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Returning Officers

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A federal returning officer (RO) is responsible for the delivery and control of federal electoral events within the electoral district to which he or she is appointed.

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Type of job: Varied hours – Electoral Cycle

Job status: Appointed – Electoral Administrators

Employment duration: 10-year mandate

Expected start date: In three months (on average)

Number of hours per week: Varied hours – Electoral Cycle

Salary: Hourly rate of $52.65


Job description

Key activities

  • Plans and organizes the delivery of access to voting
  • Manages and controls financial, material and human resources
  • Administers the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act in his or her electoral district as well as related legislation, such as the Official Languages Act and the Financial Administration Act
  • Communicates information to the public, candidates, political parties, field liaison officers and Elections Canada
  • Contributes to the improvement of the electoral process

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Plans and prepares for an election by carrying out pre-event tasks that include but are not limited to the following:

  • Identifies local suppliers and contracts with them for the rental of furniture and equipment, the purchase of sundry supplies, and printing services
  • Recruits, appoints and trains office staff
  • Locates suitable and accessible space for the returning office and for polling sites and negotiates with landlords
  • Reviews the electoral district's addressing information to ensure that electors are registered at the correct officially designated address
  • Identifies areas for targeted revision, such as new residential developments, high-mobility areas and institutions.
  • Reviews polling division boundaries
  • Ensures that an outreach action plan is created for each of the target groups represented within the electoral district

Plans and organizes the delivery of access to voting:

  • Publishes statutory public notices
  • Appoints and directs the work of hundreds of election officers
  • Administers oaths
  • Implements security measures as required for the protection of information, assets, staff and the general public at the returning office and at polling sites
  • Coordinates the preparation and mailing of voter information cards to all registered electors
  • Establishes polling stations and distributes notices as required by the Canada Elections Act
  • Requests a list of recommended revising agents, registration officers, deputy returning officers and poll clerks from political parties or candidates, as the case may be; recruits from other sources, if lists provided are insufficient to fill all available positions
  • Assigns election officers to polling stations, trains them and issues their supplies
  • Arranges for the distribution of the lists of electors to candidates
  • Manages the revision and printing of the lists of electors
  • Coordinates, validates and reports on the results of the vote
  • Manages the judicial recount process, if necessary
  • Coordinates the return of election documents, furniture, equipment and telephone apparatuses

Manages and controls financial, material and human resources:

  • Manages the available budget for staff, essential services, supplies, materials and equipment
  • Develops a plan for allocating resources
  • Establishes expense accounts and ensures proper recording and monitoring of expenditures
  • Ensures staff and election officers are payroll-processed
  • Ensures that employees are trained in procedures and understand their roles and responsibilities
  • Ensures election officers and staff respect confidentiality guidelines issued by Elections Canada
  • Ensures compliance with the instructions of the Chief Electoral Officer
  • Negotiates for and leases accommodation space and essential services
  • Determines office requirements (floor space, furniture/equipment, office supplies), conducts searches, finalizes arrangements and acquires supplies
  • Establishes a floor plan and supervises set-up of office
  • Manages the inventory, supply and distribution of materials

Administers the Canada Elections Act:

  • Ensures the adherence by staff and election officers to all legal requirements of the Canada Elections Act and related legislation (such as the Official Languages Act and the Financial Administration Act)
  • Ensures that registration and voting processes are conducted in compliance with the Canada Elections Act
  • Ensures the maintenance of peace and good order throughout the electoral process

Communicates information to the public, candidates and political parties:

  • Ensures that systems are in place and working efficiently and accurately within the returning office to respond to the needs of personnel and inquiries from the public
  • Complies to Elections Canada directives with respect to media inquiries
  • Ensures that candidates and political parties are provided with all documentation and material to which they are entitled
  • Responds to requests and suggestions from candidates and political parties
  • Responds to daily questions from Elections Canada for the Event Management System
  • Responds to requests and questions from the Elections Canada Support Network and field liaison officers

Communications with Elections Canada personnel:

  • Ensures all communications are professional, respectful and provided in requested time

Contributes to the improvement of the electoral process:

  • Completes administrative report, “Returning Officer's Report of Proceedings”
  • Participates as requested in event post-mortems and consultations
  • Continuously seeks more efficient ways of administering the electoral process within his or her electoral district
  • Engages in consultations with Elections Canada that contribute to procedural, organization and/or technical improvements that improve the efficiency of the returning office

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A returning officer must be qualified as an elector (i.e. be a Canadian citizen and at least 18 years old) and must reside in or adjacent to the electoral district in which he or she is to perform duties under the Canada Elections Act.


Successful completion of two years of an acceptable post-secondary education program
An acceptable combination of education, training and relevant experience


  • Management experience as a leader of an organization
  • Experience in managing special events in short time frames
  • Experience in managing human resources
  • Experience in financial management
  • Experience in material management
  • Experience in managing activities in a computerized environment

Additional qualifications that may be used to select candidates for interviews

  • Experience in the administration of electoral processes
  • Participation in community-based organizations
  • Ability to communicate in both official languages
  • Ability to communicate in a minority language spoken in the electoral district

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Knowledge and skills

  • Knowledge of the mandate, role and responsibilities of the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer (Elections Canada) and of the office of the returning officer
  • Ability to implement the statutory and administrative requirements of the office of the returning officer
  • Ability to navigate the Internet, and use email and word processing software
  • Ability to manage crises and resolve unexpected situations
  • Ability to communicate effectively orally
  • Ability to communicate effectively in writing
  • Ability to negotiate to resolve difficult situations
  • Ability to plan for the recruitment, hiring and training of personnel
  • Sensitivity to persons or communities with special needs in the electoral district
  • Diplomacy, judgment, reliability, adaptability and discretion
  • Leadership
  • Interpersonal skills

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Factors to consider

A.   Candidates who are being considered for appointment must:

  • Supply references
  • Complete and submit the Treasury Board Personnel Screening, Consent and Authorization Form, which includes providing information required for criminal record and credit checks
  • Be granted “Reliability” status before they can be appointed
  • Provide two pieces of valid ID that confirm proof of residency within the electoral district in which the candidate is applying to serve as returning officer

B.   Candidates must be prepared to accept the following conditions of appointment should they be appointed as a returning officer:

  • Not engage in politically partisan conduct at the federal, provincial, territorial or municipal levels
  • Not make a contribution to a candidate, a leadership contestant or a nomination contestant
  • Not belong or make a contribution to, be an employee of or hold a position in a registered party, an eligible party or a registered electoral district association
  • Be available between electoral events for pre-event planning and other part-time and intermittent activities
  • Be available and able to work long hours, without notice, for the duration of an election or referendum period and the post-event period
  • Attend training sessions in Gatineau or in other locations in Canada, as required
  • In exceptional cases, agree to establish a returning officer's office and work in a community closer to the majority of people in the riding during an electoral event.
  • Maintain a “Reliability” security clearance at all times during tenure as returning officer. It is understood that Elections Canada has the authority to monitor compliance with this condition of appointment throughout the term of the appointment.

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Additional information

The federal RO is appointed by and reports to the Chief Electoral Officer.

The position of returning officer is demanding, both mentally and physically.

Returning officers work long hours, seven days a week, during the minimum 36-day election calendar (from the day the writ ordering the election is issued until election day) and for several days after the election. They must be available all day, every day, during that time. Outside the election period, returning officers must be able to free themselves from other commitments on an occasional, part-time basis to carry out pre-event planning assignments, attend training or briefing sessions, etc.

The work is by nature impartial and non-partisan and returning officers must conduct all business accordingly. They must abide by Elections Canada's Code of Professional Conduct for Election Administrators and abstain from all activities of a politically partisan nature, both during and between election and referendum periods.

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