Elections Canada is responsible for running federal elections, by-elections and referenda. Its mission is to make sure that Canadians can exercise their democratic rights to vote and to be a candidate.
How does the agency fulfill this mission?
Remaining independent and non-partisan
Elections Canada is an independent, non-partisan agency. It was created by Parliament in 1920 to ensure fairness in federal elections.
The head of Elections Canada is the Chief Electoral Officer. The Chief Electoral Officer has an arm’s length relationship with the Government of Canada. This means that the agency does not report to the Prime Minister or to any cabinet minister. Instead, it reports directly to Parliament, making it independent of the governing party or any other political party.
Elections Canada is careful to make sure that no political bias affects the running of federal elections. All election workers must take an oath to uphold voters’ rights and the secrecy of the vote and to perform their duties without favouritism. Elections Canada also forbids its employees to support political candidates, campaigns or parties.
Running an election
Although it is called a “general election,” it might be more helpful to think of Canada’s federal election as 338 individual elections. That is the number of electoral districts or ridings in Canada. An electoral district can have anywhere from 175 to 250 polling stations, each with its own ballot box.
Given the size of the job, running an election involves many election officers. These officers include returning officers, who run an election in each electoral district. There are also deputy returning officers and poll clerks, who help voters at every ballot box.
Canada is a big country with a lot of geographic variation and remote communities. Elections Canada has to make sure that all 26 million eligible electors can vote, whether they live in downtown Toronto or in Kangiqtiniq (Rankin Inlet).
Learn more about Elections Canada.
Did you know?
- Elections Canada is the longest-standing independent electoral commission in the world. It turned 100 years old on July 1, 2020. To learn more about this milestone in Canadian democracy, visit Elections Canada’s 100th Anniversary.
- On election day, Elections Canada is the largest employer in the country. During the 2021 federal election, Elections Canada employed close to 200,000 people.
- The Chief Electoral Officer is the only Canadian citizen over the age of 18 who, by law, is not allowed to vote in federal elections. This is because they have a duty to uphold the principles of absolute neutrality and non-partisanship.
- Elections Canada is required by law to hold federal elections on a Monday. If the Monday is a federal or provincial holiday, then the election is moved to the next day, Tuesday.