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Process for Appointing Returning Officers

The Chief Electoral Officer must appoint a returning officer in an electoral district when the office of returning officer is vacant. The office of returning officer becomes vacant in the following circumstances:

  1. The returning officer dies, resigns, is removed from office or ceases to reside in the electoral district;
  2. The returning officer reaches the end of his or her term of office; or
  3. The boundaries of the electoral district are revised as a result of the decennial electoral boundaries readjustment.

When the office of returning officer (RO) in an electoral district is vacant by reason of one of the circumstances described in i) above, the Chief Electoral Officer has a number of options for selecting a new RO for that electoral district:

  • holding a public selection process
  • choosing a candidate from a list of qualified candidates established from the most recent successful public selection process held either in the same electoral district or in an adjacent electoral district, or
  • holding a non-advertised selection process

In the case where a RO’s term of office has ended, the Chief Electoral Officer also has a number of options for selecting a new RO:

  • holding a public selection process
  • choosing a candidate from a list of qualified candidates established from the most recent successful public selection process held either in the same electoral district or in an adjacent electoral district
  • holding a non-advertised selection process, or
  • appointing the RO to a new term, pursuant to subsection 24(1.4) of the Canada Elections Act (the Act).

Finally, when the boundaries of the electoral district change as a result of the decennial electoral boundaries readjustment, the Chief Electoral Officer can choose one of the following options:

  • holding a public selection process to select a RO for the electoral district or
  • appointing a current RO who resides within the boundaries of what will be the new electoral district, pursuant to subsection 24(1.4) of the Act. When more than one current RO resides within those boundaries, the Chief Electoral Officer may choose from among those returning officers.

Details about the various processes for selecting ROs are set out below.

1. Process for appointment by public selection process

(1) Public notice of competition

The Chief Electoral Officer will launch the public competition process by issuing a public notice of the competition in the electoral district with a vacant position. The notice of competition will indicate the deadline for applying and will also be posted on the Elections Canada website. Persons who want to apply must visit the Elections Canada website for more information, such as the job description, list of required qualifications and application form.

(2) Establishment of selection committee

A Selection Committee will be established for each electoral district a competition is held in. The Selection Committee will review the applications submitted, select candidates to attend the oral interview and written exam, and conduct the oral interview and written exam. Each Selection Committee will be composed of three individuals and must, as much as possible, have one human resources specialist and one or more individuals with experience in the federal electoral process.

(3) Review of applications

The Selection Committee shall review the applications submitted through the public competition to determine whether a candidate is eligible to hold the office of returning officer and to determine whether a candidate has demonstrated that he or she possesses the essential qualifications set out in the Statement of Qualifications for Persons Appointed as Returning Officers.

If more than six candidates meet the essential qualifications, the Selection Committee may use the list of additional qualifications set out in the Statement of Qualifications for Persons Appointed as Returning Officers to choose who will be offered an oral interview and an opportunity to write an exam. The Selection Committee may invite more than six candidates to the oral interview and written exam. When there are fewer than six candidates who have the essential qualifications, the Selection Committee shall invite all of these candidates to the oral interview and written exam. In some cases, they may decide to extend the dates for the competition.

(4) Oral interview and written examination process

At the oral interview and in the written exam, candidates will be assessed on the knowledge, competencies and essential qualifications set out in the Statement of Qualifications for Persons Appointed as Returning Officers.

(5) Reference and reliability check

The Selection Committee will verify the references of all candidates whose oral interviews and written exam are satisfactory. The appropriate government authority will conduct the security clearance process.

(6) Report of selection committee and list of qualified candidates

Each Selection Committee will report to the Chief Electoral Officer on the suitability for appointment of each candidate selected for an oral interview. The candidates whose oral interviews, written exam and references are satisfactory will be on the list of qualified candidates. NOTE: The returning officer selection process is influenced by the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) and is considered an external appointment. Our standard practice is not to provide feedback to applicants during or after the selection process has been completed.

(7) Offer of appointment

The Chief Electoral Officer may make an offer of appointment to a candidate from the list of qualified candidates. If he is not satisfied that any of the candidates on a list of qualified candidates is suitable for appointment, he may cancel that public competition and initiate a new public competition.

(8) Acceptance of offer

When a candidate accepts an offer of appointment from the Chief Electoral Officer, the Election Officers Recruitment Team will advise any other person on the list of qualified candidates that the position is filled. They will also inform the candidates that they are qualified for the office of returning officer for that electoral district, but that the Chief Electoral Officer is not required to appoint a person from that list if the position becomes vacant.

(9) Refusal of offer or non-acceptance within specified time period

If an offer of appointment is declined by a candidate or is not accepted by a candidate within the time period specified by the Chief Electoral Officer, the Chief Electoral Officer may make an offer of appointment to another person on the list of qualified candidates or may proceed with a new public competition according to the process set out in this section.

2. Process for appointment by selection from the list of qualified candidates established from the most recent successful public selection process

(1) Offer of appointment

The Chief Electoral Officer may make an offer of appointment to a candidate from the list of qualified candidates established from the most recent successful public competition held either in the same or in an adjacent electoral district.

(2) Refusal of offer or non-acceptance within specified time period

If an offer of appointment is declined by a candidate or is not accepted by a candidate within the time period specified by the Chief Electoral Officer, the Chief Electoral Officer may make an offer of appointment to another person on the list of qualified candidates or may proceed with a new public competition according to the process set out in section 1.

3. Non-advertised selection process

This process meets the same high standards as those found in the core public service. The non-advertised selection process methods that will be adopted to ensure the appointment of returning officers will continue to meet these high expectations.

(1) Recommendation

The returning officer and the field liaison officer responsible for the region in question must submit a recommendation for one of the candidates.

(2) Application review

The Selection Committee shall review the application to determine whether a candidate is eligible to hold the office of returning officer and to determine whether a candidate possesses the essential qualifications set out in the Statement of Qualifications for Persons Appointed as Returning Officers.

(3) Written examination and interview process

The Selection Committee shall determine whether a candidate who has participated in the written examination and interview process possesses the essential qualifications, knowledge and competencies set out in the Statement of Qualifications for Persons Appointed as Returning Officers.

(4) Selection Committee Report

The Selection Committee will then submit a report to the Chief Electoral Officer on the evaluation of the competencies of each candidate selected for an interview.

(5) Offer of appointment

For each electoral district in which a returning officer is to be appointed, the Chief Electoral Officer may make an offer to the qualified candidate. If the Chief Electoral Officer determines that this candidate is not suitable for the position, he may cancel the non-advertised selection process and start a new one, in accordance with the process set out in this section.

4. Process for reappointment of a returning officer to the same electoral district or appointment of a current returning officer to a new electoral district as a result of the decennial readjustment of electoral boundaries

The Chief Electoral Officer may also appoint a returning officer in accordance with subsection 24(1.4) of the Act, which stipulates:

The Chief Electoral Officer may, after consultation with the leader of every recognized political party in the House of Commons, appoint for a new term any returning officer who has performed the functions of a returning officer in a satisfactory manner, whether or not other persons are considered for the appointment, if the office of returning officer is vacant by reason of
  • (a) the expiry of the returning officer’s term of office; or
  • (b) the revision of the boundaries of the electoral district as a result of a representation order made under section 25 of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act.

Where, following the decennial readjustment of electoral boundaries, more than one current returning officer resides within the boundaries of what will be a new electoral district, the Chief Electoral Officer may, after consultation with the leader of every recognized political party in the House of Commons, appoint any one of these persons who has performed the functions of a returning officer in a satisfactory manner as returning officer of the new electoral district. The Chief Electoral Officer may use different means than those used in public competitions to identify the most qualified individual. For example, the Chief Electoral Officer may require a written submission from candidates or consider their past performance evaluations.