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Leading Federal Elections

Close-up of a man's hands signing a large rectangular document with a gold pen

"…in every way a permanent and independent officer."

Hugh Guthrie, Acting Solicitor General, House of Commons debates, March 11, 1920.

The Chief Electoral Officer is the parliamentary officer responsible for administering fair and democratic federal elections in Canada. In leading Elections Canada, he or she ensures all eligible Canadians have the opportunity to exercise their democratic right to vote and be a candidate. The Chief Electoral Officer is also responsible for registering political parties, monitoring legal requirements related to political financing, and ensuring safeguards are built into every aspect of the electoral system.

One Hundred Years – Seven Leaders

Only seven people have held the position of Chief Electoral Officer in the last 100 years. When the office was first created, the Chief Electoral Officer was named for life in the same way Supreme Court judges were at the time. Now, Parliament appoints the Chief Electoral Officer for a fixed 10-year term.

Here's a look at some of the ways past Chief Electoral Officers contributed to Canadian democracy while they held the position. You can learn more about each one by clicking on their name.

Oliver Mowat Biggar (1920–1927)
Black and white headshot of middle-aged man wearing a suit and tie, facing camera with serious expression

As Canada's first Chief Electoral Officer, Oliver Biggar organized the vote for an electorate that doubled in size after women gained the same voting rights as men.

Jules Castonguay (1927–1949)
Black and white headshot of a middle-aged man wearing a suit and tie, looking to the side left with serious expression

During the Second World War, Jules Castonguay made sure that Canadian military members serving overseas could vote, whether they were stationed in Europe, Africa or Asia.

Nelson Jules Castonguay (1949–1966)
Black and white photo of a middle aged man smiling with his arms crossed; standing in front of a wall of metal ballot boxes

Nelson Castonguay oversaw changes that allowed all Canadians to vote early if they were going to be away on election day. Previously only those with certain occupations, such as railway workers, had this right.

Credit: Library and Archives Canada, PA-169808

Jean-Marc Hamel (1966–1990)
Black and white photo of a middle aged man with glasses holding up two rectangular labels that are attached to large canvas bags

Jean-Marc Hamel improved voting services for electors with disabilities by increasing accessibility at polling stations and adding tools for voters who were visually impaired.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley (1990–2007)
A bald middle-aged man peers down at a map of Canada set up on a table

Jean-Pierre Kingsley helped usher Elections Canada into the modern age by creating a permanent register of electors and overseeing the creation of the agency's first Web site.

Marc Mayrand (2007–2016)
A middle-aged man with glasses stands at a wooden podium speaking into a microphone

Marc Mayrand launched online voter registration, which made it easier for Canadians to update their information and for Elections Canada to keep the National Register of Electors accurate.

Stéphane Perrault (2018–)
A middle-aged man with glasses sits at a desk while signing a large stack of official-looking documents

Stéphane Perrault, the current Chief Electoral Officer, oversaw Canada's most recent federal election, which included new measures to protect against inaccurate voting information.

Did you know?

As outlined in the Canada Elections Act, the Chief Electoral Officer is the only Canadian citizen of voting age who is not allowed to vote in federal elections. This is because of his or her duty to uphold the principles of absolute neutrality and impartiality.