Elections Canada reports no serious cyberthreats to last fall’s federal election


OTTAWA — Chief electoral officer Stephane Perrault says there were no cybersecurity incidents of significance during last fall’s federal election campaign.

In a preliminary report to Parliament about the Oct. 21 election, Perrault says there was no cyber disruption to services to Canadians or to the administration of the electoral process.

Elections Canada created a social-media monitoring unit devoted to scouring online platforms for disinformation about how, when and where to cast ballots and rooting out websites and social-media accounts that falsely claimed to belong to the independent elections agency.

Perrault says Elections Canada flagged to social media platforms a total of 28 instances of impersonation or inaccurate information that could have interfered with electors’ ability to vote.

Thirteen of those posts were removed by the platforms; some of the accounts were determined to be inactive.

Elections Canada continues to work with platforms and websites to seek removal of other information that falsely claims to come from the agency.

“I am pleased to say there were no cybersecurity threats of significance during this election on Elections Canada’s infrastructure beyond those faced daily by any federal government organization,” Perrault says in a foreword to the report.

“The agency monitored the information environment for inaccurate information about the electoral process and on some occasions contacted social-media platforms or websites to bring inaccurate information or inauthentic accounts to their attention. None of these instances were concerning in terms of their scope.”

The report says some 18.3 million Canadians cast ballots, or 67 per cent of registered voters, down slightly from the 68 per cent turnout in 2015, which was a 20-year high.

It also says Canadians are increasingly choosing to vote in advance polls rather than wait until election day.

Advance polling hours were for the first time extended to 12 hours a day and took place on four days over the Thanksgiving weekend. The report says almost 4.9 million voters (more than 26 per cent of the total who cast ballots) took advantage of the advance polls — a 32.7 per cent increase over the 2015 election and a whopping 131 per cent increase over 2011.

A small percentage voted by special ballot.

While nearly 70 per cent still chose the traditional approach of waiting to cast their ballots at their local polling station on election day, the report says that is “the lowest percentage ever recorded in Canadian federal elections and attests to the rise of the popularity of advance voting.”