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2019–20 Departmental Plan

Raison D'être, Mandate and Role

Raison D'être

Ensuring that Canadians can exercise their democratic rights to vote and be a candidate.

Mandate and Role

The Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, commonly known as Elections Canada, is an independent, non-partisan agency that reports directly to Parliament. Its mandate is to:

  • be prepared to conduct a federal general election, by-election or referendum
  • administer the political financing provisions of the Canada Elections Act
  • monitor compliance with electoral legislation
  • conduct public information campaigns on voter registration, voting and becoming a candidate
  • conduct education programs for students on the electoral process
  • provide support to the independent commissions in charge of adjusting the boundaries of federal electoral districts following each decennial census
  • carry out studies on alternative voting methods and, with the approval of parliamentarians, test alternative voting processes for future use during electoral events
  • provide assistance and co-operation in electoral matters to electoral agencies in other countries or to international organizations


In fulfilling its mandate, Elections Canada also has the responsibility to:

  • appoint, train and support returning officers and retain the services of field liaison officers across Canada
  • maintain the National Register of Electors, which is used to prepare preliminary lists of electors at the start of electoral events
  • publish reports on the conduct of elections and official voting results
  • maintain electoral geography information, which provides the basis for maps and other geographic products
  • register political entities, including political parties, electoral district associations, candidates, nomination contestants, leadership contestants, third parties that engage in election advertising and referendum committees
  • administer the reimbursements and subsidies paid to eligible candidates, registered political parties and auditors
  • disclose information on registered parties and electoral district associations, registered parties' nomination and leadership contestants, candidates, third parties and referendum committees, including their financial returns
  • refer to the Commissioner of Canada Elections information concerning possible offences under the Canada Elections Act (or other relevant Acts)
  • consult the Advisory Committee of Political Parties for advice and recommendations
  • issue written opinions, guidelines and interpretation notes on the application of the Canada Elections Act to political entities
  • recommend to Parliament amendments for the better administration of the Canada Elections Act by submitting a recommendations report after a general election, as well as by providing expert advice and other special reports
  • appoint the Broadcasting Arbitrator, who is responsible for allocating free and paid broadcasting time among political parties and for arbitrating disputes that may arise between parties and broadcasters