Elections Canada logo
Inspire Democracy Logo Site menu

Tools and
Resources

Key Terms
Please note: We've simplified these key terms. For official definitions, please see the Canada Elections Act, or Elections.ca.

1991 Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing
A commission of the federal government between 1989–1991 that investigated changes to Canada's elections laws. A report was published in 1991.
Accessible
Products, services, environments or events designed so that everyone, including people with disabilities, can use and attend them.
Advance polls
Polling stations that are open on advance voting days. They're one way electors can vote before election day.
Ballot
A piece of paper with the names of the candidates and a spot where the voter marks which candidate they are voting for.
Barriers
Things that make it more difficult for you to vote.
By-election
Election held in an electoral district to fill an empty seat in the House of Commons at any time other than during a general election.
Campaign
The time when a candidate or a political party tries to get people to vote for them.
Canada Elections Act
The law that outlines the rules for holding and participating in federal elections in Canada.
Candidate
Person who wants to be elected as a member of Parliament for a specific electoral district.
Chief Electoral Officer
Person who reports to Parliament and is responsible for the administration of elections, referendums, and important aspects of the electoral system. This person is appointed for a 10-year non-renewable term by the House of Commons.
Contribution
Donation to a campaign in the form of money, services or property.
Elected officials
The people who are voted by Canadians to represent them in the House of Commons. Another way to say member of Parliament.
Elections Canada office
A riding’s Elections Canada office. Every riding has one. It opens when a federal election is called and closes after election day. The returning office is where the returning officer and their staff work. It’s open to the public.
Election officer
Someone who works at an election, as defined in the Canada Elections Act.
Election platform
The goals or objectives of a political party or candidate to gain voter support.
Election period
The time between the call of an election and election day. A federal election period lasts between 36 and 50 days.
Election worker
Someone who works for Elections Canada during a federal election.
Elector
A person who is eligible to vote in an election. In Canada, this person is 18 years of age or older and a Canadian citizen.
Electoral Campaign Return
The financial reporting to Elections Canada a candidate needs to do to close their campaign, also referred to as a “Candidate's return”.
Electoral district
A place or territorial area that is represented by a member in the House of Commons.
Electoral event
An event where Canadian electors vote. It can be a federal election, a by-election, or a referendum.
Endorsement
The giving of approval or support to someone or something.
Expense
Money that candidates spend.
House of Commons
The place where the elected members of the Parliament of Canada meet.
Impartial
Not biased, i.e. treating or affecting all equally.
Inclusive
Not excluding any person.
Independent candidate
Someone who is running in an election but is not associated with a registered political party.
Institute for Fiscal Studies and Democracy
An organization that focuses on applied research and student engagement in public finance and its intersection with public administration, politics and public policy. Visit the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Democracy.
Leave of absence
A period of time away from work.
List of electors
A list of all Canadian electors. It has their names, addresses, genders and dates of birth. The list of electors is updated at the start of an election period.
Member of Parliament
A person elected to represent an electoral district in the House of Commons.
Nomination contestant
A person who is participating in a contest to become the representative of a registered political party in a specific electoral district.
Nomination Paper
The form that people who want to become candidates in an election need to complete and file with the returning officer.
Official Agent
The official agent is responsible for administering the campaign's financial transactions and reporting those transactions to Elections Canada as required by the Canada Elections Act. The candidate may have only one official agent at a time.
Partisan activity
Any activity that is connected to or supports political parties. Partisan activities include sharing the slogans and images of political parties and heavily using the main colour of a political party.
Political parties
Groups that support particular candidates in an election. They usually share similar values, priorities and a vision for Canada.
Plain language
Writing that is designed to ensure that the reader understands as quickly, easily, and completely as possible.
Political affiliation
A connection with a specific political party.
Political financing
The rules for raising and spending money and using resources for an election campaign.
Polling station
A public building where people go to vote in a federal election. It’s often a school or a community centre.
Provincial or Territorial legislature
A group of people elected to pass laws for a province or territory.
Referendum
A vote when a group of voters are invited to vote on a proposal or question.
Registered political party
A political party that runs at least one candidate in a general election or by-election and meets the requirements of the Canada Elections Act.
Returning officer
The person responsible for the delivery and control of federal elections, by elections and referendums in their electoral district.
Riding
Also called an “electoral district” or a “constituency.” A geographic area of the country that can be a community, region or town. A member of Parliament (MP) represents it in the House of Commons.
Solemn Declaration
A document signed by an election worker by which they swear or solemnly affirm to respect some work-related obligations and the veracity of certain facts when hired by a returning officer.
Springtide
A Canadian charitable organization dedicated to helping people learn how to lead change through politics.
Special ballot
A way to vote by mail at an Elections Canada office or Vote on Campus office.
Unsolicited
Something that is given or received but was not asked for.
Witness
A person who sees an event take place
To the top ↑