Headed by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Elections Canada is an independent, non-partisan agency of Parliament. Its primary task is to be prepared at all times to administer an electoral event.
The Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, is the sixth to hold the post since it was created in 1920 by the Dominion Elections Act, largely to put an end to political partisanship in the administration of federal elections. The Chief Electoral Officer is appointed by a resolution of the House of Commons, so that all parties represented there may contribute to the selection process. Once appointed, the incumbent reports directly to Parliament and is thus completely independent of government and political parties. The Chief Electoral Officer serves until retirement or resignation; he or she can be removed only for cause, by the Governor General, following a joint address of the House of Commons and Senate.
Originally, the Chief Electoral Officer was responsible only for the administration of general elections and by-elections. Under the Canada Elections Act and other laws that now govern the federal electoral process, Elections Canada's mandate has broadened to include the administration of referendums and other important aspects of our democratic electoral system.
The agency's duties include:
The current Commissioner of Canada Elections is Mr. Yves Côté. The Commissioner's role is to ensure that the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act are complied with and enforced.
The current Broadcasting Arbitrator is Mr. Peter S. Grant. He is responsible for allocating paid and free broadcasting time to the political parties and for resolving disputes about the purchase of advertising time during an election. For each general election, he prepares guidelines intended to clarify the responsibilities of broadcasters in allocating time to federal political parties for partisan political broadcasts during the campaign period.
The Office through which the Chief Electoral Officer carries out his mandate normally comprises a group of some 500 employees working in Ottawa. During a general election or referendum, more than 235,000 positions are filled by election workers across the country. A returning officer in each electoral district administers the election to choose a member of Parliament.
To carry out the administrative tasks involved in preparing for and running electoral events, Elections Canada has formed a structure of seven sectors: Electoral Events; Policy, Planning and Public Affairs; Legal Services; Political Financing; Finance, Internal Audit and Administration; Human Resources; and Information Technology.