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Returning Officers

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A federal returning officer (RO) is responsible for the delivery and control of federal electoral events within the electoral district to which he or she is appointed.

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Type of job: Varied hours – Electoral Cycle

Job status: Appointed – Electoral Administrators

Employment duration: 10-year mandate

Expected start date: In three months (on average) following a public staffing process

Number of hours per week: Varied hours – Electoral Cycle

Salary: Hourly rate of $57.33


Job description

Key activities

  • Plans and prepares for an election by carrying out pre-event activities
  • Plans and organizes the delivery of access to voting
  • Manages and controls financial, material and human resources
  • Administers the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act in his or her electoral district as well as related legislation, such as the Official Languages Act and the Financial Administration Act
  • Communicates information to the public, candidates, and political parties
  • Collaborates with other Elections Canada teams
  • Contributes to the improvement of the electoral process

View the list of returning officer duties

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A returning officer must be qualified as an elector (i.e. be a Canadian citizen and at least 18 years old) and must reside in or adjacent to the electoral district in which he or she is to perform duties under the Canada Elections Act.


Successful completion of two years of an acceptable post-secondary education program
An acceptable combination of education, training and relevant experience


  • Management experience as a leader in the public or private sector
  • Experience in managing special events in short time frames
  • Experience in managing human resources
  • Experience in financial management
  • Experience in material management
  • Experience in managing activities in a computerized environment

Additional qualifications that may be used to select candidates for interviews

  • Experience in the administration of electoral processes
  • Participation in community-based organizations
  • Ability to communicate in both official languages
  • Ability to communicate in a minority language spoken in the electoral district

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Knowledge and skills

  • Knowledge of the mandate, role and responsibilities of the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer (Elections Canada) and of the office of the returning officer
  • Ability to implement the statutory and administrative requirements of the office of the returning officer
  • Ability to navigate the Internet, and use email and word processing software
  • Ability to manage crises and resolve unexpected situations
  • Ability to communicate effectively orally
  • Ability to communicate effectively in writing
  • Ability to negotiate to resolve difficult situations
  • Ability to plan for the recruitment, hiring and training of personnel
  • Sensitivity to persons or communities with special needs in the electoral district
  • Diplomacy, judgment, reliability, adaptability and discretion
  • Leadership
  • Interpersonal skills

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Factors to consider

A.   Candidates who are being considered for appointment must:

  • Supply references
  • Complete and submit the Treasury Board Personnel Screening, Consent and Authorization Form, which includes providing information required for criminal record and credit checks
  • Be granted “Reliability” status before they can be appointed
  • Provide two pieces of valid ID that confirm proof of residency within or adjacent to the electoral district in which the candidate is applying to serve as returning officer

B.   Candidates must be prepared to accept the following conditions of appointment should they be appointed as a returning officer:

  • Conduct themselves in a politically impartial manner at the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal levels
  • Not make a contribution to a candidate, a leadership contestant or a nomination contestant
  • Not belong or make a contribution to, be an employee of or hold a position in a registered party, an eligible party or a registered electoral district association
  • Be available between electoral events for pre-event planning and other part-time and intermittent activities
  • Be available and able to work long hours, without notice, for the duration of an election or referendum period and the post-event period
  • Attend training sessions held by Elections Canada
  • In exceptional cases, agree to establish a returning officer's office and work in a community closer to the majority of people in the riding during an electoral event.
  • Maintain a “Reliability” security clearance at all times during tenure as returning officer. It is understood that Elections Canada has the authority to monitor compliance with this condition of appointment throughout the term of the appointment.

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Additional information

The federal RO is appointed by and reports to the Chief Electoral Officer.

The position of returning officer is demanding, both mentally and physically.

Returning officers work long hours, seven days a week, during the minimum 36-day election calendar (from the day the writ ordering the election is issued until election day) and for several days after the election. They must be available all day, every day, during that time. Outside the election period, returning officers must be able to free themselves from other commitments on an occasional, part-time basis to carry out pre-event planning assignments, participate in consultations and attend training or briefing sessions, etc.

The work is by nature impartial and non-partisan and returning officers must conduct all business accordingly. During their mandate, they must abide by Elections Canada's Code of Professional Conduct for Election Administrators and abstain from all activities of a politically partisan nature, both during and between election and referendum periods.

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