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Electoral Insight – Review of Electoral Systems

Electoral Insight – June 1999

Electoral News in Brief

Wayne Brown
Elections Canada

Canada has experienced many electoral "firsts" in this century. Here are the major ones.

1915 The first postal ballot for military voters on active service was introduced.

1916 Manitoba became the first province to extend the franchise to women.

1917 Some 2 000 military nurses, the "Bluebirds", became the first Canadian women to obtain the right to vote at the federal level and use it at the 1917 federal election, as a result of the wartime Military Voters Act.

1920 The first federal Chief Electoral Officer was Colonel Oliver Mowat Biggar, following the creation of that position by Parliament.

1920 The first centralization of the financial and logistical operations of federal election administration occurred as a result of Parliament's overhaul of electoral law.

1920 Advance polling was first authorized, but only for commercial travellers, sailors and railwaymen.

1921 This was the first federal election open to voting by all Canadian women at least 21 years of age.

1921 The first woman elected to Canada's House of Commons was Agnes Macphail (Grey South East riding in Ontario), following the amendment of electoral law in 1919 to allow women to stand as candidates.

1929 The stipulation that federal polling day would be on a Monday was first enacted. (If the Monday is a federal or provincial holiday, voting day shifts to Tuesday.)

1934 The first permanent register of electors of Canada was established, and then abandoned in 1938.

1960 Legislation extending the vote to all adult Aboriginal people in Canada was passed by Parliament.

1964 The task of determining the boundaries of electoral districts was first placed in the hands of independent boundaries commissions.

1968 The first Aboriginal person elected to Canada's House of Commons was Len Marchand, representing the British Columbia constituency of Cariboo.

1970 Parliament passed legislation requiring federal political parties to register with the Chief Electoral Officer.

1972 Candidates' political party affiliations appeared on the ballot for the first time in a federal general election.

1972 The first federal general election at which Canadians aged 18 to 20 could vote was in 1972, after the minimum voting age was lowered from 21 in 1970.

1974 The Election Expenses Act imposed ceilings on election spending by parties and candidates and required them to report their income, its sources (including the identity of those who contributed more than $100) and expenses to the Chief Electoral Officer.

1982 The right of Canadians to vote and to be a candidate was enshrined in the new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

1988 Cardboard ballot boxes first replaced the traditional metal ones at the federal election polls in Ontario and Quebec.

1989 The first (and only) elected Senator in Canada's history was Stan Waters, who won an Alberta-wide vote and was appointed to the Senate in the following year by Prime Minister Mulroney.

1993 Bill C-114 extends use of the special ballot to all electors who are unable to vote on election day or at an advance poll, including Canadians travelling or temporarily living abroad.

1997 The National Register of Electors was used for the first time to generate the preliminary lists of electors for the 1997 general election, following the passage of legislation in 1996 that provided for the establishment and regular updating of a permanent register in the form of a computer database.


Note: The opinions expressed are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.