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Report on the 42nd General Election of October 19, 2015

2. The 42nd General Election

2.1 Launching the Election

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand signs the writs for the 42nd general election
Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand
signs the writs for the 42nd general
election (credit: J. Larocque).

Issue of the writs

On August 2, 2015, the Governor General dissolved the 41st Parliament at the request of the Prime Minister, and writs were issued for elections in all 338 federal electoral districts.

The date for the 42nd general election was set by proclamation of the Governor General as October 19. Advance polls were held one week before election day (October 9 to 12, on Thanksgiving weekend). The election period lasted 78 days.

The call of the election superseded three by-elections that were to be held on October 19 in the electoral districts of Ottawa West–Nepean, Peterborough and Sudbury (Ontario).

Local Elections Canada offices

In all, returning officers opened 338 returning offices, as well as 148 satellite offices in 87 of the geographically largest electoral districts. The last returning office was opened and fully operational on August 18, and the last satellite office on August 19.

Some offices were delayed in opening because the election was called well in advance of the usual 36-day election calendar and on a long weekend in much of Canada. As a result, some returning officers and landlords were not immediately available, and rental agreements with landlords and equipment suppliers needed to be renegotiated. Elections Canada and returning officers had to step up measures to enlist staff to operate the offices.

At the start of the election, local offices were open to the public on weekdays during regular business hours. After Labour Day, hours expanded to include evenings and weekends. This service model helped to reduce staffing pressures over the long election calendar.

Election staff

Recruiting and training competent election workers continue to be challenges for Elections Canada and returning officers. Many refinements and improvements have been made over the last several elections, including those described below for this election. The audit of poll worker performance will determine the degree to which these new measures assisted the poll workers in performing their functions at polling places. The audit's conclusions, along with the agency's response, will be discussed in Elections Canada's retrospective report.


Approximately 285,000 people were hired to fill approximately 329,000 election worker positions. In many cases, workers filled more than one position. By comparison, in the 41st general election, 229,000 people were hired to fill 235,900 positions. Table 1 in the Appendix lists the positions occupied by election staff for the 42nd general election.

The increase from the 41st general election is mainly due to staffing 30 new electoral districts, improving voting operations by allowing for a central poll supervisor at all polling locations, introducing community relations officers focused on accessibility, and hiring information officers for all polling locations that did not have an automatic door opener.Footnote 2

To fill the positions, returning officers turned first to the names of potential workers provided by the candidates of the registered political parties as prescribed by the Canada Elections Act. Poll workers were also recruited through job posters displayed in libraries, community centres and shopping malls. Returning officers reached out to community groups and local organizations to promote employment on voting days. Targeted digital ads were also posted on employment-related websites.

A total of 243,934 applications were submitted through the Elections Canada website, compared with 130,427 applications during the 41st general election. This was the second general election in which Canadians could apply online.

As in previous elections, the Chief Electoral Officer authorized returning officers to appoint additional poll workers to accommodate absences and last-minute resignations, and to hire 16- and 17-year-olds to fill some positions. Approximately the same number of workers in this age group were hired during the 42nd general election as in the 41st general election (28,000). However, in the 42nd general election, this represented only 8.5 percent of the total electoral workforce across Canada, compared to 11 percent in the 41st general election.


Elections Canada redesigned its election worker training program using adult learning principles and a combination of classroom training, online modules and experiential learning to improve consistency and learner retention.

The agency also invested in more instruction for training officers than in past elections. New tools to facilitate self-training included a reference guide, orientation video and scripted course notes. A new online Learning Management Portal was put in place to deliver webcasts, self-training materials and resources to training officers and key office personnel. It was also a portal for receiving feedback and providing status updates on training progress.

New content was developed to communicate key values (e.g. non-partisanship, accessibility, service in official languages and privacy). Training included participatory exercises about the new identification requirements and voter registration to reinforce those important rules and procedures.

To support the curriculum, a variety of resources were used for the first time, including task-based guidebooks written in plain language, visual job aids, and a multitude of videos to reinforce learning points. Many of these materials were used in classroom training and also made available on Elections Canada's website.

Working with political entities

Registration of political parties and nomination of candidates

For the 42nd general election, 23 political parties ran candidates (18 parties were registered as of the issuance of the writs, and 5 were registered afterward). This compares to a total of 18 parties in the 41st general election.

Candidate nominations closed at 2:00 p.m., local time, on September 28. The total number of confirmed candidates was 1,792, compared with 1,587 in the 41st general election. There were 536 female candidates or 29.9 percent of the total, compared with 452 or 28.5 percent in the 41st general election. Of the 304 (out of 308) sitting members of the House of Commons at the dissolution of Parliament, 247 sought re-election and 57 did not.

In total, eight candidates withdrew their nomination after the completion of the confirmation process but before the statutory deadline.

Resources and information sessions

In spring 2015, under new legislative requirements, Elections Canada began to issue written opinions, guidelines and interpretation notes (OGIs) on the application of the Canada Elections Act to political entities. A total of 11 OGIs were finalized for the 42nd general election on such topics as the use of member of Parliament resources outside an election period, election advertising on the Internet, and candidate and leader debates. A fully revised Political Financing Handbook for Candidates and Official Agents was also issued.

Over 550 official agents participated in "Getting Started" training sessions in 11 cities from July 24 to August 23. Topics included starting the campaign, contributions, loans, transfers and electoral campaign expenses.

Returning officers met with confirmed candidates or their representatives between September 30 and October 2. Some of the most common topics discussed were the new electoral boundaries, new advance voting procedures, voter identification for students at Elections Canada offices on campuses, polling locations and guidelines for candidates and their representatives at the polls.

In addition, candidates were provided with updated electronic filing software that could be used to issue contribution receipts and prepare the electoral campaign return. It was included in the kit they received after their nomination and is also available on Elections Canada's website.

After the election, "Closing the Campaign" sessions took place with official agents from October 30 to November 21 in 13 cities. Topics included electoral campaign financing, reporting requirements and deadlines, and closing the campaign. In all, there were 785 participants, compared with 299 for the 41st general election.

Election expenses limits

The Canada Elections Act sets separate limits on the election expenses of candidates and registered political parties. The election expenses limit for candidates is based on several factors, including the number of names appearing on either the preliminary or the revised lists of electors for an electoral district, whichever yields the higher limit. The election expenses limit for political parties is based partly on the number of names on the lists of electors for all electoral districts in which the party has endorsed a candidate, and partly on the number of candidates it endorsed. The calculated expense limits are also adjusted for inflation and, as a result of recent amendments to the Canada Elections Act, for the duration of the election period if it exceeds 37 days. (This increase for the duration of the election also applies to third parties, as discussed below.) This recent legislative change resulted in significantly higher expense limits for all political participants.

The election expense limits for candidates ranged from $169,928.60 in Egmont (Prince Edward Island) to $279,227.99 in Kootenay–Columbia (British Columbia). The average expense limit for candidates was $218,837.62, compared with $91,879.64 for the 41st general election.

The election expenses limit for political parties ranged from $119,542.99 for a party that endorsed a candidate in a single electoral district to $54,936,320.15 for a party that endorsed a candidate in all 338 electoral districts. Limits were significantly higher for this election because of the longer election calendar.

Table 2 in the Appendix lists each party's number of confirmed candidates and final expenses limit.

Broadcasting time for political entities

The Broadcasting Arbitrator allocates paid and free broadcasting time to parties in accordance with the Canada Elections Act and arbitrates disputes between political parties and broadcasters concerning the application of the Act. The Broadcasting Arbitrator also issues guidelines concerning the entitlement to and allocation of broadcasting time under the Act, and the procedures for booking broadcasting time by registered and eligible parties, as well as the obligations of broadcasters during a general election.

During a general election, the Canada Elections Act requires every broadcaster in Canada to make at least 390 minutes of broadcasting time available for purchase by registered and eligible parties. The time must be provided during prime time at the lowest rate that would be charged to any other purchaser for equivalent time.

On June 23, 2015, the Broadcasting Arbitrator issued his latest order on the allocation of paid broadcasting time. This allocation was in effect for the 42nd general election.

As well, the Canada Elections Act requires all network operators that provided free broadcasting time in the previous general election to provide as much free broadcasting time to registered and eligible parties during the election that follows. Free broadcasting time must be provided to parties in the same proportion as the allocation of paid broadcasting time. There are now only three network operators in Canada – CBC/Radio-Canada, TVA and V Télé – and only one broadcasts in English.

See Table 3 in the Appendix for details on the paid and free broadcasting time that network operators were required to provide to parties in the 42nd general election.

Third party election advertising

The Canada Elections Act requires any third party conducting election advertising during an election to identify itself in the advertisement and to indicate that it has authorized the advertising. Third parties that incur election advertising expenses of $500 or more must register with Elections Canada. They must also produce an election advertising report within four months after election day, itemizing their election advertising expenses as well as all contributions and loans received for election advertising purposes in the period beginning six months before the issue of the writs and ending on election day.

The Canada Elections Act sets limits on the amount a third party may incur in election advertising expenses. For the 42nd general election, the total election advertising expenses limit was $439,411 for a national campaign and $8,788 per electoral district. In the 41st general election, the limits amounted to $188,250 for a national campaign and $3,765 per electoral district. Limits were higher for this election because of the longer election calendar.

For the 42nd general election, 114 third parties registered with Elections Canada, compared with 55 for the 41st general election.

2.2 Voter Registration Services

When electors are registered before voting days, they receive a voter information card that tells them when and where to cast their ballot, and the voting process is simplified. For the 42nd general election, Elections Canada made significant efforts to reduce the number of electors who needed to register at their polling place on election day. It took measures to improve the quality of the National Register of Electors before the election, and offered electors more ways to register or update their address once the election was called. In the end, some 777,000 electors registered at their polling place on October 19, representing 5.8 percent of the votes cast on that day.

The National Register of Electors

Since 1997, Elections Canada has maintained the National Register of Electors, a database of Canadians who are eligible to vote in federal elections. When an election is called, the Register is used to produce the preliminary lists of electors, which are shared with returning officers, political parties and candidates. It is regularly updated between and during elections, mainly using administrative data received through agreements with federal, provincial and territorial agencies.

Coverage, accuracy and currency

The quality of the Register is important for electors, who receive a voter information card if they are registered at their current address. It is also of great importance to the political entities that wish to engage electors. Quality estimates are measured in terms of coverage, accuracy and currency:

  • Coverage is the proportion of eligible electors who are registered, historically varying between 91 and 94 percent.
  • AccuracyFootnote 3 is the proportion of registered electors who are listed at their current address, historically varying between 88 and 92 percent. These electors are correctly registered and can vote without taking extra steps.
  • Currency is the proportion of eligible electors who are registered at their current address, historically varying between 81 and 86 percent.

During an election, any electors who are not listed in the Register or who are listed at the wrong address must take steps to register or update their registration during the revision period (see below), or must register at their polling place before voting. This group represents between 15 and 19 percent of all eligible electors. The ultimate goal of Elections Canada's voter registration services is to reduce this number for election day. (See the table of quality indicators on page 24.)

Initiatives to improve the quality of the Register

Administrative updates of elector information

Elections Canada receives data from federal, provincial and territorial agencies such as the Canada Revenue Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, driver's licence bureaus and vital statistics registrars for updating the Register. More than 3 million records are added or updated each year.

In 2014, Elections Canada signed an agreement with Manitoba to receive its driver's licence data. Between April 2014 and August 2015, the currency of the federal voters lists for Manitoba increased from 76.8 to 83.7 percent.

Before the election and in August 2015, Elections Canada scheduled its data exchanges in a way that maximized their impact on the accuracy of the lists. By early September 2015, currency had reached an estimated 84.7 percent, with some 948,000 elector records added or updated in August.

Reaching out to potential voters

From its data sources, Elections Canada regularly receives information on potential electors who have not yet consented to be added to the Register or confirmed their citizenship. A large proportion are young adults who have recently turned 18. Reaching out to them with convenient ways to register is vital to the coverage of the voters lists over the long term. Between 2011 and 2015, Elections Canada sent some 1.76 million letters to potential voters, inviting them to confirm their information and register. Response rates varied between 6 and 21 percent. On September 18, a mailing sent to some 52,000 unregistered 18-year-olds invited them to register using the online voter registration service, and some 21 percent of recipients did so.

The online voter registration service was launched in 2012 with the vision of offering new electors a convenient way to register. However, until early 2015, this service was unavailable to electors who had not already explicitly consented to be added to the Register (particularly young Canadians) because the Canada Elections Act required their written consent. In December 2014, electronic signatures became legally valid for voter registration transactions. Starting in spring 2015, the agency encouraged civil society groups to promote the online service through digital communications or in-person events. The service's rate of usage grew exponentially after the call of the election in August 2015.

New electoral boundaries and thematic mapping

Following the 2013 redistribution of electoral districts, Elections Canada redesigned some 65,000 polling divisions and reassigned all addresses in Canada to their corresponding polling division. The polling divisions were developed using smaller "census blocks" of population data from the 2011 Census, which made them easier to modify later. This approach also allowed Elections Canada to map socio-demographic attributes of the population, such as official language use. Returning officers were provided with custom mapping software (GeoExplore 2.0) that graphically represented this demographic data, which was useful in identifying the most important areas for targeted revision and deployment of bilingual workers.

In the year leading up to the election, some returning officers in areas known to have addressing inaccuracies or inconsistencies were invited to review their electoral lists in an effort to improve their quality.

Revision period

The revision period in each electoral district ran from August 17 until October 13, 2015. The purpose of revision is to update the preliminary lists of electors for use at advance polls and on election day.

When the writs were issued on August 2, there were 25,300,686 electors on the preliminary lists, representing 92.7 percent of the estimated 26,734,000 eligible electors across Canada. An estimated 90.9 percent of registered electors were listed at their current address. Elections Canada provided the preliminary lists to registered political parties that requested them, and returning officers provided the lists to candidates for their respective electoral district.

Over the course of the revision period, some 1.75 million Canadians were added to the voters lists or had their information updated (in 2011, this number was 750,000). Of the 1.75 million revisions, 948,000 resulted from data supplied by Elections Canada's partners (compared to 210,000 in 2011), 503,000 were completed by local offices (about the same as in 2011) and the remaining 301,000 were completed online (compared to none in 2011). In total, there was a 127 percent increase in revisions in 2015 compared to 2011.

Local office services

As in previous elections, local Elections Canada offices offered registration services in person or over the phone. Returning officers also sent revising agents to verify the accuracy of the voters lists in high density, highly mobile or new residential neighbourhoods (a process known as targeted revision). Some 503,000 electors' information was added to or updated on the list using local office services, a volume comparable to 2011.

Online Voter Registration Service

In addition to local office services, online voter registration was available throughout the election and played a decisive role in improving the coverage and accuracy of the voters lists. For the first time during a general election, electors could check whether they were registered, update their address or complete their registration online. More than 1.7 million Canadians checked whether they were registered to vote.

Online transactions accounted for 301,000 (or 37 percent) of all voters list updates during the revision period. This included some 107,000 new registrants, of whom about 55 percent were aged 18 to 24 and 30 percent aged 25 to 44, resulting in increased coverage of the voters lists. Transactions also included 193,000 changes of address, resulting in increased accuracy of the lists. An additional 14,000 Canadians made other corrections to their elector information. 

Once the revision period was over, electors who still needed to register were able to print a registration certificate for faster service at the polls on election day. Some 77,000 electors requested this certificate online.

In introducing online voter registration, Elections Canada recognized that it would be a complementary way to register rather than a universal solution, and that it would take several election cycles before Canadians became aware of and comfortable with the system. The large number of Canadians, particularly those aged 18 to 44, who used the service is encouraging. As with any new online service, there were some limitations, which meant that electors with certain address types could not use it. As well, some new electors (those for whom Elections Canada had not received any information from federal, provincial or territorial agencies) were not able to use it to register for the first time. However, as in previous elections, the options of registering by mail, at a local office or at the polls remained open to all electors. 

Infographic on the Online Voter Registration Service for the 42nd general election.
Text version of the "Infographic on the Online Voter Registration Service for the 42nd general election"

Election day registration and the final lists of electors

For the 2015 election, 777,000 electors registered at their polling place on election day. This is a modest decrease in the rate of election day registration from 2011, dropping from 6.2 to 5.8 percent of all election day voters. While Elections Canada had been aiming to reduce this rate to 4 percent or lower, the decrease still represents a healthy trend. Further analysis of the data will be presented in the retrospective report.

In all, the final lists of electors included some 26,044,131 names,Footnote 4 representing a net increase of some 743,000 over the preliminary lists. More importantly, 2.5 million revisions were processed in drawing up the lists during this election, when election day registrations are factored in (see details in Table 5 of the Appendix). This compares favourably with 1.5 million revisions for the 2011 election. The result was a surge in the currency of the voters lists for 2015, from 84.2 percent in early August to 88.3 percent on the final lists.

Federal voters list quality indicatorsFootnote 1 in the last two general elections (GEs)
List Eligible electorsFootnote 3 Electors
on list
Coverage (%) Accuracy (%) Currency (%)
42nd GE final lists of electorsFootnote 2 26,808,942 26,044,131 94.5 93.5 88.3
42nd GE preliminary lists of electors 26,733,752 25,300,745 92.7 90.9 84.2
41st GE final lists of electors 25,337,728 24,257,592 93.5 91.4 85.5
41st GE preliminary lists of electors 25,299,113 23,933,743 92.6 90.2 83.5

Footnote 1 Quality estimates are adjusted to account for deceased electors, duplicates and non-Canadian citizens. They are also subject to sampling errors. Coverage and currency for the 42nd GE final lists are respectively accurate at ±0.1% and ±0.5%, 19 times out of 20.

Footnote 2 Quality estimates of the 42nd GE final lists are preliminary.

Footnote 3 Based on counts from Statistics Canada (2011 Census of Population and estimates from the 2011 National Household Survey, adjusted for census net undercoverage and demographic growth).

2.3 Voting Services

In delivering voting services, Elections Canada wanted to ensure that electors in any circumstances had access to the voting process. The four ways to vote were:

  • by mail
  • at an Elections Canada office
  • at advance polls
  • on election day

An important part of ensuring access was selecting suitable locations for polling places and local offices. The agency continued to remove barriers to voting by choosing locations that met its new accessibility criteria, while still considering proximity and familiarity of the location to electors.

Voting by mail or at an Elections Canada office (by special ballot)

Under the Special Voting Rules, electors who would like an alternative to voting at advance polls or on election day in their electoral district can vote by mail or at any Elections Canada office. The rules also apply to Canadian Forces electors, Canadians temporarily residing outside the country, and incarcerated electors in federal or provincial correctional facilities or in youth detention centres.

For the first time, electors could apply online for a special ballot voting kit using a secure form. In past elections, they could only submit the application and required documents by mail, by fax or in person.

In all, approximately 619,000 electors voted by special ballot, a 117 percent increase from the 41st general election. Most pronounced was special ballot voting by electors residing in Canada who voted outside their electoral district, which was up 341 percent from the last election. Table 7 in the Appendix provides a breakdown of special ballot voting by category.

Students line up to register
Students line up to register and cast their ballot at a temporary Elections Canada office on campus (credit: J. Larocque).

Pilot Project at Select Campuses, Friendship Centres and YMCAs

For the first time, returning officers opened 71 satellite offices at select campuses, Friendship Centres and YMCAs to provide information, registration and voting services to students, youth, Aboriginal electors and the general public. Sites were selected using criteria that Elections Canada developed with stakeholder groups, while also taking into account regional representation.

Offices were open to the public from October 5 to 8, generally for 10 hours a day, and served electors no matter where they lived in Canada. More than 70,000 electors voted at these locations, almost 80 percent of whom voted from outside their electoral district. Of the three location types, campuses had the highest voter turnout.

The pilot project met with challenges in a few areas: special ballot applications were processed with limited automation; there were difficulties in finding and leasing sites that met accessibility and security criteria; and election workers had to be hired and trained in a short time. Despite the challenges, the agency received positive feedback from electors who used these sites, stakeholder organizations and the media.

A pilot project was also established for on-demand special ballot voting in hospitals. Normally, election workers visit each patient in acute care hospitals to help them vote by special ballot on the 8th, 7th and 6th days before election day. To minimize patient disruptions, the agency piloted an on-demand service model in 97 hospitals, where patients could contact Elections Canada to schedule a visit. The selection of the sites for the pilot included a cross-representation of all provinces and territories, urban and rural centres, and sites of various sizes. Feedback on the new model was positive. In all, approximately 22,000 electors voted through the pilot project and regular special ballot initiatives in a total of 764 acute care hospitals.

Voting at advance polls

Select tweets on voting at advance polls.
Text version of "Select tweets on voting at advance polls"

Changes to the Canada Elections Act added a fourth day of advance polls on the Sunday. For the 42nd general election, a total of 4,946 advance polls were set up from October 9 to 12, on Thanksgiving weekend. This represents an increase of 240 polls (5.1 percent) from the 41st general election.

The upward trend of Canadians voting at advance polls continued in the 42nd general election. A total of 3,677,217 electors cast votes at advance polls, representing 20.8 percent of all electors who voted during the election. This is a 74 percent increase over the 41st general election, in which 2,111,542 electors cast votes at advance polls.

Elections Canada planned for higher turnout at advance polls in light of the upward trend and the extra voting day; however, turnout exceeded the agency's projections in several areas. As a result, long lineups formed at many advance polling stations, especially in the hours following their opening at noon.

Contrary to appearances, advance polls do not operate like election day polls. They require more paperwork for both electors and election workers. For example, voters must take the extra step of writing their name and address in a register and signing it. Each advance poll also serves a potential of 6,000 electors, as opposed to about 350 at an election day poll. This means that the average distance from an elector's home to their polling place is much greater for advance polls than on election day. None of these features were new in 2015, but Canadians' expectations in terms of efficiency and convenience have evolved well beyond what current advance voting operations can offer.

Managing Higher Turnout at the Polls

A number of measures allowed returning officers to deal with unexpected turnout. For example, under recent legislative changes, they were able to hire extra poll workers when circumstances warranted it. The Chief Electoral Officer also responded, in exceptional circumstances and when contingency plans had been exhausted, through adaptations of the Canada Elections Act. In some cases, he granted permission for returning officers to deploy a second ballot box, and a second team of deputy returning officer and poll clerk, for some advance polling stations. At best, these measures mitigated a difficult situation for election workers and modestly improved service in some areas. In the longer term, significant changes to how advance polling stations operate will be needed to close the gap between Canadians' expectations and the services offered.

Voting on election day

On election day, returning officers set up 66,026 stationary polls, representing an increase of 1,549 (2.4 percent) from the 41st general election. These polls were located in 15,578 polling places, an increase of 318 (2.1 percent) from the 41st general election. 

In addition, 1,885 mobile polls were set up in 5,167 establishments; this represents an increase of 216 polls (13 percent) compared to the 41st general election.

Casting a ballot at a polling station on election day remained the choice of the vast majority of electors during the 42nd general election: a total of 13,415,964 electors voted this way, representing 75.7 percent of electors who voted.

Of the 67,911 polling stations on election day, 12 polling stations (from six electoral districts) experienced interruptions or opening delays of more than an hour, affecting service to 3,867 registered electors.

Issues at the polls

Electors experienced two types of difficulties at some polls. The agency began administrative reviews, to be further discussed in the retrospective report, on the following:

  • Polling stations running low on ballots – For some polling divisions – particularly in First Nations communities, where turnout was exceptionally high compared to the last election – the returning officer had to reallocate ballots from other polling divisions to deal with shortages at advance and ordinary polls. In addition, the Chief Electoral Officer adapted the Canada Elections Act to allow some deputy returning officers to photocopy blank ballots when they were running out. The agency is aware of one situation in Alberta (Siksika First Nation) where voting was interrupted for about 20 minutes while more ballots reached the site.
  • Smudged or pre-marked ballots – During advance and ordinary polls, across all 72,857 polling stations in the country, Elections Canada received about 70 complaints of smudged or pre-marked ballots. Of these complaints, 28 contained sufficient information for the agency to locate the poll and conduct a review. The 28 cases were spread across 28 different polls in 26 electoral districts. Preliminary indications suggest that while printing errors may have resulted in streaks and marks on some ballots, procedures were in place to keep those ballots from being used. Of the reviewed complaints, none were found to relate to printing errors. In the small number of cases where there were marks from a pen or pencil, it is plausible that deputy returning officers caused them in error by: (a) holding a pen while folding or issuing ballots, resulting in light, random scribbles; or (b) improperly handling a spoiled ballot so that it was issued to the next elector. Based on observations to date, there is no indication that ballots were pre-marked intentionally.

Generally, election workers experienced difficult working conditions at polls. The Canada Elections Act prescribes how polls are staffed during an election. A deputy returning officer or poll clerk cannot be replaced by other election workers while the polls are open, which may limit breaks. In some cases, especially where there were lineups, workers faced 14-hour days. Despite their good intentions and strong will to serve their fellow citizens, they faced emotional and physical pressures. Difficult working conditions have been a source of concern for the Chief Electoral Officer, and he has raised this issue previously in reports to Parliament.

New Voter Identification Requirements

Voter identification requirements in the Canada Elections Act were amended in 2014. The voter information card was prohibited as a piece of identification, and electors could no longer be vouched for if they had no identification.

For the 42nd general election, electors had three options to prove their identity and address:

  1. Show one piece of government-issued identification with their photo, name and address, such as a driver's licence, or provincial or territorial identification card.
  2. Show two pieces of identification, at least one with their current address, from the list of authorized pieces of identification.
  3. Take an oath, show two pieces of identification with their name, and have another elector attest to their address.

Elections Canada authorized several new pieces of identification for this election, including electronic statements and invoices either printed or shown on a mobile device. Based on feedback from Aboriginal stakeholders, it also authorized identification issued by First Nations bands, Métis organizations and Inuit local authorities.

Post-election studies will examine the impact and application of the voter identification requirements in this election, and details will be included in the retrospective report.

The Voter ID infographic
The Voter ID infographic was a shareable
tool on the website.

Voter turnout

Voter turnout was at its highest in 20 years, with 68.0 percent of registered electors voting. This compares with 61.1 percent in the 41st general election. Table 8 in the Appendix shows the validated results.

Trend in voter turnout
Text version of "Trend in Voter Turnout, 34th to 42nd GE using Final List of Electors"
*The turnout in 2000 was adjusted from 61.2 percent following the normal maintenance of the National Register of Electors to remove duplicate entries and names of deceased electors.

2.4 Concluding the Election

Official results

A total of 338 candidates were elected to the House of Commons in this election. Of these, 122 were members in the 41st Parliament. Women accounted for 88 of the elected candidates, setting a new record.

The following table lists the distribution of seats in the House of Commons, by political affiliation, before and after the election.

Number of seats in the House of Commons by political affiliation
Political affiliation After the 41st general election (May 2, 2011) At the dissolution of Parliament (August 2, 2015) After the 42nd general election (October 19, 2015) Change from dissolution of Parliament
Liberal Party of Canada 34 36 184 +148
Conservative Party of Canada 166 159 99 -60
New Democratic Party 103 95 44 -51
Bloc Québécois 4 2 10 +8
Green Party of Canada 1 2 1 -1
Independent / No affiliation 0 8 0 -8
Forces et Démocratie 0 2 0 -2
Vacant 0 4 0 -4
Total 308 308 338  

Validation of results

After the 42nd general election, 258 electoral districts had completed the validation of results by October 21. Five electoral districts completed the validation more than 7 days after polling day, and 12 electoral districts required their validation dates to be postponed because ballot boxes took longer than expected to arrive at the office of the returning officer. The last validation was completed in Nunavut on November 9.


Judicial recounts took place in six electoral districts: Edmonton Mill Woods, Barrie–Springwater–Oro-Medonte, Montmagny–L'Islet–Kamouraska–Rivière-du-Loup, Regina–Lewvan, Hochelaga and Desnethé–Missinippi–Churchill River. In all six cases, the second-place candidate made an application for the recount, which was granted by a judge. One application for a recount was presented by a candidate in the Longueuil–Saint-Hubert electoral district, but the judge denied the application.

There were no automatic judicial recounts requested by returning officers, as the difference between the number of votes cast for the first- and second-place candidates was more than one one-thousandth of the total votes cast in each of the 338 electoral districts.

In the case of Regina–Lewvan, the judge terminated the judicial recount after two days at the request of the candidate who applied for the recount. 

In all five completed recounts, the difference between the vote totals of the first- and second-place candidates changed without any consequence to the final result. It changed by 13 votes in Edmonton Mill Woods, by 22 votes in Barrie–Springwater–Oro-Medonte, by 3 votes in Montmagny–L'Islet–Kamouraska–Rivière-du-Loup, by 41 votes in Hochelaga and by 11 votes in Desnethé–Missinippi–Churchill River.

The media applied to attend the recount in Edmonton Mill Woods, Montmagny–L'Islet–Kamouraska–Rivière-du-Loup and Barrie–Springwater–Oro-Medonte. The judge granted the requests, with some restrictions for the last two cases. The media was not present at the other recounts.

For the judicial recount results, see Table 9 in the Appendix.

Contested elections

As of December 4, 2015, one candidate had contested an election. On November 23, an application to contest an election was submitted to the Superior Court of Québec for the electoral district of Salaberry–Suroît. The candidate argued mainly that the last electoral boundaries readjustment process was unconstitutional and illegal, and that this affected the results of the election in Salaberry–Suroît. The candidate is asking the court to annul the election in that electoral district.

Enquiries and complaints from Canadians

In all, Elections Canada received 1,353,700 calls during the 2015 general election. Of those callers, about 160,000 used the self-service options in Elections Canada's automated voice response system to obtain information without the assistance of a call agent. National call centre agents answered 254,500 calls, local offices across the country took another 916,200 calls, and agents supporting voting by special ballot handled 17,500 calls.

The agency proactively asked electors to provide their feedback on all aspects of their voting experience. New online feedback forms were made available on Elections Canada's website and promoted through all its communications channels, particularly on social media. From August 2 to November 6, Elections Canada received some 40,600 written communications, of which about 11,000 were complaints. As of January 4, 7,700 of those complaints had been closed and 3,300 remained open.

Concerns raised by Canadians about the voting experience will be further analyzed and used to improve the process.

The majority of complaints related to voter experience at the polls, including the service provided by poll workers, the location of polling places, long lineups (especially at advance polls) and the voting process itself. Less common were complaints about the administration of the election, including complaints about poll worker employment; voter registration (including online registration); the list of electors; and the activities of political entities (i.e. parties and candidates), mostly related to campaigning and campaign signs.

Some election workers also filed complaints over delays in receiving payment. As of December 16, 2015, nearly all election workers had been paid. There were some delays where manual intervention or confirmation with returning officers or workers was required.

Elections Canada will thoroughly analyze complaints to identify trends, areas for improvement in service delivery and possible recommendations moving forward, which will be discussed in the retrospective report.

Report on accessibility

In February 2014, Elections Canada launched an Advisory Group for Disability Issues to provide advice on initiatives for the 2015 general election. The group also helped to identify the best ways to inform people with disabilities of when, where and the ways to register and vote. The Advisory Group's work built on consultations held in 2011–2012 with several organizations representing people with disabilities. These organizations also assisted Elections Canada by sharing election information with their networks during this election.

voter information card
Voter information cards gave electors information about their polling places'
level of accessibility.

In its effort to continually improve access for electors with disabilities, Elections Canada invested significant effort to identify accessible polling places. It used 35 criteria, 15 of which were mandatory. The criteria were developed in consultation with the disability community. The accessibility of polling places was published on the voter information card and, for the first time, more detailed information on the accessibility of polling places was available on Elections Canada's website. For the 2015 election, 96 percent of polling places met all 15 mandatory criteria (which includes level access), while 1.7 percent provided level access, but did not meet the other 14 criteria and could not be modified. These efforts were complemented with improved training for election workers and modernized accessibility feedback mechanisms for electors and workers alike.

Elections Canada further committed to using polling locations that had an automatic door opener or, where the location did not have such a device, having a staff person at the door during voting hours. Table 10 in the Appendix lists the number of polling locations with automatic door openers.

An accessibility feedback form allowed electors to communicate any accessibility challenges they encountered during the election. Forms were available in hard copy at polling locations and local Elections Canada offices, and online on Elections Canada's website.

As of November 6, 2015, a total of 3,085 accessibility complaints were received, compared with 1,872 in the 41st general election. As with general complaints, the agency proactively asked electors to provide their feedback on any accessibility concerns. The breakdown of complaints is noted in the table below.

Summary of accessibility complaints*
Accessibility category Number of complaints Percentage of total complaints (%)
Parking 701 23
Exterior pathway 331 11
Level access entrances 316 10
Exterior building lighting 118 4
Signage 436 14
Protruding obstacles 112 4
Doors 243 8
Door thresholds 140 4
Hallways 192 6
Location of voting room 433 14
Interior lighting 63 2
Total 3,085  

*As of November 6, 2015.

Election Observation by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe

In early August 2015, Global Affairs Canada extended an invitation on behalf of the Chief Electoral Officer to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe to observe the 42nd general election in accordance with the Government of Canada's international commitments. The Organisation works on the political, economic, environmental and human aspects of security. It had last observed a Canadian general election in 2006.

The Organisation sent an independent, six-person election assessment mission to Canada from October 6 to October 22, with the primary objective of assessing the electoral process as a whole. It organized meetings with many Canadian interlocutors, including the Chief Electoral Officer and other officials, to discuss a range of election topics such as operations (including voter registration, advance polls and special ballots), outreach and accessibility (including for women and minorities), the legal framework, complaints and the transmission of results. Elections Canada in turn provided additional information on the electoral system and authorized the mission to observe the conduct of the vote at polling stations, as permitted under the Canada Elections Act.

The election assessment mission will issue a recommendations report in early 2016.

Estimated cost of the election

Many factors influence the cost of elections. For the 42nd general election, the preliminary estimated cost is $443.0 million, approximately $17.04 for each registered elector. This compares to $11.94 for the 41st general election. The increase is mainly due to the longer election calendar, an increase of 30 electoral districts following the last redistribution, a fourth day of advance polls, an increased number of election workers due to higher voter turnout, higher pay rates and allowances for election workers, added election worker positions (as discussed in section 2.1), new information technology equipment and telecommunications services for field offices, and inflation. The impact of the longer election calendar on reimbursements to political entities is still unknown as election returns have yet to be filed with Elections Canada.

While spending related to a general election spans several fiscal years, the majority of the costs for the 42nd general election are being incurred in 2015–2016. The following table provides the cost breakdown of the last two general elections.

Cost of general elections (estimated costs as at December 2015)
Activity 41st General ElectionFootnote 1
36-day calendar 308 electoral districts (May 2011)
Actuals ($ millions)
42nd General Election
78-day calendar 338 electoral districts (October 2015)
Preliminary estimate ($ millions)
Conducting the election – includes fees and allowances to returning officers and election workers; and cost of printing ballots and lists of electors, leasing local Elections Canada offices and polling places, shipping election material, running local and national communications campaign, hiring temporary staff, and deploying IT infrastructure and telecommunications 182.8 311.4Footnote 2
Preparing for the election – includes activities conducted in the electoral districts and Elections Canada's offices in Gatineau such as recruiting and training returning officers and their key staff, replenishing election material and supplies, conducting local office readiness checks, and procuring IT infrastructure for returning officers; 2015 general election costs also include implementation of the new electoral boundaries 46.5 64.9Footnote 3
Subtotal 229.3 376.3
Reimbursement of election expenses to candidates and political parties (The 42nd general election estimates have not been adjusted for a longer election period.)  60.4 66.7Footnote 4
Total ($ millions) 289.7 443.0Footnote 2
Cost per elector (dollars) 11.94 17.04

Footnote 1 Actual costs for the 41st general election have been redistributed between the activities to be comparable to those of the 42nd general election.

Footnote 2 The cost increase between these elections is mainly due to an additional 30 electoral districts, a fourth day of advance polls, a longer election period, increased pay rates, an increased number of workers, new IT systems and equipment, and inflation.

Footnote 3 The cost increase is mainly due to the implementation of the new electoral boundaries and new IT systems and equipment, a longer readiness period compared to the last minority government, and inflation. Starting with the 42nd general election, for reporting purposes, the cost to maintain the National Register of Electors is no longer included in the cost of general elections as it is part of Elections Canada's ongoing operations.

Footnote 4 The $66.7 million partial reimbursement of election expenses to eligible candidates and eligible political parties, as well as subsidies to candidates' auditors, is a preliminary estimate based only on past election results. The estimates have not been adjusted for a longer election period, in which spending limits were adjusted proportionally to the campaign's length by amendments to the Canada Elections Act, as election returns for this election have yet to be filed with Elections Canada. Candidates' official agents must submit audited returns of their election expenses and contributions within four months of election day (by February 19, 2016), while a registered political party must submit an audited report on its election expenses within eight months of election day (by June 19, 2016).

Footnote 2 As explained in section 2.4, in polling locations without automatic door openers, staff were at the doors to assist voters during voting hours.

Footnote 3 Accuracy of the electoral lists is derived by dividing the currency estimates by the coverage estimates. It summarizes the proportion of registered electors listed at their current residential address.

Footnote 4 As of January 2016. Final lists and official voting results will be available in February 2016.