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Canada’s Elections; if you can’t be the Prime Minister, vote for people who can

A look into Canada’s elections on Federal, Provincial, Territorial, and Municipal levels in details with the dates of next elections.

Do you know that Upper Canada and Lower Canada held their first election since 1792, and Canada’s most recent federal elections were held on September 20, 2021? Still, you may ask how Canada’s election works and want to know more about its process. Be patient because we tell you everything you need to know in this regard.

This study will look at how Canada’s election works, the federal, Provincial & territorial governments, and municipal governments, the nomination of candidates, campaigns, and more factors of Canada’s election. So, stick around. 

Formal Elections in Canada are held in several jurisdictions: 

  • The Federal (national) government
  • Provincial & territorial governments and municipal government
Canada's election in Federal level

Canadian Federal Election

Moreover, Canada’s election is held for self-governing First Nations and many other public and private organizations. The municipal elections in Canada can be for both upper-tier, regional municipality and county, and lower-tier, town, village, or city governments. 

All Canadian citizens aged 18 or older are qualified to vote in federal elections until the polling day. In other levels of elections, additional residency and ownership may be required. For instance, in some municipal elections, both residents and non-resident landowners can vote.

Canada’s Federal (national) Elections

Legislations have been passed in the federal government and most of the provinces and territories in Canada that set a fixed date so that elections occur on a regular cycle and usually every four years and the forthcoming election’s date is publicly known. 

Even so, the governor-general, the provincial lieutenant governor, and the territorial commissioners have the authority to change Canada’s election date on the advice of the relevant first minister at any point before the fixed date. By-elections for filling legislature vacancies are not affected by selected election dates.

Canada’s Federal Elections step by step 

All Canadians who are at least 18 years old on Election Day can vote, but many steps must be taken before voters go to the polls. The federal election process is mentioned in the following steps:

Dissolution of Parliament

Before candidates start their campaign activity, all businesses in Parliament and voters go to the polls. The process of stopping parliamentary business to be prepared for an election is the dissolution of Parliament. First, the governor-general dissolves Parliament on the advice of the prime minister. Then the governor-general directs for issuing the writs of election (a formal written order to the officers of election for holding an election) by the chief electoral officer.

A preliminary list of voters is sent to the returning officer’s by-elections, which tell them who is registered to vote. Canada’s Elections Act has been provided for a general election since 2007 to be held on a fixed date which is the third Monday of October in the fourth calendar year following the previous general election.

Nomination of Candidate

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protected holding a federal electionEach political party needs to choose candidates to run in an election. When election writs are issued, each party must decide who will be its candidate. Also, an independent candidate can run for election without being affiliated with a party.

This right is protected by what are the basic requirements to become a candidate? You must be a Canadian citizen and be at least 18 years old on Election Day. You must not be a member of a province or territories legislative assembly, the Chief Electoral Officer, an election officer, a person imprisoned in a correctional institution, or the governor-general acting on the advice of the Cabinet.

In addition, submitting either a Nomination Paper or an online nomination form to Elections Canada is required. The party affiliation has also been included in ballots since 1970. 


Candidates start their campaigning when the election writs are issued. The campaign period must be at least 36 days and no more than 50 days. The goal of the parties and candidates during the campaign is to convince voters that they are the best party or person for the job. To do this, they must promote their platform, tell voters about their goals, ideas, and principles, meet with voters, and participate in debates with candidates of other parties.


Only Canadian citizens who have at least 18 years old on Election Day can vote. You can vote on Election Day, at any Elections Canada office, or vote by mail. The most common voting option is in-person voting at polling stations. The average number of polling stations across Canada is 20,000. 

Everyone has the right to choose their preferred candidate. They vote in secret and without the influence of anyone. The voting process is as follows:

  • For voting, all voters must show proof of their identity and address.
  • Everyone gets a ballot from the Canada’s election officers.
  • They take the ballot behind a voting screen and mark an X beside their preferred candidate’s name.
  • They place their ballot in a ballot box.
A polling station

A polling station

Counting and Results

The most exciting part of any election in general, and Canada’s election process is announcing the results. The door of the polling station is locked during the count of ballots. No one is permitted to enter or leave until the counting is finished. First, the ballot boxes are opened, and the election officers count the ballots. They record the number of votes for each candidate and the number of rejected ballots. 

The documents of polls and elections are sealed in the ballot box and delivered to the returning officer. A clear winner emerges after the votes are counted in most cases. However, sometimes the vote count is very close. In this case, the ballots need to be counted again in a judicial recount. These elections results are shared by media outlets, such as TV stations, newspapers, and social media. 

Canada's Elections 2021 results map

Canada's Elections 2021 results map

Parliament Resumes

The next government will be determined when the results are announced and counted. The candidate who receives the most votes becomes a Member of Parliament (MP) and represents the riding in the House of Commons. The prime minister will be the party’s leader, and the political party with the most MPs usually forms the government.

Canada’s Provincial and Territorial Elections

Canada’s provinces and Yukon have the same plurality voting system used in federal elections. In this system, elections are monitored and organized. However, independent provincial election commissions and a province may legally change their electoral system without requiring permission from the federal government. Since Northwest Territories and Nunavut use a consensus government model, elections are held solely on a non-partisan basis. 

Based on the passed law in 2001, most Canadian provinces and the Northwest Territories have established fixed election dates. In most cases, they call for elections every four years on a specific day and month.

The provincial and territorial elections step by step:

  1. National Assembly dissolution and issuing the writ of election
  2. Preparation of the list of electors
  3. Filing nomination papers as a candidate
  4. Setting up the polling place
  5. Voting
  6. Counting votes and the results of the election

All the votes are counted at the closing of the polling stations. The person with the most significant votes wins the election in their electoral division.

Next elections in Canada and each province

The next Canada’s elections for each jurisdiction is to be held on the following dates:

Next of Canada's elections

Next elections in Canada and each province

Canada’s Municipal Elections

Municipal elections in Canada hold by provinces and territories on the same date every two, three, or four years, depending on the location. These Canada’s elections usually elect a mayor, city council, and often a school board. No political party association is engaged at this level of government. As an eligible voter of the municipality, you vote:

  • A mayoralty candidate for your municipality
  • A council candidate and school board trustee candidate for your electoral ward

Some areas have local elections, which are not technically municipalities. These elections can be called cities, towns, villages, townships, municipalities, county municipalities, regional county municipalities, municipal districts, regional districts, counties, regional municipalities, specialized municipalities, district municipalities, or rural municipalities. 

Final words on Canada’s elections

Now that you have been familiarized with Canada’s election, and learned about different types of elections, including federal elections, provincial and territorial elections, and municipal elections, let us know if you want to know more about Canada’s government.  

Please feel free to leave your comments and feedback, and inform us if you require any further information in this regard. You can also read more about Canada’s GeographyEconomySocio-cultural, and history.

Updated: August 2023

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