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The Electoral System of Canada

The Federal Electoral Process

How are Canadian elections prepared and conducted?

While candidates and political parties are the most visible players during elections, they are not the only ones involved. Behind the scenes, election workers play an essential role in making sure that each electoral event is fair and well managed.

In a general election, a small army of poll workers staff tens of thousands of stationary and mobile polls across the country on election day. Workers are also needed for advance polls and in local Elections Canada offices (the latter of which are open for the full election period). A returning officer in each of the 338 electoral districts coordinates the activities of these workers. Field liaison officers are also hired to assist returning officers in their duties.

Based on local needs, community relations officers are hired to reach out to those most likely to experience difficulties in exercising their democratic rights young people and students, seniors, members of Aboriginal and ethnocultural communities, and people who are homeless.

Preparing for an Electoral Event

Elections Canada must always be ready to deliver a general election, by-election or referendum. It updates the National Register of Electors year-round, trains new returning officers and prepares many tonnes of materials. In the field, returning officers complete pre-event assignments, such as setting up polling divisions and selecting potential locations for polling places, among many other tasks.

The National Register of Electors

Elections Canada uses data from the National Register of Electors to produce the preliminary lists of electors and voter information cards for a general election, by-election or referendum. Provincial, territorial and municipal electoral agencies may also use information from the Register to update their voters lists, as permitted under the Canada Elections Act and where data-sharing agreements have been signed.

According to Statistics Canada, about 17 percent of voter information changes every year. The Register is updated continually with data from these sources:

  • the Canada Revenue Agency, for people who tick both of the “Yes” boxes in the Elections Canada section of their tax form, which asks if they have Canadian citizenship and agree to share their name, date of birth and address
  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, for new citizens who tick both of the “Yes” boxes on their citizenship application form, agreeing to share their name, gender, date of birth and address
  • National Defence, for Canadian Forces Regular Force members who have completed a Statement of Ordinary Residence form
  • provincial and territorial motor vehicle agenciesFootnote 1
  • provincial and territorial vital statistics agenciesFootnote 2
  • provincial and territorial voters lists
  • voters lists from recent elections in other Canadian jurisdictions
  • electors themselves when they register to vote or update their registration during and between elections

Online Voter Registration Service

In 2012, Elections Canada launched the Online Voter Registration Service on its website. This convenient Internet-based service offers Canadians an additional way to check whether they are registered to vote, update their registration information or be added to the National Register of Electors. Rather than replacing current registration methods, it complements them.

The service can only be used for some transactions, since the Canada Elections Act requires a signature or documentary proof of identity in certain cases. Numerous security safeguards are in place to protect electors' privacy.

How Electors Can Use Online Registration
Check whether they are registered Confirm whether they are registered to vote (using their name, address and date of birth for identification purposes).

Between elections: any time
During elections: any time
Update address if already registered Update their previously registered address (using their name, address and date of birth for identification purposes).

Between elections: any time
During elections: up to the Tuesday before election day at 6 p.m. (local time)
Add their name to the Register New potential electors identified in information from the Canada Revenue Agency or provincial or territorial motor vehicle agencies can add their names to the Register by confirming their citizenship after having consented to share information with the Register. Electors must provide their name, address and date of birth for identification purposes, and their driver's licence number (or provincial or territorial ID card issued by Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan or Yukon) to validate their registration.

Between elections: any time
During elections: up to the Tuesday before election day at 6 p.m. (local time)
Complete, print and submit a registration form Between and during elections, until the Tuesday before election day: All new electors can use the service to complete a registration form. They must print, sign, and mail or fax the form to Elections Canada along with proof of identity and address.

During elections, after the Tuesday before election day: Unregistered electors can use the service to print a registration certificate, which they can bring (along with proof of identity and address) to the polling place on election day to facilitate their registration.

Returning Officers

The key election officer in each of the 338 federal electoral districts is the returning officer. Appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer through an open and merit-based competitive process, returning officers work under the general supervision of the Chief Electoral Officer. They receive support from Elections Canada staff at headquarters and a network of regional field liaison officers who provide functional leadership.

Legally, a returning officer must be a Canadian citizen, at least 18 years of age, who lives in the electoral district where he or she is appointed. In practice, however, the returning officer must be much more. The job is demanding and the duties varied. Along with serious commitment, detailed knowledge of the federal electoral process and a wide range of management skills are essential.

Returning officers must abide by a code of professional conduct and must abstain from all politically partisan activities, both during and between elections and referendums. They are appointed for a 10-year term and remain in the position for that time, unless the electoral district boundaries change as a result of redistribution or they move out of the electoral district, resign or are removed by the Chief Electoral Officer.

Setting Up Polling Divisions

To facilitate the vote, every electoral district must be divided into polling divisions, and a voters list must be drawn up for each. Polling divisions are also used to direct electors to their specific voting location. There are tens of thousands of polling divisions across the country.

Selecting Locations for Polling Sites

Returning officers select convenient and accessible locations for polling places, for both advance voting and election day. Polling places are usually set up in well-known, central locations such as community centres and schools. They must be equipped with level access to meet the requirements of the Canada Elections Act.

Preparing Supplies

The agency develops administrative procedures and prepares maps, instruction kits, forms, information materials, ballot paper and boxes, and other supplies that will be needed to conduct an election. If an election is thought to be imminent, early shipments are sent to returning officers' homes and staging points across the country.

Launching an Election

The Canada Elections Act states that a general election will be held on the third Monday of October in the fourth calendar year following election day for the previous general election.

However, the Governor General has the discretion to decide to dissolve Parliament and call a general election at an earlier date. The Governor General may do so:

  • after the Government of the day loses a confidence vote in the House of Commons, or
  • at any time on the advice of the Prime Minister

After receiving the official proclamation of election, the Chief Electoral Officer issues a writ to the returning officer of each electoral district. The writ is a formal document directing a returning officer to conduct an election in his or her electoral district and on which, after election day, the returning officer writes the name of the winning candidate. By law, election day must be at least 36 days after the issue of the writs. There is no maximum number of days for this period.

Once advised of the election, returning officers rent office space, open local Elections Canada offices and provide the services that will enable electors to exercise their right to vote. The returning officers sign and issue a Notice of Election for their electoral district, informing voters of important dates and other details.

Opening the Local Elections Canada Offices

Each returning officer rents space and furniture in an accessible location in his or her electoral district and opens an office. This office is open during the hours set by the Chief Electoral Officer, and it serves as the centre of field operations for that electoral district for the duration of the election. Staff must be hired and trained immediately because the office is expected to begin functioning without delay.

General Election Countdown

Between the Election Call and Election Day

  • The Governor General issues proclamations dissolving Parliament and directing that the writs of election be issued.
  • The Chief Electoral Officer issues the writs, which direct returning officers to hold an election in each electoral district.
  • Returning officers open their offices.
  • Voting by special ballot begins.
  • Elections Canada sends preliminary lists of electors to returning officers.
  • Preliminary candidate and party election expenses limits are calculated.
  • Revision of the lists of electors begins.
  • Voter information cards are mailed to registered electors.
  • Returning officers receive candidates' nomination papers and deposits.
  • Returning officers have regular ballots printed.
  • Canadian Forces electors begin voting.
  • Voting takes place at advance polls.
  • Voting by incarcerated electors and those in acute care hospitals begins.
  • Revision ends, and the deadline for special ballot registration expires.
  • Revised candidate and party election expenses limits are calculated.

Election Day

  • Electors vote at ordinary and mobile polling stations.
  • The ballots are counted in each polling division and electoral district.
  • Preliminary voting results are available after the polls close.


  • Returning officers carry out the validation of the results.
  • Judicial recounts are conducted, if necessary.
  • Returning officers return the writs, which declare the winning candidate in each electoral district.
  • The Chief Electoral Officer reports on the election and the official results.
  • Candidates, political parties and third parties submit financial reports.
  • Candidates' and political parties' expenses are partially reimbursed.
  • Candidates dispose of surplus funds.

Revising the Preliminary Lists

As soon as possible after the election is called, Elections Canada sends the preliminary lists of electors to each returning officer. Soon afterward, voter information cards are mailed to every registered elector. Each card shows the elector's name and address, says when and where to vote and how to contact the returning officer, and indicates the polling station's level of accessibility.

Between the beginning of the election period and the sixth day before election day, the lists of electors are revised as needed by adding, deleting and correcting the information they contain. If an elector has moved within an electoral district, he or she can have the information changed over the telephone on providing satisfactory proof of identity and address. Voters can also register in person at the advance polls or on election day after showing proof of identity and address.

Returning officers also carry out a targeted revision of selected areas of their electoral district. During the revision period, returning officers send pairs of revising agents door to door in areas where electors are less likely to appear on the preliminary voters list at their current address. Examples of such areas are new residential developments, college and university residences, high-mobility neighbourhoods (including off-campus student housing) and long-term care facilities.

The returning officer then prepares revised lists of electors to be used at the advance polls as well as a second set of revised lists, called the official lists, to be used on election day. In addition, on the 19th day before election day, the returning officer distributes to each candidate who requests it an electronic copy of the most current list of electors for that electoral district.

Nominating Candidates

After the returning officer publishes the Notice of Election, candidates have until the close of nominations at 2:00 p.m. on the 21st day before election day to submit their nomination paper. Each paper includes the name, address and signature of at least 100 electors (or, in certain specified large and sparsely populated ridings, 50 electors) resident in the electoral district who support the nomination, and it is submitted to the returning officer along with a $1,000 deposit. The returning officer then has 48 hours after the nomination paper is filed to verify that the documentation is complete and complies with the Canada Elections Act before confirming or refusing the candidacy. If a candidate is refused, he or she may submit corrected papers up until the close of nominations.

Registering Political Parties

A political party must be properly registered with the Chief Electoral Officer if it wants to issue tax receipts for contributions, be eligible to receive partial reimbursements of its election expenses, and have its name appear on the ballots under its candidates' names. An eligible party becomes registered when it has at least one candidate whose nomination is confirmed for a general election or by-election, so long as its application for registration was made with the Chief Electoral Officer at least 60 days before the issue of the writs and has not been withdrawn. A party whose application was made after the 60 days becomes registered for the next general election or any by-election that precedes it if the party endorses a candidate in that election.

Requirements for Political Party Registration

As part of the information and documentation required, a political party must include the following in its application for registration:

  • the political party's full name
  • the party's short-form name, or its abbreviation, if any, that is to be shown in election documents
  • the party's logo, if any
  • a copy of the party's resolution appointing the leader
  • the address of the party's office where records are maintained and to which communications may be addressed
  • the names and addresses of the chief agent, auditor and officers of the party as well as their signed consent to act
  • the names and addresses of at least 250 electors and their signed declarations that they are members of the party and that they support its application for registration
  • a signed declaration by the leader that one of the fundamental purposes of the party is to participate in public affairs by endorsing one or more of its members as candidates and supporting their election

Voter Information Card and Reminder Brochure

As soon as possible after the issue of the writs but not later than the 24th day before election day, returning officers send a voter information cardFootnote 3 to each elector whose name appears on the preliminary lists.Footnote 4 In addition to confirming an elector's registered status, the card informs the elector about voting at an advance poll or on election day. This includes the address of the elector's advance and ordinary polling stations as well as the dates and hours for voting. The voter information card cannot be used for identification purposes.

Shortly afterward, Elections Canada sends a generic reminder brochure to every household in Canada. The brochure instructs electors to contact Elections Canada if they have not received a voter information card. The reminder brochure also lists the dates for voting in advance, on election day and by special ballot, as well as Elections Canada's telephone and teletypewriter (TTY) numbers and website address. In addition, it lists all of the documents that voters can use to prove their identity and address when they vote, and explains all of the options available for identifying themselves at the polls.


There are a number of ways to vote. The most common way is at the ordinary polls on election day. Voters can also cast their ballots at an advance poll, or they can vote by special ballot either at an Elections Canada office or through the mail. As additional services, Elections Canada provides mobile polls for voters living in long-term care facilities and, in certain cases, bedside voting by special ballot for voters in acute care hospitals. In exceptional circumstances where a voter is registered for a special ballot but cannot go to the local Elections Canada office or mark the ballot because of a disability an election officer can go to the voter's home to help mark and receive the ballot in the presence of a witness.

Ordinary Polls

The great majority of voters choose to cast their ballots at the ordinary polls on election day. During the hours that the polls are open, electors go to the polling station indicated on their voter information card, have their name crossed off the voters list and go behind a voting screen to mark their ballot.

Electors who have not already registered to vote can register at the polling station on election day (or at the advance polls) after showing proof of identity and address.

Voter Identification at the Polls and at Local Offices

When voting at the polls on election day, at an advance poll or at a local Elections Canada office, voters are required to prove their identity and address before being handed a ballot.

Electors have three options for proving their identity and address:

  • They can show one original piece of identification, issued by a Canadian government (federal, provincial or local) or agency of that government, that contains their photo, name and address. An example is a driver's licence.
  • They can show two original pieces of identification authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer. Both pieces must have their name, and one must also have their address. Examples include a health card and a hydro bill.
  • Electors who have two pieces of identification with their name, but not their address, can take an oath in writing and have someone who knows them personally attest to their address. The attesting person must show proof of identity and address, be registered in the same polling division, and attest for only one person.

A complete list of the pieces of identification authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer can be found at

Voting Hours on Election Day

The Canada Elections Act requires polling stations to be open for voting for 12 consecutive hours on election day.

Staggered Voting Hours
To compensate for Canada's six time zones, polls open and close (in local time) as follows:

Newfoundland Time 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Atlantic Time 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Eastern Time 9:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Central Time* 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Mountain Time* 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Pacific Time 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

*In Saskatchewan, when Daylight Saving Time is in effect for the rest of the country, voting hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (local time).

The hours of voting are staggered by time zone so that a majority of results will be available at approximately the same time across the country. If necessary, the Chief Electoral Officer may modify the voting hours in a riding to make them coincide with the voting hours in other ridings in the same time zone.

Regular Paper Ballot

The election ballot lists the names of the candidates in alphabetical order along with each one's political affiliation, unless they choose to have either “Independent” or no affiliation under their name.

The voter takes the ballot behind the voting screen and makes a clear mark in the circle beside the preferred name.

Marking the Ballot

The voter goes to the polling station specified on the voter information card, and the poll clerk crosses the voter's name off the voters list. After verifying the voter's identity and address, the deputy returning officer hands the voter a folded ballot with the initials of the deputy returning officer on the back of the ballot.

The voter then goes behind a table with a voting screen and places a mark in the white circle next to the name of the candidate of his or her choice. The voter re-folds the ballot so that the deputy returning officer's initials are visible and hands it to the deputy returning officer. The deputy returning officer checks the initials and the serial number shown on the counterfoil, removes and destroys the counterfoil, and returns the ballot to the voter. The voter, or the deputy returning officer at the voter's request, places the folded ballot in the ballot box. The poll clerk then places a mark in the “Voted” column beside the voter's name on the voters list. These procedures apply to all voters to ensure the secrecy of the vote.

Advance Voting

Four days Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the 10th, 9th, 8th and 7th days before election day are designated for advance voting. They are meant to accommodate electors who will be unable, or do not wish, to vote on election day. Advance polls are open from noon to 8:00 p.m. The dates and the location of each elector's designated advance polling station are indicated on the voter information card. The voting procedure is almost the same as at the ordinary polls. A growing percentage of electors choose to vote at the advance polls.

An elector whose name is not on the revised voters list can register in person at the designated advance polling station by showing satisfactory proof of identity and address. After having his or her identity and address verified and signing a registration certificate, the elector is registered and handed a ballot.

Special Ballot

The Canada Elections Act provides alternative voting procedures specifically designed for electors who:

  • are temporarily residing outside Canada (for less than five consecutive years, with certain exceptions) at the time of an election
  • reside in Canada and wish to vote by special ballot
  • are members of the Canadian Forces
  • are incarcerated

Electors residing outside Canada may apply at any time to be listed in the International Register of Electors. Shortly after an election period begins, those listed are mailed a special ballot voting kit containing a special ballot and three envelopes. They can submit their ballot through a Canadian embassy, Canadian high commission, Canadian Forces base or Canadian consular office, or directly to Elections Canada in Ottawa. Those who are not yet listed can register for a special ballot during the election period until 6:00 p.m. on the sixth day before election day. Application forms are available at Canadian diplomatic or consular offices, on the Elections Canada website or directly from Elections Canada headquarters.

Electors residing in Canada can register to vote by special ballot at the latest 6:00 p.m. on the sixth day before election day, whether they are in Canada or travelling abroad. Application forms are available at local Elections Canada offices, Canadian embassies, consular offices, passport offices, on the Elections Canada website, or directly from Elections Canada headquarters. Once applications are accepted, special ballot voting kits are mailed to the electors or provided on the spot if they applied in person at a local office. As well, once the application for registration and special ballot of an elector residing in Canada has been accepted, the elector cannot vote in any other way.

Regardless of where they cast their special ballot, electors can vote only for a candidate who is running in their own electoral district. To preserve the secrecy of the vote, after an elector marks the ballot, he or she seals it in the unmarked envelope, puts that sealed envelope in an outer envelope with the name of the electoral district on it, seals the second envelope and puts it in the mailing envelope.

Special ballots can be returned in person, by mail or by courier (with the exception of those from incarcerated electors). If they are voting from outside their electoral district, electors must ensure that their ballot arrives at Elections Canada in Ottawa before 6:00 p.m., Eastern Time, on election day to be counted as valid. If they are voting from within their electoral district, their ballot must arrive at their local Elections Canada office before the polling stations close on election day.

Electors who are in the Canadian Forces or incarcerated also vote by special ballot, using slightly different procedures specifically designed for them. The former vote at military bases or civilian polling stations and the latter in correctional institutions. Canadian Forces electors can vote by mail or at polling stations set up in their units during a specific voting period. They can also vote at the civilian polling station associated with the address on their Statement of Ordinary Residence, provided they are residing there at the time of an electoral event.

Electors who are in a correctional institution or federal penitentiary may vote within their facility on the 10th day before election day. They must first complete a special ballot application form, available from a staff member appointed for the event. Their application forms and marked ballots are forwarded by special arrangement to Elections Canada in Ottawa. Alternatively, inmates may choose to mail their ballot themselves.

Special Ballot

The special ballot has a dotted line on which the voter writesthe full name, or the initials and last name, of the candidate of his or her choice.

Its generic form enables voting by mail or in person at any local Elections Canada office.

The Results

Shortly after the polls close on election day, the preliminary results begin to come in to Elections Canada. As the reports arrive from the various polling stations on election night, Elections Canada releases the results to the media for immediate publication or broadcast. Simultaneously, Elections Canada hosts a live feed on its website of the preliminary results by riding, by major centre, by province or territory, nationwide and by political party leader.

Validation of the Results

Within seven days after election day (unless exceptional circumstances prevent some ballot boxes or information from being available on time), each returning officer validates the results by examining the documents relating to the vote count to verify the election night calculations. Only after the validation has been completed can the official voting results be published.

Judicial Recounts

A judicial recount is automatically requested by the returning officer and conducted by a judge if the number of votes separating the candidate with the most votes and any other candidate is less than one one-thousandth of the total number of votes cast in that electoral district. A recount may also be conducted if it appears to a judge to whom a request for a recount has been made that an error may have occurred during the count.

If the two top-ranking candidates have received the same number of votes after a recount, a by-election is held in that electoral district.

Election Reports

The Return of the Writs

After the sixth day following the validation of the results (or without delay after a judicial recount), the returning officer records the winning candidate's name on the writ received at the beginning of the election, signs it and returns it to the Chief Electoral Officer.

The Chief Electoral Officer's Reports

Following each general election, the Chief Electoral Officer produces three reports.

Report 1: Chronology of the General Election

The first report is a factual and chronological description of key events during the general election. It also outlines any measures taken or proposed to be taken to improve the accuracy of the lists of electors. The report is prepared within 90 days of the return of the writs.

Report 2: Retrospective of the General Election

The second report is prepared within nine months of the election to provide a richer understanding of the event. It contains the official voting results and the conclusions of the independent audit of poll workers' performance. It indicates, by polling division, the number of additions, corrections or deletions made to the lists of electors. It highlights how Elections Canada planned, prepared and administered the election. It presents the electoral experience from the viewpoint of electors, political entities and the agency itself. It also shares specific lessons learned, making links to the report prepared immediately after the event and the report of recommendations, to be submitted to the Speaker of the House of Commons at a later date.

Report 3: Recommendations on Improving Canada's Electoral Framework

The third report contains the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations to Parliament for legislative improvements to the Canada Elections Act. It is based not only on the experience of the most recent general election but also on issues that have emerged during the entire electoral cycle (including, for example, in the context of nomination contests or leadership contests).

Elections Canada publishes each of these reports and makes them available at


Between general elections, when a seat in the House of Commons becomes officially vacant, the Speaker must inform the Chief Electoral Officer without delay with a Speaker's warrant for the issue of a writ for the election of a new member. Between the 11th and the 180th day after the Chief Electoral Officer receives this warrant, the Governor General, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, must set the date for holding a by-election.

Once the date is known, the Chief Electoral Officer issues a writ to the returning officer of the electoral district concerned, directing him or her to hold a by-election on that date. If a general election is called after the by-election writ has been issued and before the by-election is held, the writ for the by-election is considered withdrawn, and the Chief Electoral Officer publishes a notice in the Canada Gazette to that effect.

Conduct of By-elections

A by-election is conducted in almost the same way as a general election, except that it is held in only one or a few specified electoral districts. There are some other differences, as outlined in the table below.

General Election By-election
A general election always follows a dissolution of the House of Commons. The House of Commons is not dissolved.
To allow electors in the Canadian Forces to vote, a polling station is set up on every base for a specified period before election day. Elections Canada automatically sends a special ballot voting kit to each Canadian Forces elector who is registered in an electoral district where a by-election is taking place.
To allow electors in correctional institutions to vote, a polling station is set up in every correctional institution, and voting takes place on the 10th day before election day. If Elections Canada approves an application from an incarcerated elector whose place of ordinary residence is in the electoral district where the by-election is being held, it sends a special ballot voting kit to the elector.
To vote in a general election, the elector must be ordinarily resident in the electoral district on election day. To vote in a by-election, the elector must have been ordinarily resident in the electoral district from the beginning of the revision period until election day.
Political parties receive partial reimbursement for the election expenses they incur. Political parties receive no reimbursement for the election expenses they incur.
The Broadcasting Arbitrator determines the allocation of free and paid broadcasting time among registered political parties. Registered political parties are not allocated broadcasting time to advertise during a by-election.
The Chief Electoral Officer submits a report covering the administration of a general election within 90 days after the return of the writs. The Chief Electoral Officer submits a report 90 days after the end of the year, covering the administration of all by-elections held during that year.


Three federal referendums have been held in Canada since Confederation: in 1898, on whether to prohibit the sale of alcohol; in 1942, on compulsory military service (conscription); and in 1992, on the Charlottetown constitutional accord. Under the Referendum Act that came into force just before the 1992 referendum, only questions related to the Constitution of Canada can be asked in a federal referendum.

Federal referendums and elections cannot be held on the same day. The Referendum Act allows the Chief Electoral Officer to adapt the Canada Elections Act by regulation to apply it to a referendum.

Calling a Referendum

Before the referendum period officially begins, the Government submits the text of the referendum questionFootnote 5 to the leader of the official Opposition and to each political party represented by at least 12 members in the House of Commons. After this consultation, which must last a minimum of three days, a notice of a motion for approval of the question is submitted to the House of Commons, which has a maximum of three days to study the text of the question and vote on it. The House of Commons thereafter informs the Senate of the adoption of the motion; the Senate, in turn, has three days to vote on it.

The referendum period starts officially on the day when the text of the referendum question is approved on concurrence of the House and Senate, and it ends on referendum day. When the text of the question is approved, the Governor General, acting on the advice of Cabinet, has 45 days to issue the proclamation to submit the question to electors, specifying whether it will be put to all Canadian electors or only to those of one or more provinces or territories. As soon as the proclamation is issued, the Chief Electoral Officer issues writs of referendum to the appropriate returning officers, instructing them to conduct a referendum. As with general elections, polling day in a referendum cannot be earlier than the 36th day after the writs are issued.

The Chief Electoral Officer must inform the public of the referendum question and the manner in which the referendum will be conducted. However, he may not inform the public or answer public inquiries about arguments in support of or in opposition to the Yes or No options.

The Chief Electoral Officer must also make the text of the question available in the Aboriginal languages selected after consultation with representatives of Aboriginal groups. In the 1992 referendum, for example, the question was translated into 37 of the 53 Aboriginal languages used in Canada.

Referendum Committees and Advertising

The Referendum Act defines a “referendum committee” as any person who, or group that, intends to incur referendum expenses of over $5,000. All referendum committees must register with the Chief Electoral Officer.

In principle, there is no limit to the number of referendum committees. In 1992, for example, 241 referendum committees were established in support of the Yes or No options.

Referendum committees may advertise to support or oppose one side or the other of the referendum issue, but must identify themselves as sponsors in their advertising. Like political parties in an election, registered referendum committees may apply to the Broadcasting Arbitrator for free broadcasting time. The Broadcasting Arbitrator allocates the broadcasting time available among the registered committees so that the time is allocated equally to committees that support the referendum question and committees that oppose it.

Committees also have the right to appoint one agent to be present at each polling station on referendum day. They must report their contributions and expenses to the Chief Electoral Officer, providing the names of all persons, entities or groups that contributed more than $250. Referendum committees are not eligible for expenses reimbursements.

Referendum Ballot, 1992

The referendum ballot shows the referendum question, and the words "Yes" and "No," in English and French. (By law, the text is also made available in Aboriginal languages.)

Footnote 1 Except for the province of Quebec, where driver information updates are reflected in the provincial electoral list.

Footnote 2 Except in Quebec, where vital statistics information is reflected in the provincial electoral list.

Footnote 3 The Canada Elections Act refers to this document as a “notice of confirmation of registration.”

Footnote 4 A voter information card is also sent to each elector who registers during the revision period of the election.

Footnote 5 More than one question can be asked in the same referendum.