. With the emergence of new technology and social media, platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are helping Canadians become more engaged. It remains to be seen how it will play out, but it's becoming easier all the time for citizens to connect with each other and with their elected representatives.
I think we tend to identify technology with young people, but my mother, who passed away two years ago at 90, was on her computer every day. I think more and more people are becoming familiar with technology and at ease with using it. Elections Canada is also embracing technology and investigating ways to incorporate it into the election process. At the same time, we recognize that some people cannot use or access technology easily, and we'll continue to offer alternative services to them.
September 18, 2012
How I got my children excited about democracy and voting
Getting my children engaged in the democratic process was always a priority for my wife and I. It was a value that I learned from my parents, so I wanted to pass it on to my own children. Whenever there was an election, we'd discuss it with our two sons, so they were able to get involved at a young age. We'd also take them with us to the polling station. Of course, after we cast our ballots, they'd always ask us who we voted for, and my wife and I would always respond with "it's a secret". That's just one of the ways that we got our children interested and excited about voting.
We also always encouraged them to be curious and to question what they read and heard. We urged them to get information from different sources, including from opinion leaders who might express views they disagreed with. We wanted our children to form their own opinions and recognize how other people's views differed from their own. We encouraged them to join debating societies at a young age — not only so they would learn how to speak in public, but also to learn how to articulate their thoughts and be better prepared to share them with others. Our children are now 23 and 24, and I'm proud to say that they're educated and engaged citizens.
September 17, 2012
Why getting involved in our democracy is important
It's incredibly important for youth to get involved and engaged in democracy. Youth engagement is a priority for us at Elections Canada. Young people are becoming involved in issues and causes that they feel passionate about, and they're taking action to make their voices heard. With so many youth using social media now, they can connect across the country and share ideas and views with their peers in a way that has never been possible before. It's empowering young people and giving them a platform from which they can make their voices heard.
One example of this that we can't ignore is the student movement in Quebec. I think that no matter which side of the debate you're on, you have to be impressed by the determination of the students and the skills displayed by their leaders. The students' solidarity should be applauded because they've continued to advance their views despite opposition, and people in authority have tried to split up the movement with no success. The impact these students have made goes beyond the immediate issue of tuition fees. Not only have they shown a passion and dedication to a cause that is important to them, they've also shown incredible communication skills. They've been able to present a unified voice and a strong and educated opinion on the issues they're currently facing.
It's been quite impressive to see how a generation can mobilize itself and reach out to other segments of society. It's important to have young leaders like this because they're able to motivate their peers to take action and they can encourage discussion in youth who may not want to get involved so publicly. The more young people learn about issues, the more involved they'll become in the democratic and voting processes.
September 14, 2012
The first time I ever voted
I was 19 years old when I voted for the first time. I think the year was 1972, and I'm not sure whether it was a provincial or federal election. It was an exciting but also a frightening time for everyone. A number of issues were capturing national attention. First of all, there was the October Crisis of 1970, when two high-ranking government officials were kidnapped by members of the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ), a far-left-wing Québécois nationalist group. For those who were living in Montreal at the time, the events had a real impact on the people. Prime Minister Trudeau had called in the military to support the police, so there were soldiers on every street corner making sure that citizens were protected.
Another heated topic in Quebec at the time was Bill C-63, which was controversial because it promoted the French language in the province. Many protests erupted over this issue, and I remember being involved in a student demonstration in Montreal. It seemed like there were more than 10,000 students there from all parts of Quebec, arguing for or against the bill. Being involved in the protest gave me the opportunity to speak to people about why they supported or opposed the bill. I found that many didn't even have a clue; they were there just because everyone else was there. What I took away from that experience was that if you want to participate in a meaningful way, you need to be informed.
I believe all of these experiences contributed to me becoming an engaged citizen. As the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, I don't vote in federal elections because I have to remain non-partisan. I can still vote at the provincial and municipal levels, but I look forward to the day when I can once again exercise my right to vote at the federal level.