Elections watchdog Marc Mayrand to step down by end of the year
Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer, discusses the Oct. 19 federal election, in Ottawa, on Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (Fred Chartrand / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, June 6, 2016 11:46PM EDT
OTTAWA - The country's elections watchdog will leave his post at the end of this year.
Chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand says he wants to give his successor time to shape the future direction of Elections Canada - including figuring out how it will respond to any changes to the current first-past-the-post voting system - before voters head back to the polls in 2019.
"Given Elections Canada's ambitious electoral services modernization plans and the government's consideration of fundamental reforms to our electoral system, I believe the early appointment of a successor to lead Elections Canada well ahead of the next general election is essential and should not be delayed," Mayrand said in a statement Monday.
Mayrand, who was first appointed in 2007, was one of the most strenuous critics of the previous Conservative government's controversial Fair Elections Act.
He warned it could disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters, make it harder to enforce campaign spending limits and reduce his ability to speak directly to Canadians.
Amendments to the original bill allayed most of his fears, although Mayrand remained concerned the changes did not give the elections commissioner enough power to investigate suspected breaches of election law.
Mayrand also oversaw Elections Canada when it conducted a number of investigations involving spending limits or so-called dirty tricks.
That included the robocalls scandal that had voters reporting misleading phone calls about where to vote in the 2011 election, overspending by former Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro in the 2008 election and the "in-and-out" affair, which saw the Conservatives funnel ad money to local campaigns in order to dodge spending limits in the 2006 election.
Mayrand, whose last day will be Dec. 28, says he plans to finish recommending to Parliament the legislative changes necessary to update, safeguard and improve the electoral process.
"These recommendations will seek to achieve the much-needed modernization of our electoral process while preserving or enhancing its integrity and fairness," Mayrand said in the statement.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tasked Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef with repealing parts of the Fair Elections Act that make it "harder for Canadians to vote and easier for election law breakers to evade punishment", according to the mandate letter he gave her after she was sworn in last year.
The Liberal government has not yet introduced any such legislation, and Monsef is currently focused on electoral reform.
In his statement, Mayrand said he wanted to thank parliamentarians for giving him the opportunity to serve for nine years.
"I will leave my functions humbled by the responsibilities entrusted to me but with enormous pride in having served my fellow citizens and their elected representatives," he said.