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Process for Appointing Returning Officers

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

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

When the office of returning officer in an electoral district is vacant by reason of one of the circumstances described in i) above, the Chief Electoral Officer may select a returning officer for the electoral district by either holding a public competition or by choosing a candidate from a list of qualified candidates established from the most recent public competition held in the same electoral district. In the case where a returning officer’s term of office has ended, the Chief Electoral Officer may hold a public competition to select a returning officer, choose from the list of qualified candidates established from the most recent public competition held in the same electoral district, or appoint the returning officer to a new term pursuant to subsection 24(1.4) of the Canada Elections Act (the Act). Finally, when the boundaries of the electoral district will change as a result of the decennial electoral boundaries readjustment, the Chief Electoral Officer may hold a public competition to select a returning officer for the electoral district or may appoint a current returning officer who resides within the boundaries of what will be the new electoral district, pursuant to subsection 24(1.4) of the Act. When more than one current returning officer resides within those boundaries, the Chief Electoral Officer may choose from among those returning officers. Details about the various processes for selecting returning officers are set out below.

1. Process for appointment by public competition

(1) Public notice of competition

The Chief Electoral Officer shall initiate the public competition process to select a returning officer by issuing a public notice of the competition in the electoral district in which the office is vacant. The notice of competition shall specify the deadline for making an application and shall also be posted on the Elections Canada website. Persons who wish to apply to the competition may contact Elections Canada to obtain a copy of the application form, job description, list of required qualifications and other documents. These documents may also be obtained from the Elections Canada website.

(2) Establishment of selection committee

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

(3) Review of applications

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

When a selection committee finds that more than six candidates possess the essential qualifications, the Selection Committee may use the list of additional qualifications set out in the Statement of Qualifications for Persons Appointed as Returning Officers to select the persons who will be offered an oral interview and an opportunity to write the examination. The Selection Committee may invite more than six candidates to the oral interview and written examination. When there are fewer than six candidates who have demonstrated that they possess the essential qualifications at the review of applications stage, the Selection Committee shall invite all of these candidates to the oral interview and written examination.

(4) Oral interview and written examination process

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

(5) Reference and reliability check

The Selection Committee shall verify the references of all candidates whose oral interviews and written examinations are satisfactory. The appropriate government authority shall conduct a reliability check on these candidates.

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

Each selection committee shall report to the Chief Electoral Officer on its assessment as to the suitability for appointment of each candidate selected for an oral interview. The names of those candidates whose oral interviews, written examinations and references are satisfactory shall constitute the list of qualified candidates.

(7) Offer of appointment

The Chief Electoral Officer may make an offer of appointment to a candidate from the list of qualified candidates for each electoral district in which an appointment is required. If the Chief Electoral Officer is not satisfied that any of the candidates on a list of qualified candidates is suitable for appointment, the Chief Electoral Officer may cancel that public competition and initiate a new public competition according to the process set out in this section.

(8) Acceptance of offer

When an offer of appointment from the Chief Electoral Officer is accepted by a candidate, the Chief Electoral Officer shall advise any other person on the list of qualified candidates of the acceptance of the offer by the successful candidate. The Chief Electoral Officer shall also notify any person on the list of qualified candidates of his or her qualification for the office of returning officer for that electoral district in respect of that competition, but shall specify in the notification that the Chief Electoral Officer is not obliged to appoint a person from that list in the event that the office of returning officer becomes vacant.

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

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

2. Process for appointment by selection from the list of qualified candidates established from the most recent public competition held in the same electoral district

(1) Offer of appointment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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