Sunday, October 18, 2015

Working for Elections Canada

When I voted, I had good things to say about the people working at the polling station, as I was not sure whether they were volunteers or they were getting paid. It turns out that they were generally getting paid and that they were unnecessarily strict with my ID.

darth-vader-electionIf you want to reform the voting process, like the people at LeadNow / VoteTogether, you might want to start with voting, and after voting, actually working for the level of government you are most interested in. In Canada, most power is concentrated at provincial level, while the feds tend to be the most professional and “easiest” spender. At municipal level corruption is often greatest and most obvious, though the feds probably dwarf it while being less visible.

One condition that might stand in your way is the requirement to hire incumbent recommendations first (ec-general).

Returning officers are responsible for recruiting election officers for their electoral district. They must abide by the Canada Elections Act(CEA), which states that priority consideration in each electoral district will be given to individuals on the following lists: for deputy returning officer positions, the list of names provided by the candidate of the registered party whose candidate finished first in the last election (ec-parties); for poll clerk positions, the list of names provided by the candidate of the registered party whose candidate finished second in the last election; and for registration officer positions, the lists of names provided by candidates of the registered parties whose candidates finished first and second in the last election.

During an electoral event, these candidates have until the 24th day before election day to recommend suitable persons for these positions to the returning officer (under section 36 and subsection 39(3) of the CEA). If returning officers do not receive enough names, they can hire people from other sources. Those interested in working as election officers must possess the necessary skills and qualifications, as listed under Available Positions for Employment on Polling Days (ec-positions).

That’s all fine and dandy, but it seems to me that incumbent-recommended hires are likely to be biased. This is particularly worrying within the context of a past election campaign that saw the record lowest voter participation in Canada’s history (ec-participation) and concerted efforts by the incumbent governing party campaigns to lower voter participation even further.

Here are the positions listed (3h training provided for which there is $50 payment).
  • Deputy Returning Officer – $238 / day (up to 14 hours)
  • DRO advance polling days – $680 / 4 days x 8 hours
  • Poll Clerk (PC) – $210 / day (up to 14 hours)
  • PC advance polling days – $600 / 4 days x 8 hours
  • Information Officer – $13.15/h (up to 14 h)
  • Registration Officer (RegO) – $15.00/h (up to 14 h)
  • Central Poll Supervisor (CPS) – $21.00/h (+ $50 for specific tasks)

While a $13-15 hourly rate may not sound so bad, but in Ontario the minimum wage is almost $12 and NDP’s Mulcair wants to make the federal minimum wage $15/h.

The training materials section (ec-drotraining) has quite a bit of info on what each position means and what they’re expected to do.

Despite the new law making the voting cards redundant (you still have to prove your identity, while before Harper’s law you could vote just with the card), it is sufficient to show proof of address and in some cases you could get away without showing your Photo ID. That however did not happen my case. When showing my photo ID and proof of Canadian citizenship together with bank statements showing my address, the DRO rejected my first letter because it was one year old (somehow I mistakenly took a letter dated October 2014 thinking it was October 2015); luckily, I also had a newer one, so I was fine. Still, I was annoyed that the DRO had to be unnecessarily strict in my case and had I not had a second letter, I would have been prevented from voting.

Not long after, I got to read about the exceptionally poor work conditions for Elections Canada temps, reports coming straight from the riding where I voted.

A couple of Elections Canada temporary workers are calling on the agency to overhaul its labour standards after describing their working conditions as "awful" and “intolerable" during advance polls in Toronto. "It was absolutely terrible,” said Kathy Friedman, who worked at a polling station in the University-Rosedale riding.

Workers say they were not allowed to take meal or washroom breaks during the four days of advance polling. There are also complaints that polls in Toronto were understaffed, and even ran out of ballots.

The complaints come after a crush of voters descended on polls across the country. Elections Canada says 71 per cent more ballots were cast compared to the 2011 advance polls.

Friedman says she was given no time to take breaks during shifts that lasted around 10 hours. She says her returning officer also threatened to withhold three days worth of pay after Friedman asked to take a break.

Another worker who spoke to CBC News on the condition of anonymity said her Toronto-St Paul’s station was so understaffed that the polls were forced to close when even a single worker left for a break.

“We were totally taken advantage of,” the worker said. “This is like what they do to people to make them want to quit.”

Friedman says she was surprised to learn her temporary employment with Elections Canada did not include the allowances for breaks and overtime pay that are required in other forms of employment.

“I would like to know why they’re not subject to the labour standards that I’m used to,” she said.

Unlike federal employees who work “under the legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada,” federal election workers are not covered by the labour standards section in the Canada Labour Code.

Unfortunately, this is not the only problem to ever occur with federal elections. In the last elections, there had been a concerted effort to send people to vote elsewhere and mislead them, the so-called Robocalls Scandal, but this time we seem to have understaffing, the usual sign vandals and pre-filled ballots, and even though such efforts come overwhelmingly from the governing party operatives, they will likely avoid the accusation of voter suppression.

Sources / More info: ec-general, ec-positions, ec-drotraining, ec-parties, ec-participation (PDF), eon-jobs, eto-jobs, eto-2014, VoteTogether, wiki-turnout

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting and please be assured that any and all comments are welcome, whether positive or negative, constructive or distructive.
We are using Disqus for commenting, but Blogger is not showing it so your comments may end up not being displayed - tell Google about it!