Elections NS will hold back poll-by-poll results until month’s end

In a break with decades of past practice, Nova Scotia elections officials say they will withhold detailed results of the October 7 8 election for almost a month. In previous provincial elections, newspapers published poll-by-poll results a day or two after the vote.

At a time when the internet has encouraged governments of all shapes and sizes to be more forthcoming with useful data, Elections Nova Scotia is moving in the opposite direction.

Dana Phillip Doiron, director of policy and communications, declined to explain the policy change except to say the Chronicle-Herald “had no interest” in publishing this election’s poll-by-poll results, and Chief Electoral Officer Richard P. Temporale decided to wait until official results are ready at month’s end.

Differences between the preliminary and official results are usually small, and rarely affect the outcome in any riding.

Doiron declined to let Contrarian publish preliminary poll-by-poll results, and did not respond to a request for an interview with the Temporale.

For those who weren’t around, it’s hard to capture the degree to which this reversal of longstanding openness about election results represents a throwback to attitudes that prevailed in Nova Scotia’s bureaucracy 40 years ago. It’s like walking into government office and finding shag carpet on the floor, lava lamps on the desks, and Wayne Newton on the P.A.

To be sure, some government departments still work hard to avoid disclosing embarrassing information, exploiting loopholes in the Freedom of Information law and the near total breakdown of its enforcement in the province. It’s a standard damage control tactic.

But this is different. Nothing in the poll-by-poll results could conceivably embarrass Temporale or his agency. He is withholding the information because he can. He has decided, in his wisdom, that we don’t need to have it, notwithstanding keen interest among political geeks eager to dig into it.

Father knows best. Mere citizens can wait.

Forty years ago, Temporale’s instinctual proprietary impulse was nearly universal in Halifax. Bureaucrats regarded information in their custody as personal property, and citizens seeking access to it as unworthy supplicants.

Ironically, election results were always an exception to these attitudes of yore. Unlike Elections Nova Scotia of 2013, responsible officials in the ’50s and ’60s saw the prompt release of election results as their duty.

Here is Contrarian’s email exchange with Doiron:

From: Parker Donham
Sent: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 10:59 PM
To: Doiron, Dana P
Subject: poll-by-poll results

Hi Dana,

In almost 40 years of covering and following NS elections, I cannot ever recall it taking so long to see poll-by-poll returns. In years past, they were in the paper within two days of the election. What gives?

(I just checked the http://results.electionsnovascotia.ca/ website, and at this moment, it appears to be down. http://electionsnovascotia.ca/ is functioning normally.)


From: “Doiron, Dana P”
Subject: RE: poll-by-poll results
Date: 16 October, 2013 11:56:40 AM ADT
To: ‘Parker Donham’

The poll by poll results will be published at the end of the month. The website is working fine for me. Unsure of source of your problem.


From: Parker Donham
Sent: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 12:44 PM
To: Doiron, Dana P
Subject: Re: poll-by-poll results

It was probably a momentary thing, and quite possibly at me end

Why on earth are you taking so long to publish the results?

Sent from my iPhone

From: “Doiron, Dana P”
Subject: RE: poll-by-poll results
Date: 16 October, 2013 12:48:48 PM ADT
To: ‘Parker Donham’

The poll by poll results you may have seen in the past are the unofficial count before “official addition” and the return of the writ. The Herald customarily published them within a couple of days of election night. The Herald had no interest in doing that this election. The CEO decided to publish the official results, poll-by-poll, as quickly as possible, together with maps and other data.


From: Parker Donham
Sent: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 1:38 PM
To: Doiron, Dana P
Subject: Re: poll-by-poll results


Contrarian is interested in publishing them. Can I get them?


Sent from my iPhone

From: “Doiron, Dana P”
Subject: RE: poll-by-poll results
Date: 16 October, 2013 2:25:04 PM ADT
To: ‘Parker Donham’

Not until we’ve published them.


From: Parker DonhamSubject:
Re: poll-by-poll results
Date: 16 October, 2013 4:28:57 PM ADT
To: “Doiron, Dana P”

Hi Dana:

Can you offer any explanation why? This data has previously been available much sooner. I just find the change in policy mystifying. Most organizations are publishing their data quicker now that it is so easy to do so on the Internet. Elections NS seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

If the answer is that it’s what the Chief Electoral Officer decided, could you please arrange an interview with him for tomorrow?

Thanks very much,

[As of this posting, there was no response.]

Watson’s Greens blow another chance for redemption

At the risk of sounding like a Green Party blog, today’s news has to be disheartening for those adherents who have tried to get the party back on track. After the break, an email from Elections Nova Scotia Communications Director Dana Philip Doiron describes the outcome of a meeting this morning in which Chief Electoral Office Christine McCulloch gave outgoing party leader Ryan Watson and official agent Kathryn Herbert one last chance to demonstrate that the party can meet its legal obligations.

Continue reading Watson’s Greens blow another chance for redemption

NDP & Grit riding associations race to avoid deregistration – Feedback

Defeated Green Party candidate and perennial political gadfly Michael Marshall, who has been hounding his party’s executive to comply with financial disclosure rules, finds the legislation governing riding associations too complicated—and a damper on participation.

Elections Canada is asking the parties if the added complexity of their new election legislation is reducing the number of people willing to get involved in the political process. Part of the reason for the lower voter turnout is because, in many ridings, only one or two parties are truly competitive—and the complexity of election laws is one reason that many riding executives are so weak—no one wants to take on thanklessly complex jobs that may send them to jail.

Elections Nova Scotia communications director Dana Philip Doiron hinted Friday that the Elections Act and the Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act need tweaking. In an interview Friday, he said the legislation offers no guidance on how a party that has been deregistered—as the Greens are on the brink of being—can be reregistered.

“It’s a bit of a work in progress,” he said. “There are some holes in the legislation.”

Greens face imminent deregistration – Update

ryan-watson-smallNova Scotia Green Party leader Ryan Watson says the party will publish its 2008 audited financial statements “within a few weeks.” Based on regular conversations with Elections Nova Scotia, he believes this will be soon enough to avoid loss of official party status.

By law, the financial statements should have been filed by April 30. Elections Nova Scotia communications director Dana Philip Doiron told contrarian earlier today that Chief Electoral Office Christine McCulloch had issued the required 30-day notice of deregistration required under the Elections Act, and a report due for release Tuesday would detail the issue. He said deregistration could follow shortly.

Watson said the late filing resulted from the party being new, its treasurer taking an untimely vacation,  and its reliance on volunteers who were “wading through the election regulations,” and busy preparing for and fighting the June election. Continue reading Greens face imminent deregistration – Update

Greens face imminent deregistration

green-watsonThe Green Party of Nova Scotia, and riding associations for the Greens and two other recognized parties, face imminent deregistration under the Elections Act for failing to publish audited financial statements for the last fiscal year as required by law.

Dana Philip Doiron, communications director for Elections Nova Scotia, confirmed that Chief Electoral Officer Christine McCulloch will file her annual report under the Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act (MPED) Tuesday, and deregistration could follow shortly thereafter.

“Sometimes [the report’s release is] a ho-hum event, and Frank is the only one interested,” Doiron said “In this particular case the report will be looking at compliance for reporting, and that report will be interesting.” Continue reading Greens face imminent deregistration

Secret donations

Well this is disturbing. In defending his decision to keep the names of private donors to his campaign secret until after election day, Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil cited privacy concerns. Since provincial law requires the names and addresses of all donors, and the amounts of their donations, to be disclosed and published annually by Elections Nova Scotia, this looked like a feeble excuse to avoid drawing pre-election attention to any embarrassing donors on the Liberal list.

Now it turns out that Chief Electoral Officer Christine McCulloch handed McNeil—and the other three party leaders—a fig leaf they could use to hide any sketchy contributors from voter scrutiny.

Contrarian suspected as much when a candidate for the Green Party said they had intended to post their list of donors on the campaign website today, but were holding off because, “The Chief Electoral Officer apparently has concerns about compromising the privacy of individual donors by releasing their names.”

This sounded absurd, so we checked with the Chief Electoral Office, where spokesman Dana Philip Doiron responded:

[T]he Chief electoral Officer has advised all registered political parties… that they should seek their own legal counsel before publishing the names and other personal information of contributors as they may be subject to the Protection of Privacy provisions of FOIPOP [the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act], while the reporting by Elections Nova Scotia is deemed to be in the public interest and not subject to FOIPOP.

A quick read of the FOIPOP act confirms the obvious. It applies only to “records in the custody or under the control of a public body, including court administration records.” It has no conceivable application to records held by a political party. Continue reading Secret donations