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Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada
on the 38th General Election Held on June 28, 2004

Electors, candidates and ballots

There are some major requirements that must be in place in order for millions of Canadians to exercise their franchise in a federal election and choose their representatives. These include a list of eligible electors, candidates, and a mechanism enabling Canadians to express this preference. In Canada, that mechanism is the secret ballot.

Preparing the lists of electors

After becoming operational, a key task for each returning office was preparing the lists of electors. To be able to vote, each elector must have his or her name on the appropriate list or, if it is not there, must arrange for it to be added by registering.

Four different lists of electors are produced for each electoral district in any general election or by-election: the preliminary, the revised, the official and the final lists of electors.

The preliminary lists for each electoral district are produced from the National Register of Electors at Elections Canada in Ottawa and sent to the returning officers immediately following the issue of the writs.

A returning officer provides an electronic and a printed copy of the preliminary lists to candidates in the electoral district when their nominations are confirmed. Candidates also receive maps and related geographical documents. The Chief Electoral Officer adapted the Canada Elections Act to allow the political parties to receive the preliminary lists of electors under the 2003 Representation Order during the first week of the election. Previously they only had access to lists under the 1996 Representation Order.

Each returning officer produces revised lists of electors for his or her electoral district 11 days before election day, and provides a copy to confirmed candidates. The revised lists include additions and address changes, and removals and corrections made during revision. The revised lists are used during voting at the advance polls. They also indicate which electors have requested a special ballot.

At least three days before election day, returning officers distribute the official lists to candidates. Each deputy returning officer receives a printed copy of the official list for his or her polling station.

The official lists reflect additions, address changes, and corrections made to and removals from the revised lists, including names of electors who voted at the advance polls and those who registered to vote by special ballot.

After election day, each returning officer prepares an electronic list that includes electors who registered or corrected their information on election day. This information is sent to Elections Canada in Ottawa, where electronic copies of the final lists of electors are prepared for distribution to registered political parties and members of Parliament. On request, printed copies of the final lists are also available to the political parties and to members of Parliament. The final lists were provided to members of Parliament and political parties on October 15, 2004.


Revision is the process of adding new names to, correcting information on, and removing names from a list of electors during the election period. The formal revision period in 2004 lasted four weeks: May 26 to 6:00 p.m. on June 22.

Elections Canada has devised procedures to make revision convenient for electors. If an elector has moved within an electoral district, for instance, or a previous occupant must be removed from the list, both changes can be made over the phone, pending appropriate verification of identification. If an elector who is already on the list of electors has moved outside his or her electoral district, under the Canada Elections Act a signature is required; new identification documentation is not. In other words, if the elector is already listed in the National Register of Electors, there is no need to provide further identification subsequent to a move.

Each returning office has a database of the lists of electors for all electoral districts. During the 38th general election, returning officers were able to update elector addresses across electoral districts and transfer elector registration information between electoral districts. When elector records are added to a new electoral district but match existing records in another place, the system removes them from their previous electoral district, preventing the creation of duplicate records. During the election period, an estimated 409,040 elector records were transferred between electoral districts, and an estimated 629,237 electors moved within their electoral district.

To further improve the accuracy of the revised lists of electors, some 335,000 records reflecting the most recent updates to the Register were provided to returning officers after the start of the election, using new features available in the REVISE application. While the data could be provided only in hard copy and typed in manually in the 37th general election, the REVISE application now enabled us to provide electronic updates for the returning officer's immediate review. This ensured more comprehensive list coverage, and minimized elector-initiated revisions and registrations at the polls. For the most part, these electronic updates were received in time to be reflected in the voter information cards.

Targeted revision

In high-mobility areas, revising agents went
door to door to register electors in person.To prepare for targeted revision, returning officers reviewed address lists ahead of the election, and Elections Canada set up a central registry of high-mobility addresses and identified areas with low registration rates.

During the second week of the election period, returning officers carried out revisions targeting areas such as new subdivisions, apartment buildings and student residences, and institutions such as nursing homes and chronic care hospitals.

Revising agents visited the targeted areas and registered electors in person. If they found no one at home after two visits, they left a mail-in registration package for residents. This contained a form for electors to fill out and return along with photocopies of identification documents. Revising agents visited approximately 1,295,000 addresses and completed registration forms for some 266,000 households; in addition, they left 289,000 mail-in registration packages.

While Elections Canada retains the responsibility to try to reach all electors requiring revision, the effectiveness of door-to-door canvassing is declining. As was increasingly reported when national door-to-door enumerations were carried out, people are not at home as regularly as they once were, and they are more reluctant to open their doors to strangers. Also problematic is the requirement of documentation for each person registered. The use of targeted revision needs to be assessed in light of these challenges, so that efforts can be focused on the areas and demographic groups that most require this service.

The voter information card

Ten days after the issue of the writs, returning officers began to mail out personalized voter information cards (VICs) to every person whose name appeared on the preliminary lists of electors. Each VIC showed the name and address of the registered elector, as well as the location, dates and hours for voting in advance and on election day. Polling stations with level access were marked with a wheelchair symbol. The card also showed the address and telephone number of the returning office, and the address of the Elections Canada Web site. To mail the cards, Elections Canada supplied the address labels. Returning officers added the local voting information and arranged the printing and mailing. Returning officers also distributed VICs to persons they added to the lists throughout the revision period.

Despite our efforts to validate all mailing addresses in the Register, some cards were returned as undeliverable. Returning officers then re-mailed as many cards as possible. Fewer than 100,000 (0.5 percent) of all voter information cards were left undelivered.

voter information card One week after the VICs were mailed, a reminder card was delivered to every residence in the country, giving basic information on the election and inviting electors to call the toll-free line if they had not received a VIC.

Elections Canada sometimes faces a challenge ensuring that electors appear on the correct list, particularly in rural areas, where our residential address information may be limited or cannot be readily confirmed. Considerable efforts were made by returning officers to locate these non-geocoded electors in their pre-event tasks. However, at the outset of the election some 66,000 electors having incomplete rural or unknown civic addresses could still not be pinpointed with certainty in a specific polling division and, as a result, did not appear on the preliminary lists. As we did have a mailing address, including postal code, we sent these electors letters requesting that they provide their returning officers with complete residential address information. This undertaking, combined with elector-initiated calls, resulted in the confirmation or addition of some 47,000 electors. Voter information cards could then be sent to these electors.

In some cases, electors receive their correct voter information card but are directed to vote many kilometres from home. While the mailing address is correct, their residential address may have put them in the wrong poll; or, in some cases, a poor voting location may have been selected for the right poll. The voting information on the card therefore informs electors that they may need to have their registration revised. In most cases the problem can be solved by a phone call to the local returning office.

Table 6 :
Voter registration statistics – 38th general election, 2004
Province or territory Electors on the preliminary
Electors added1 Inter-ED address changes2 Moves within ED3 Other corrections4 Removed from lists5 SVR group 1 update6 Electors on the final lists
Newfoundland and Labrador 402,831 11,553 3,462 14,646 9,677 13,095 281 405,032
Prince Edward Island 108,237 5,021 1,771 6,528 3,133 6,071 73 109,031
Nova Scotia 697,730 27,605 12,461 33,112 14,036 31,713 849 706,932
New Brunswick 593,892 20,418 6,742 22,494 9,681 24,068 456 597,440
Quebec 5,822,832 92,151 95,677 134,567 102,288 214,971 4,420 5,800,109
Ontario 8,182,202 335,038 139,709 194,688 145,890 367,750 5,729 8,294,928
Manitoba 844,196 29,294 17,023 27,343 21,682 50,415 963 841,061
Saskatchewan 727,396 25,195 11,807 29,020 17,586 41,326 850 723,922
Alberta 2,105,852 137,570 52,815 77,743 56,325 126,480 1,827 2,171,584
British Columbia 2,689,511 143,428 66,159 86,468 48,539 151,162 2,641 2,750,577
Yukon 19,245 1,451 674 1,277 542 1,058 33 20,345
Northwest Territories 28,364 1,729 649 1,078 3,171 2,245 122 28,619
Nunavut 16,197 1,934 91 273 260 1,256 75 17,041
National total 22,238,485 832,387 409,040 629,237 432,810 1,031,610 18,319 22,466,621

ED = electoral district
SVR = Special Voting Rules

  1. Electors who did not appear on any lists of electors at the beginning of the election, and were added during the event.
  2. Electors who appeared on the lists of electors of one electoral district at the beginning of the election, but who changed their address due to a move to another electoral district during the event.
  3. Electors who appeared on the lists of electors of one electoral district at the beginning of the election, and changed their address due to a move within the same electoral district during the event. These figures also include administrative changes the returning officer made on elector records during the event.
  4. Electors who appeared on a list of electors and requested a correction to an error in their name or mailing address during the event.
  5. Electors who appeared on a list of electors, but have been removed due to one of the following: the elector is deceased, the elector requested to be removed, the elector is no longer resident at that address, the elector is unqualified to be on the list (for example, less than 18 years old or a non-citizen), or the elector has a duplicate record on the same list. Figures also reflect elector records removed as a result of elector moves to another electoral district during the event, and duplicates removed during the preparation of the final lists of electors.
  6. Indicates the increase in the number of group 1 electors registered under the Special Voting Rules (Canadian electors temporarily residing outside Canada, Canadian Forces electors, and incarcerated electors) during the event.


There were 1,685 confirmed candidates in the 38th general election, fewer than the 1,808 who ran in 2000. Four parties nominated candidates in every electoral district. In 2000, only one party had done so. Twelve registered political parties ran candidates, compared with 11 in 2000.


To smooth the nomination process, we wrote to all political parties to encourage prospective candidates to:

  • file as early as possible, to allow time to correct the nomination papers if necessary
  • enter the names and addresses of electors supporting the nomination clearly and completely
  • provide more than the minimum required number of signatures, in case the returning officer had difficulty confirming the qualifications of some of the nominating electors

Within the 48 hours after nominations closed on June 7, 2004, returning officers confirmed or rejected the last of the candidates in their electoral districts. They then faxed their nomination papers to Elections Canada in Ottawa, which prepared a list of all confirmed candidates by electoral district.

Rejections and withdrawals

Returning officers rejected the candidacies of two prospective candidates:

  • In Halifax West (Nova Scotia), a set of nomination papers was incomplete: information about the witness, as well as his initials, were missing; and, although 100 signatures were collected, information for some was incomplete and could not be considered.
  • In Fleetwood–Port Kells (British Columbia), some signatures for a prospective candidate were those of electors from outside the electoral district; the nomination was filed too late to allow for corrections.

One candidate chose to withdraw from the race, in Edmonton Centre (Alberta), after completion of the confirmation process, but before 5:00 p.m. on the day set for the close of nominations.

Injunction to stop the election in the electoral district of Yukon

On June 23, 2004, the Yukon Supreme Court refused to issue an interlocutory injunction to stop the election in the electoral district of Yukon. The petitioner had previously tried to run as a candidate in that district by filing his nomination paper without naming an auditor – despite a requirement of the Canada Elections Act, which sets out that the prospective candidate must file with the returning officer, together with the nomination paper, a statement signed by an auditor consenting to act in that capacity. When his nomination paper was refused because no auditor had been appointed within the permitted time frame, the petitioner sought an interlocutory injunction on the basis that this requirement of the Canada Elections Act was unconstitutional. In its decision to refuse the interlocutory injunction, the Court did not address the question of the constitutionality of subsection 83(2) of the Canada Elections Act. [Mahony v. Chief Electoral Officer of Canada et al., [2004] Y.K.S.C. 42]

Nominations and political parties

Nominations opened as soon as each returning officer issued a Notice of Election, on or before May 27, 2004. The last day for filing nomination papers was June 7, 2004.

Since Bill C-3 came into force on May 15, 2004, any political party that endorses at least one candidate in a general election and complies with the legal requirements of the Canada Elections Act maintains registration or becomes registered. Registration entails both legal obligations and benefits. When the election was called, nine political parties were registered and three were eligible to become registered under the Act.

For the first time, Elections Canada set up a dedicated help desk to respond to candidates' and parties' questions.

Candidates and parties could seek assistance on various aspects of the electoral process by contacting Elections Canada during the entire electoral calendar. As of September 24, 2004, Election Financing answered 5,526 of the 5,886 incoming calls, for a response rate of 94 percent. The Operations Directorate responded to 1,185 calls out of 1,317, for a response rate of 90 percent.

The Registration Unit answered 199 of the 205 incoming calls, for a response rate of 97 percent. These calls dealt mainly with the ongoing registration of electoral district associations of registered parties.

Enquiries of a more complex nature were referred to Legal Services.

Table 7 :
Status of political parties – 38th general election, 2004
Parties retaining their status as registered parties
Bloc Québécois
Canadian Action Party
Communist Party of Canada
Conservative Party of Canada
Green Party of Canada
Liberal Party of Canada
Marijuana Party
Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada
New Democratic Party
Parties acquiring registered party status
Christian Heritage Party
Libertarian Party of Canada
Progressive Canadian Party
Number of parties registered on June 28, 2004: 12

Profile of the candidates

Altogether, there were 1,685 confirmed candidates:

  • 1,620 (96.1 percent) ran under the banner of a political party; 54 ran as independents, and 11 had no affiliation
  • 243 (14.4 percent) were previously sitting members of the House of Commons who were running for re-election; 53 of these were women and 190 were men
  • 1,294 of the total number of candidates were men; 391 (23.2 percent) were women (up from 20.6 percent in the 37th general election)
Table 8 :
Distribution of confirmed candidates, by political affiliation and gender – 38th general election, 2004
Gender Newfoundland and Labrador Prince Edward Island Nova Scotia New Brunswick Quebec Ontario Manitoba
Bloc Québécois F 18
M 57
Total 75
Canadian Action F 5
M 1 1 11 1
Total   1 1 16 1
Christian Heritage Party F 9 3
M 1 1 1 23 6
Total   1 1 1 32 9
Communist F 2 3 3
M 5 7 5
Total   7 10 8
Conservative F 2 1 1 10 14 1
M 5 3 11 9 65 92 13
Total   7 4 11 10 75 106 14
Green Party F 1 2 3 4 20 26 3
M 6 2 8 6 55 80 11
Total   7 4 11 10 75 106 14
Liberal F 1 3 1 21 27 2
M 6 4 8 9 54 79 12
Total   7 4 11 10 75 106 14
Libertarian F 1
M 1 1
Total   1 2
Marijuana Party F 1 3 2 1
M 1 28 16 5
Total   1 1 31 18 6
Marxist-Leninist F 8 12
M 1 15 22
Total   1 23 34
N.D.P. F 3 2 5 2 20 34 5
M 4 2 6 8 55 72 9
Total   7 4 11 10 75 106 14
PC Party F 1 1
M 2 11
Total   3 12
Independent F 1 2
M 2 2 2 5 23 1
Total   2 2 2 6 25 1
No affiliation F
M 2
Total   2
Subtotal F 7 5 13 8 103 136 18
M 23 12 39 36 342 439 63
Grand total   30 17 52 44 445 575 81

Political affiliation Gender Saskatchewan Alberta British Columbia Yukon North West Territories Nunavut Grand total
Bloc Québécois F 18
M 57
Total   75
Canadian Action F 1 6 12
M 4 15 33
Total   5 21 45
Christian Heritage Party F 2 1 15
M 3 4 7 1 47
Total   5 4 8 1 62
Communist F 1 2 11
M 1 6 24
Total   2 8 35
Conservative F 2 2 3 36
M 12 26 33 1 1 1 272
Total   14 28 36 1 1 1 308
Green Party F 2 5 12 78
M 12 23 24 1 1 1 230
Total   14 28 36 1 1 1 308
Liberal F 2 7 9 1 1 75
M 12 21 27 1 233
Total   14 28 36 1 1 1 308
Libertarian F 1 2
M 4 6
Total   5 8
Marijuana Party F 2 9
M 5 6 1 62
Total   5 8 1 71
Marxist-Leninist F 2 6 28
M 2 8 48
Total   4 14 76
N.D.P. F 2 11 11 1 96
M 12 17 25 1 1 212
Total   14 28 36 1 1 1 308
PC Party F 2
M 1 14
Total   1 16
Independent F 3 1 7
M 5 2 5 47
Total   5 2 8 1 54
No affiliation F 2 2
M 2 5 9
Total   2 7 11
Subtotal F 10 29 58 1 1 2 391
M 58 106 165 5 3 3 1,294
Grand total   68 135 223 6 4 5 1,685

Figure 5 :
Number of electoral districts and number of candidates in general elections since 1972

Number of electoral districts and number of candidates in general elections since 1972
Click on the graph above to view a larger version.

As Figure 5 shows, this was the third-highest number of candidates to run in a general election since the 29th general election, in 1972.

Figure 6 :
Distribution of candidates by electoral districts – 38th general election, 2004

Distribution of candidates by electoral districts – 38th general election, 2004
Click on the graph above to view a larger version.

Profile of the parties

All 12 of the registered political parties endorsed a confirmed candidate in at least eight electoral districts. The four parties that nominated candidates in every electoral district were the Conservative Party of Canada, the Green Party of Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party.

Table 9 :
Number of confirmed candidates by registered political party – 38th general election, 2004
Registered political party Number of confirmed candidates
Conservative Party of Canada 308
Green Party of Canada 308
Liberal Party of Canada 308
New Democratic Party 308
Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada 76
Bloc Québécois 75
Marijuana Party 71
Christian Heritage Party 62
Canadian Action Party 45
Communist Party of Canada 35
Progressive Canadian Party 16
Libertarian Party of Canada 8

Preparing parties and candidates

Adaptation respects security concerns for candidates

If more than one candidate is nominated in an electoral district, the Canada Elections Act states that, within five days after the deadline for confirming candidates, the returning officer must post in the returning office a notice of grant of a poll.

This notice provides, among other information, the address of each candidate and official agent, and is ultimately for posting in polling places. Due to concerns for the security of public individuals, section 64 of the Act was adapted to remove the street addresses of candidates and their official agents. See Table 14 for adaptations pursuant to section 17 of the Act.

As required by the Canada Elections Act, returning officers gave election documentation and maps to the candidates or their official agents. Where possible, returning officers met with the candidates or their representatives by June 11 to explain the various voting methods, the rules to follow on election day, how candidates could contribute to the quality of the lists of electors, the election officer positions for which the candidates or political parties could recommend applicants and the location of polling places. Of the 308 returning officers, 97 percent met with the candidates or their representatives.

In the past, Elections Canada held seminars across the country to brief candidates on election expenses, reporting requirements and other election-related financial matters. For the previous general election, Elections Canada conducted 24 information sessions in 20 cities across Canada during a four-day period involving 12 trainers. To reach more candidates and their team more efficiently, Elections Canada produced a video presentation for the 2004 general election, distributed it through the Web site, and sent it to all candidates and their teams on CD-ROM.


What if there aren’t enough ballots?

The Canada Elections Act details the procedure for preparing ballots and stipulates that all voters must use ballots prepared in this way. However, for the 38th general election only, Elections Canada foresaw that some polling stations might run out of ballots and be unable to replenish them before the close of the polls. Rather than deprive any elector of the right to vote by reason of insufficient ballots, the Chief Electoral Officer, under section 17 of the Act, adapted section 151 of the Act to permit the use of photocopied ballot forms where necessary. This option was used in only one electoral district, Kenora (Ontario), where two very remote polling stations had a higher turnout than anticipated.

As part of their pre-event assignments, returning officers made arrangements with local printing companies to print the election ballots. Security measures in the printing of ballots, as well as in the disposal of surplus ballot paper, ensured that all ballots cast were genuine.

Elections Canada sent an appropriate quantity of special ballot paper to every printer selected by the returning officers. After completing the job, each printer signed an affidavit describing the ballots, noting the number delivered to the returning officer and certifying that all requested ballots were printed. This affidavit records the amount of ballot paper received, spoiled, used and unused, as well as the properly printed ballot papers. All leftover paper, including pieces trimmed during the printing process, was returned to the returning officer, who sent it to Ottawa after election day.