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Elections Canada: What, Who, Where, Why, When
Elections Canada is the non-partisan agency responsible for the conduct of federal elections and referendums. What does this mean and why is this responsibility important? Click below to find out.

What: Elections Canada is an agency of Parliament. That means it is accountable to Parliamentarians – who represent all Canadians – rather than to the Government or to the governing party. This ensures that it treats the different parties and candidates even-handedly in an election, and that the electoral process is fair, transparent and democratic.

Who: Elections Canada is headed by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, who is appointed by resolution of the House of Commons. It has a permanent staff of some 200 who are responsible for the National Register of Electors, election operations, election financing and various other aspects of the electoral process. Returning officers and their staff, who conduct the electoral process within their respective electoral districts, are not employees of Elections Canada but work under directions set by Elections Canada and with the agency’s support.

Where: Elections Canada has its offices in Ottawa. However, when an election is called, the returning officer of each electoral district opens a local office for the duration of the election period and sets up numerous polling stations for advance and ordinary polling days.

Why: Elections Canada's essential task is to ensure that all citizens who are entitled to vote in a federal election or referendum can actually do so, and that their vote is secret and secure. That means first ensuring that electors can easily register to vote, and then that they have easy access to polling stations, or to other voting options if they cannot go to their polling station. Finally, Elections Canada ensures that all votes are counted, and the results are duly published. Throughout the process, Elections Canada also makes certain that the electoral process is open and fair to all.

When: Elections Canada must be ready to conduct an election or referendum whenever one is called. General elections occur every five years or less, and they can actually be called at any time – as is also the case for by-elections.

For more information, visit the Elections Canada Web site at

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