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Compendium of Election Administration in Canada: A Comparative Overview

C. Administration of Elections

In all jurisdictions, a Chief Electoral Officer is responsible for the administration of elections. As the highest-ranking election official, the Chief Electoral Officer is usually responsible for all aspects of electoral administration, including enforcing fairness and impartiality on the part of election officers and ensuring compliance with the legislation governing elections. In New Brunswick, the Chief Electoral Officer also serves as the Supervisor of Political Financing and the Municipal Electoral Officer. In most cases, the Chief Electoral Officer may during an election exercise emergency powers to extend deadlines, change or amend forms, or adapt the Act to meet the circumstances.

In Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan, the Chief Electoral Officer is appointed by a resolution of the House of Commons or legislature. In all other jurisdictions, the Chief Electoral Officer is appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council (except in British Columbia where the Chief Electoral Officer is appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor), or in the territories, by the Commissioner or Commissioner in Executive Council. In the case of New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, the appointment is, however, made on the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly. In Manitoba, appointment is made on recommendation of the Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs. In some jurisdictions, the Chief Electoral Officer is appointed for a specific period. That is the case in Canada (10 years), New Brunswick (10 years), Quebec (seven years), Alberta (one year after a general election), Saskatchewan and British Columbia (one year after every second general election), the Northwest Territories (four years) and Nunavut (seven years). In all jurisdictions, the Chief Electoral Officer reports to the Speaker of the House of Commons or legislature. As a rule, a report is required from the Chief Electoral Officer after every general election, describing the event and typically including his or her recommendations for desirable amendments to the electoral legislation. Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and Nunavut require the Chief Electoral Officer to produce an annual report describing the activities of the Office.

The electoral offices in seven jurisdictions maintain an advisory committee for consultation with political parties. This committee is established by law in Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia. In Nova Scotia, the law establishes a commission of party representatives, separate from the electoral office, to make recommendations to the Chief Electoral Officer. For matters related to political financing, New Brunswick has a second advisory committee that advises the Supervisor of Political Financing.

Various additional election officers are appointed to conduct elections. These officers include the returning officer (or district electoral officer in British Columbia), who is responsible for the conduct of an election at the electoral district level. In Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, returning officers are appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer. In Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, they are appointed by the Governor or Lieutenant-Governor in Council. In Ontario, returning officers are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Chief Electoral Officer. In Saskatchewan, an appointment as a returning officer will terminate six months after the day fixed for the return to the writ for the elections unless reappointed. In most cases, returning officers may appoint an assistant or deputy returning officer or both. In Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia, this task is the responsibility of the Chief Electoral Officer.

As a rule, returning officers also appoint the election officers who register electors or work in polling stations. In some cases, these officers must be appointed from a list of names supplied by the political parties that finished first and second in the previous election in that electoral district.

The salary of all election officers is determined according to a tariff of fees, generally fixed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. In Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia, it is set by the Chief Electoral Officer; in Quebec, the government sets it by regulation; in Ontario, the Chief Electoral Officer annually submits his or her fees and expenses to the Board of Internal Economy to be approved; and in Nunavut, it is set by the Management and Services Board.

Table C.1 Chief Electoral Officer
Jurisdiction Chief Electoral Officer
appointed by
Term of office Reports to Speaker
Canada Resolution of House of Commons During good behaviour for a term of 10 years, or may be removed for cause by Governor General on address of House of Commons and Senate
  • Within 90 days of return of writ, Chief Electoral Officer reports on administration of Office since last report or since issuance of writs, including any issues that should be brought to the attention of the House of Commons
  • As soon as possible after a general election, Chief Electoral Officer reports on any amendments that he or she deems desirable for better administration of Act
Newfoundland and Labrador Resolution of House of Assembly May only be removed by a resolution of House of Assembly Chief Electoral Officer reports annually on affairs of his or her Office
Prince Edward Island Legislative Assembly on recommendation of Standing Committee on Legislative Management, by a resolution of 2/3 of its members Before or within 10 days of start of session, Chief Electoral Officer may report on any matter related to administration of Office since last report or on any amendments to Act that he or she deems desirable for better administration of Act
Nova Scotia Governor in Council, on approval of the House of Assembly by majority vote 10 years, with possible reappointments to further terms
  • As soon as possible after an election, Chief Electoral Officer reports on voting results, cost, other relevant information and recommended amendments to the Act
  • Chief Electoral Officer reports at least annually on the administration of his or her Office and on any recommendations made by the Election Commission
New Brunswick Lieutenant-Governor in Council, on recommendation of Legislative Assembly; a selection committee shall be established before an appointment is made for the purpose of identifying persons as potential candidates 10 years, with possible extension of not more than 12 months
  • Before or during any session, Chief Electoral Officer reports on any matter or event that occurred relating to any election since date of his or her last report
  • Annual Report of the Supervisor of Political Financing submitted to Legislative Assembly
Quebec National Assembly, on a motion of Prime Minister of Quebec, by a resolution of 2/3 of its members 7 years
  • If Chief Electoral Officer adapts Act in a case of emergency, a report must be made within 30 days of polling day or end of revision period
  • After an election, Chief Electoral Officer publishes, as soon as possible, a detailed report on election containing, in particular, results for each electoral division
  • A report on the activities of Chief Electoral Officer, including a financial report for preceding fiscal year, must be submitted no later than September 30 of each year
Ontario Lieutenant-Governor in Council, on address of Legislative Assembly
  • Report on results and the conduct of a general election, including recommended legislative changes and the accessibility of service, within 12 months of an election
  • Report on testing in a by-election of voting/vote-counting equipment or alternative voting methods, including recommended legislative changes, within four months of the by-election
  • Report on elected Members who have exceeded campaign spending limits or failed to file financial statements, also report on Members who are leadership contestants who fail to file financial statements
  • Annual reports on the affairs of the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer including recommended legislative changes, under the Election Act and the Election Finances Act
  • Report to Board of Internal Economy, on projected costs for fixed date elections
Manitoba Lieutenant-Governor in Council, on recommendation of Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs Chief Electoral Officer reports annually on his or her work and reports on conduct of each election after the election; report may include recommendations for legislative amendments
Saskatchewan Resolution of Legislative Assembly Until 12 months after day of return of writ for second general election for which he or she is responsible
  • Chief Electoral Officer reports on conduct of election within 60 days after polling day if emergency action is taken during an election; if not, as soon as possible after an election
  • Report summarizes returns and reports from registered political parties and candidates, use of mobile polls, applications for party registration and disposal of those applications, and any other information that Speaker may direct
  • Chief Electoral Officer reports annually on progress and activities of previous year
Alberta Lieutenant-Governor in Council, on recommendation of Legislative Assembly Until 12 months after polling day for a general election unless reappointed prior to that date by Lieutenant-Governor in Council
  • Chief Electoral Officer reports after each enumeration, general election, election under the Senatorial Selection Act, by-election or plebiscite, or plebiscite or referendum under any other Act
  • Chief Electoral Officer reports to the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices on exercise of his or her functions under Act annually or, if the Assembly is not sitting, not more than 15 days after the commencement of the new Legislative Assembly
British Columbia Lieutenant-Governor, on recommendation of Legislative Assembly Until 12 months after day of return of writ for second general election for which he or she is responsible Chief Electoral Officer makes following reports: an annual report; a report after each election or plebiscite; a report with any recommendations for legislative amendments; a report respecting any Member who fails to comply with election financing provisions
Yukon Commissioner in Executive Council on the recommendation of Legislative Assembly Expires three months after the tabling of the final report of the first Electoral District Boundaries Commission that is appointed after that chief electoral officer is appointed
  • Chief Electoral Officer may, at any time, report on any matter in connection with his or her duties or on any amendments to Act that are desirable for better administration of Act
  • Chief Electoral Officer may, after consulting each registered political party, submit to the Members' Services Board a written proposal for the use, for any specific purpose under Elections Act, of any procedure, process, method, device, equipment or means of communication that differs from what this Act otherwise requires to be used for that purpose
Northwest Territories Commissioner, on recommendation of Legislative Assembly 4 years Within 6 months after a general election, Chief Electoral Officer reports on any matter connected to administration of Act, any significant action taken, the statements of candidates or official agents with any recommendations, a statement of expenditures and any amendments that are desirable for better administration of Act
Nunavut Commissioner, on recommendation of Legislative Assembly 7 years
  • Chief Electoral Officer must submit an annual activities report for each fiscal year, no later than July 1 following the end of the fiscal year
  • Chief Electoral Officer must submit a report on the conduct of an electoral event no later than 280 days after the date of writ


Table C.2 Advisory committee of political parties
Jurisdiction Statutory requirement Membership Mandate
Canada Yes
  • Chief Electoral Officer
  • Two representatives from each registered political party
  • The purpose of the committee is to provide the Chief Electoral Officer with advice and recommendations relating to elections and political financing
  • The committee's advice and recommendations are not binding on the Chief Electoral Officer
Newfoundland and Labrador Yes
  • Chief Electoral Officer
  • Two representatives of each registered party that had official candidates in at least 1/2 of all electoral districts at immediately preceding general election
  • Committee advises Chief Electoral Officer on functioning of the Elections Act, 1991, in particular on political financing
  • Chief Electoral Officer consults committee periodically on application of Act
  • Committee may make results of its work public
Prince Edward Island
Nova Scotia Yes
  • Chair appointed by Governor in Council
  • Two persons appointed by each of the leaders of a recognized party as defined by the House of Assembly Act
  • Chief Electoral Officer is not a member, but may participate in all meetings
  • Not eligible: members of Legislative Assembly or Parliament of Canada
  • Committee makes recommendations to Chief Electoral Officer on legislative amendments to improve election process or administration of the Act
  • Committee advises Chief Electoral Officer on administration of elections and electoral finance; on piloting of procedures, equipment or technology; and on initiation or conduct of studies on voting procedures, voting by persons with disabilities and electoral finance
New Brunswick Yes
  • Supervisor of Political Financing
  • Two representatives of each registered party that had official candidates in at least 1/2 of all electoral districts at immediately preceding general election
  • Not eligible: member of Legislative Assembly
  • Chief Electoral Officer
  • The advisory committee on the financing of the political process gives advice and opinion on any matter or question posed by Supervisor of Political Financing relating to the financing of the political process or application of Political Process Financing Act
  • Supervisor of Political Financing consults committee periodically on application of Act
  • Committee may make results of its work public
  • The advisory committee on the electoral process shall give its advice and opinion on any matter or question posed by the Chief Electoral Officer relating to the electoral process and to the application of the Elections Act
  • Chief Electoral Officer consults committee periodically on application of Act
  • Committee may make results of its work public
Quebec Yes
  • Chief Electoral Officer
  • Three representatives of each authorized party represented in National Assembly
  • Party leader designates representatives, at least one of whom is a member of National Assembly
  • Committee advises on questions relating to Act, except matters of electoral representation
  • Chief Electoral Officer consults committee periodically on administration of Election Act
  • Before issuing any directive on authorization and financing of political parties and independent candidates, and on control of election expenses, Chief Electoral Officer submits it to committee
  • Except during an election period or enumeration period, Chief Electoral Officer submits every other directive he is authorized to issue (including directives to election officers) to committee in advance
  • Committee may make results of its work public
Ontario Yes One or two members appointed by each registered party Committee may provide recommendations, when consulted by Chief Electoral Officer, on administration of Election Act and Election Finances Act
Manitoba Yes One representative appointed by each registered political party Committee may provide advice about proper administration of the Elections Act and the Election Financing Act; advice and recommendations are not binding
Saskatchewan
Alberta
British Columbia Yes
  • Chief Electoral Officer
  • Two representatives for each registered political party represented in Legislative Assembly
  • One representative for each registered political party that had candidates in at least 1/2 of all electoral districts at immediately preceding general election and is not represented in the legislature
  • Not eligible: member of Legislative Assembly
  • Committee advises Chief Electoral Officer on functioning of Election Act, in particular on political financing
  • Chief Electoral Officer must consult committee: periodically on application of Act; before publishing notice about application of amendment to Act; before making recommendation to Legislative Assembly about an amendment; and before making a regulation outside general election period
Yukon
Northwest Territories
Nunavut


Table C.3 Appointment of election officers
Jurisdiction Appointments made by Governor or Lieutenant-Governor in Council Appointments made by Chief Electoral Officer Appointments made by returning officer Appointments
made by deputy returning officer
Canada
  • Returning officers
  • Special Voting Rules Administrator
  • Six special ballot officers: 3 on advice of Prime Minister, 2 on advice of Leader of Opposition, 1 on advice of leader of registered party that has third largest number of members in House of Commons
  • Field liaison officer in respect of a given geographical area
  • Assistant returning officers
  • Registration officers and revising agents, from lists submitted by political parties that finished first and second in last election in electoral district
  • Deputy returning officers, from a list submitted by political party that finished first in last election in electoral district
  • Poll clerks, from a list submitted by political party whose candidate finished second in last election in electoral district
  • Central poll supervisors, where a central polling place has more than 4 polling stations
  • Information officers and persons responsible for maintaining order, with approval of Chief Electoral Officer, where there is a central polling place
  • Any other person deemed necessary for the conduct of the vote or the counting of the votes, with the Chief Electoral Officer's approval
Interpreters
Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Returning officers
  • Special Ballot Administrator
  • Election clerks and deputy returning officers, with approval of Chief Electoral Officer
  • Enumerators, under direction of Chief Electoral Officer
Poll clerks, with approval of returning officer
Prince Edward Island Returning officers
  • Confirmation officers, from lists submitted by the two registered political parties whose candidates came first and second in last election in electoral district
  • Deputy returning officers, from a list submitted by the two registered political parties that elected most members at last election
  • Election clerk
Poll clerks
Nova Scotia Returning officers
  • Assistant returning officer
  • Constable
  • 2 enumerators from lists submitted by the 2 political parties whose candidates received the highest and second highest number of votes at last election in electoral district
  • Revision assistants
  • Deputy returning officers from list supplied by candidate of political organization whose candidate was elected in electoral district
  • Poll clerks from list supplied by political organization whose candidate came second in electoral district
  • Supervising deputy returning officers, where a central polling place has 5 or more polling stations
  • Presiding officers and deputy presiding officers (in returning office and for advance polls)
  • Interpreters
  • Constable
New Brunswick Returning officers
  • Election clerk
  • Training officer
  • Revision officer
  • Poll supervisor
  • Voters list officer
  • Ballot issuing officer
  • Poll revision officer
  • Tabulation machine officer
  • Ballot counting officer
  • Technical support officer
  • Special voting officer
  • Constable
  • Any other officers necessary for holding the vote
Quebec
  • Returning officers, after a competition among qualified electors
  • Three-member board of revisers for electors with right to vote outside Quebec: first on advice of party that won last election; second on advice of party that finished second; chair on advice of Chief Electoral Officer with approval of parties above
  • For counting the votes of inmates or electors outside Quebec:
    • Deputy returning officers, recommended by the party that received the greatest number of votes in the last general election
    • Poll clerks, recommended by the party that received the second greatest number of votes in the last general election
  • Assistant returning officer
  • Enumerators, 2 per polling subdivision: first on advice of party that won last election, or the elected independent member; second on advice of party that finished second
  • Revisers, 3 per board: 2 revisers appointed as above; chair appointed on advice of returning officer with approval of two parties above
  • Revising officers, in groups of 2, appointed to one or several boards of revisers
  • Secretary of a board of revisers
  • Deputy returning officers, recommended by authorized party whose candidate won last election
  • Poll clerks, recommended by candidate of authorized party whose candidate finished second at last election
  • Officers in charge of information and order
  • Three-member panel in every polling station to verify the identity of electors who do not have one of the five pieces of ID required to vote: one member recommended by candidate of party that won last election, second recommended by candidate of party that came second. If there are three or fewer polling stations on the premises, the returning officer may allow the deputy returning officer and the poll clerk to act as panel members.
  • Officer in charge of voters list, 1 per polling station, recommended by candidate of authorized party whose candidate came third in the last election
Ontario Returning officers (on the recommendation of the Chief Electoral Officer)
  • Election clerk
  • Special ballot officers
  • Registration agents
  • Deputy returning officers
  • Poll clerks
  • Revision assistants
  • Returning office staff and other election officials/assistants
Manitoba
  • Returning officersFootnote 1
  • Assistant returning officers
  • Enumerators
  • Revising agents
  • Revising officers
  • Voting officers
  • Senior voting officers
  • Registration officers
  • Assistant voting officers
  • Information officers
Saskatchewan
  • Returning officers
  • Assistant Chief Electoral Officer
  • Election clerk
  • Poll clerks
  • Enumerators
  • Deputy returning officers
  • Supervisory deputy returning officers, where a central polling place has 5 or 6 polling divisions
Interpreters
Alberta
  • Returning officers
  • Acting returning officer
  • Election clerk
  • Training officers
  • Administrative assistants
  • Enumerators
  • Deputy returning officers
  • Poll clerks
  • Supervisory deputy returning officers, where a polling place has 2 or more polling stations
  • Registration officers
  • Interpreters
  • Information officers
Interpreters
British Columbia
  • District electoral officers
  • Deputy district electoral officers
  • District registrar of voters, deputy district registrar of voters
  • Any election officers, as prescribed under the Act, including voting officers.
Yukon
  • Returning officers
  • Assistant returning officers, after consultation with returning officers
  • Enumerators
  • Revising officers
  • Deputy returning officers
  • Poll attendants
  • Interpreters
  • Ballot box messengers
  • Information and resource officers
  • Poll clerk
  • Poll clerks
  • Poll attendants
  • Interpreters
Northwest Territories
  • Returning officers
  • Multi-district polling officer
  • Assistant multi-district polling officer
  • Assistant returning officers
  • Enumerators
  • Deputy returning officers
  • Poll clerks
  • Central poll supervisors, where a central polling place has 3 or more polling stations
Nunavut Returning officers
  • Assistant returning officers
  • Deputy returning officers
  • Poll clerks
Interpreters

Footnote 1 The Chief Electoral Officer must publish on the Elections Manitoba website a notice of each appointment of a returning officer. The notice is to remain on the website until the appointment ends or another returning officer is appointed for the same electoral division.

Table C.4 Staff and payment
Jurisdiction Staff of Chief Electoral Officer Tariff of fees fixed by Payment from
Canada Assistant Chief Electoral Officer and any other officers, clerks and employees that may be required Governor in Council, on recommendation of Chief Electoral Officer Unappropriated moneys forming part of Consolidated Revenue Fund
Newfoundland and Labrador Officers, clerks and any employees Chief Electoral Officer considers necessary, with approval of Commission of Internal Economy of House of Assembly Chief Electoral Officer, with approval of Commission of Internal Economy of House of Assembly Legislature, approved by Commission of Internal Economy of House of Assembly
Prince Edward Island Deputy Chief Electoral Officer and any employees Chief Electoral Officer considers necessary Lieutenant-Governor in Council, upon recommendation of Chief Electoral Officer Moneys appropriated for that purpose
Nova Scotia Assistant Chief Electoral Officer and any employees Chief Electoral Officer considers necessary Governor in Council, upon recommendation of Chief Electoral Officer Consolidated Fund of Province
New Brunswick Two Assistant Electoral Officers and any employees Chief Electoral Officer considers necessary Lieutenant-Governor in Council Minister of Finance, out of Consolidated Fund
Quebec Assistant Chief Electoral Officer and any persons Chief Electoral Officer considers necessary Government Consolidated Revenue Fund
Ontario Any persons Chief Electoral Officer considers necessary Chief Electoral Officer, with approval requested in an annual submission to the Board of Internal Economy Consolidated Revenue Fund
Manitoba Deputy Chief Electoral Officer and any employees Chief Electoral Officer considers necessary Lieutenant-Governor in Council Consolidated Fund
Saskatchewan Assistant Chief Electoral Officer and any persons Chief Electoral Officer considers necessary Lieutenant-Governor in Council General Revenue Fund
Alberta Deputy Chief Electoral Officer and any officers Chief Electoral Officer considers necessary Lieutenant-Governor in Council
British Columbia Deputy Chief Electoral Officer and any employees Chief Electoral Officer considers necessary Chief Electoral Officer Consolidated Revenue Fund
Yukon Assistant Chief Electoral Officer and any officers and employees Chief Electoral Officer considers necessary Commissioner in Executive Council, after consultation with Chief Electoral Officer Yukon Consolidated Revenue Fund
Northwest Territories Deputy Chief Electoral Officer and any persons Chief Electoral Officer considers necessary Commissioner, on recommendation of Chief Electoral Officer Consolidated Revenue Fund
Nunavut Assistant Chief Electoral Officer and any persons Chief Electoral Officer considers necessary Management and Services Board From any unappropriated monies in Consolidated Revenue Fund