With few exceptions, anyone who is
qualified to vote can seek election to the House of Commons. The qualifications
and disqualifications for candidacy in a federal election are set down in the Canada
the Parliament of Canada Act
and the Constitution Act, 1982.
The qualifications for candidacy for
persons seeking election to the House of Commons have been revised on numerous
occasions and have always been closely linked with the right to vote. During
periods when classes of persons were disenfranchised, they were also
disqualified from seeking election. In 1867, the Constitution Act stated
that all laws in force in the provinces respecting qualifications and
disqualifications of persons seeking election to provincial legislatures would
apply to the election of Members to the House of Commons until the Parliament
of Canada enacted its own legislation.
Although the Constitution Act, 1867 did stipulate (as did the provincial
laws) that voters had to be male, British subjects, at least 21 years of age
and property owners,
the qualification provisions for candidates in each province were not
necessarily the same and there was no uniformity of qualifications for the
first Members returned to the House. Indeed, candidates did not have
to reside in the country and until 1873, some Members sat not only in the House
of Commons, but also in the legislative assemblies of Ontario and Quebec.
In 1874, Parliament passed its own legislation providing for the election of
Members. The Dominion Election Act abolished the property qualification
for candidates and declared that any British‑born or naturalized male
subject of Great Britain, Ireland, or Canada or one of its provinces was
eligible for candidacy in an election.
There were few changes to the electoral
laws respecting qualifications for candidacy until the early twentieth century.
In 1919, women received the franchise and the right to be candidates in an
In 1948, the Dominion Elections Act was amended to ensure that candidates
were Canadian residents and qualified electors; amendments also eliminated
disqualification from voting on the basis of race (status Indians excepted),
which in turn opened up candidacy to people of Oriental origin, in particular
In 1950, Inuit people were given the franchise and the right to seek a seat in
the House of Commons
and in 1955, revisions to the Act gave the franchise to various religious
groups, in particular to Doukobours, who had previously been disenfranchised
because they were conscientious objectors.
Aboriginal persons received the right to vote and seek election in 1960.
In 1970, the voting age was lowered to 18 as was the age requirement for
In addition to disqualifications based on
the franchise, individuals were prevented from seeking election if they were
government employees or held a government contract. This disqualification was
based on the principle of “independence of Parliament”. Professor Norman Ward
noted: “It is an ideal of democratic government that representation should be
independent of undesirable forces that might bias their judgement on public
matters. In particular, they should be free of the executive, at least insofar
as direct pecuniary benefit is concerned”.
Thus, in 1867, the Parliament of Canada re‑enacted 1857 legislation from
the Province of Canada which disqualified from eligibility as a Member of the
Assembly or from sitting or voting therein, any person who had accepted or held
“any office, commission or employment in the service of the Government of
Canada at the nomination of the Crown, to which an annual salary or any fee,
allowance, or emolument in lieu of an annual salary from the Crown [was]
This provision also disqualified Members appointed to the Cabinet: Cabinet
Ministers had to resign their seat and seek re‑election in order to
obtain the approval of the electors in their constituencies. Also disqualified
from eligibility were government contractors and officers of the navy and
militia. In 1878, the Act was amended to exempt from disqualification Members
already holding a ministerial position and to further disqualify sheriffs,
registrars of deeds, clerks of the peace, and county Crown attorneys.
In 1931, an amendment to the Senate and House of Commons Act freed
Ministers appointed after an election from the necessity of vacating their
seats and seeking re‑election.
In 1992, the Royal Commission on Electoral
Reform and Party Financing, also known as the Lortie Commission, recommended
the removal of the office of profit or emolument disqualification from the Canada
Elections Act, arguing that public officers and employees had the right to
a leave of absence to seek a nomination and contest an election.
Once elected to the House of Commons, the individual’s employment with the
Crown would then be deemed terminated in order to avoid any conflict of interest
issues. In regard to the eligibility of a candidate holding a government
contract, the Lortie Commission recommended the removal of this
disqualification, reasoning that, if elected, the Member would then have to
bring the contractual relationship in line with the rules governing the conduct
of Members. In 1993, these recommendations were included in legislation
introduced, and subsequently passed, to amend the Canada Elections Act.
As stated in the Charter of Rights and
Freedoms, “every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of
members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be
qualified for membership therein”.
Thus, with few exceptions, any Canadian citizen at least 18 years of age on
polling day, who is qualified as an elector, is eligible to be a candidate in
A candidate must have established residency somewhere in Canada but not necessarily in the constituency where he or she is seeking election. The candidate is
not required to have the backing of a registered political party. In addition,
a candidate may seek election in only one electoral district.
The Canada Elections Act also sets
out a series of disqualifications for electoral candidacy. Inmates of penal
institutions are disqualified from seeking election. Certain officials
such as sheriffs, clerks of the peace, and county Crown Attorneys may not seek
Similarly, federally‑appointed judges (citizenship judges excepted) and
election officials are disqualified from seeking election. Members of
provincial and territorial legislatures are also ineligible to run in federal
Furthermore, any person who had been a candidate in a previous election but who
did not file required election documents with the Chief Electoral Officer is
not eligible to seek election.
A person found guilty of an offence that is
a corrupt practice under the Canada Elections Act, such as voting more
than once, obstructing an election officer, or offering a bribe, is disqualified
from seeking election for seven years following the date of the conviction.
A person guilty of an offence that is an illegal practice under the Canada
Elections Act, such as exceeding election expense limits, obstructing the
electoral process or taking a false oath, is disqualified from seeking election
for five years from the date of conviction.
Senators must resign their seats to seek
election to the House; similarly, if a Member accepts an appointment to the
or an appointment to the office of Governor General, a judgeship or any other
such public office, his or her seat will be declared vacant.
 S.C. 2000, c. 9, s. 65.
 R.S. 1985, c. P‑1, ss. 21 to 24.
 R.S. 1985, Appendix II, No. 44, s. 3.
 R.S. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5, s. 41. See Confederation
Debates, February 6, 1865, p. 39, where Attorney General
John A. Macdonald said: “Insuperable difficulties would have presented
themselves if we had attempted to settle now the qualification for the elective
franchise”. Between 1867 and 1885, five federal general elections were held
with the electorate varying from province to province under the provincial
election laws then in force. In all provinces, there were nonetheless three
basic conditions: electors had to be male, 21 years of age and British
subjects either by birth or naturalization (Office of the Chief Electoral
Officer of Canada, A History of the Vote in Canada, 2nd ed.,
www.elections.ca, 2007, p. 45). In 1885, control of the federal franchise
was shifted to the federal level (Electoral Franchise Act,
S.C. 1885, c. 40) and then back to the provinces in 1898 (The
Franchise Act, 1898, S.C. 1898, c. 14). It was only in
1920 that Parliament regained control (A History of the Vote in Canada,
2nd ed., p. 40).
 R.S. 1985, Appendix II, No. 5, s. 41. Property
qualifications in terms of real estate ranged at Confederation from $100 in New Brunswick to $150 in Nova Scotia to $300 in Ontario and Quebec. Citizens were
allowed to vote in each area in which they owned property. See Ward, The
Canadian House of Commons: Representation, pp. 63‑5.
 Bourinot, J.G., Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the
Dominion of Canada, South Hackensack, New Jersey: Rothman Reprints
Inc., 1971 (reprint of 1st ed., 1884), pp. 124‑8. Twenty‑five
Members from Ontario and Quebec also sat in their provincial legislatures and,
in both provinces, a majority of the Cabinet held federal seats. In 1873, a private Member successfully sponsored a bill to make the practice of dual representation
illegal (An Act to render Members of the Legislative Councils and
Legislative Assemblies of the Provinces now included, or which may hereafter be
included within the Dominion of Canada, ineligible for sitting or voting in the
House of Commons of Canada, S.C. 1873, c. 2). Two members of the
Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island were elected to the House after
dual representation was abolished: S.F. Perry in 1874 and
J.E. Robertson in 1883. Mr. Perry was allowed to maintain his seat in the
House while the House rejected Mr. Robertson’s election. For a historical
perspective, see Ward, The Canadian House of
Commons: Representation, pp. 65‑9.
 S.C. 1873‑74, c. 9, s. 20. These provisions
were so widely accepted that they were only included in the statute when the
Senate insisted on an amendment to the legislation stipulating that candidates
be British subjects by birth or naturalization. Section 40 of the Act also
stipulated that all persons qualified to vote in provincial elections were
eligible to vote in federal general elections.
 Dominion By‑Election Act, S.C. 1919, c. 48,
s. D. See also Dominion Elections Act, S.C. 1920, c. 46,
s. 38 which provided universal access to the vote without reference to
property ownership. In 1917, when Parliament passed the Military Voters
Act (S.C. 1917, c. 34), some 2000 military nurses received the
right to vote. The War‑time Elections Act (S.C. 1917,
c. 39) conferred the right to vote on spouses, widows, mothers, sisters,
and daughters of any persons who had served or were serving in the Canadian
forces provided they met the age, nationality and residence requirements for
electors in their respective provinces or the Yukon. Women received the
franchise to vote in provincial elections in the following
sequence: Manitoba (January 28, 1916); Saskatchewan
(March 14, 1916); Alberta (April 19, 1916);
British Columbia (April 5, 1917); Nova Scotia
(April 26, 1918); Ontario (April 24, 1919);
Prince Edward Island (May 3, 1922); Newfoundland
(May 13, 1925); New Brunswick (March 9, 1934); Quebec
(April 24, 1940). The general election of 1921 was the first one open
to all Canadians, men and women, over the age of 21. Four women ran but only
one was elected. Agnes Campbell MacPhail became the first woman
elected to the House of Commons when she won a seat as an independent Member
for the riding of Grey Southeast in Ontario. She was re‑elected four
times. Between 1920 and 1945, only five women sat in the House (Fraser, J.A., The
House of Commons at Work, Montreal: Les Éditions de la Chenelière inc., 1993, p. 67). Ellen Louks Fairclough became the first female Cabinet
Minister on June 21, 1957, when she was appointed Secretary of State.
In 2004, 65 women were elected to the House of Commons; 64 women were elected
in 2006 and 69 in 2008. For further information on women and the franchise, see
A History of the Vote in Canada, 2nd ed., pp. 59‑68.
 An Act to amend the Dominion Elections Act, 1938,
S.C. 1948, c. 46, ss. 6 and 12. For further information on
racial exclusions, see A History of the Vote in Canada, 2nd ed.,
pp. 79-81. The residency requirement had long been a matter of concern in
the House. See, for example, Debates, April 11, 1890,
cols. 3197‑8, where a Member explained to the House that although he
had moved his residence to England, he did not intend to resign his seat in the
 An Act to amend the Dominion Elections Act, 1938, S.C. 1950,
c. 35, s.1. Peter Ittinuar (Nunatsiaq) was the first Inuit elected to the
House in the general election of May 22, 1979.
 An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act, S.C. 1955,
c. 44, s. 4(1). For further information on religious exclusions, see A
History of the Vote in Canada, 2nd ed., pp. 81‑3.
 An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act, S.C. 1960,
c. 7, s. 1. Aboriginals were no longer required to give up their
treaty rights or Indian status to vote in federal elections. The first
Aboriginal person to be elected to the House of Commons was Leonard S. Marchand
(Kamloops–Caribou) on June 25, 1968. The first native woman elected
to the House was Ethel Blondin‑Andrew (Western Arctic) on November
21, 1988. It is interesting to note that Métis people were never
disenfranchised and the first Métis Members (Angus McKay (Marquette) and Pierre Delorme
(Provencher)) were elected to the House on March 2, 1871. Two years later on
October 13, 1873, Louis Riel (Provencher) was elected for the
first time. For further information on Aboriginals and the vote, see A
History of the Vote in Canada, 2nd ed., pp. 83‑7.
 Canada Elections Act, S.C. 1969‑70,
c. 49, s. 14. The youngest person to sit in the House of Commons was
Claude-André Lachance (Lafontaine) who was 20 years, 3 months and 3 days old
when he was first elected in 1974. Sean O’Sullivan (Hamilton–Wentworth) was a
close second at 20 years, 9 months and 30 days upon his election in 1972.
 Ward, The Canadian House of Commons: Representation,
 An Act further securing the independence of Parliament,
S.C. 1867, c. 25. In 1871, the words “permanent or temporary” were
added after the phrase “office, commission or employment” (Independence of
Parliament Act, S.C. 1871, c. 19).
 An Act further securing the Independence of Parliament,
S.C. 1878, c. 5. For a historical perspective, see Bourinot,
1st ed., pp. 128‑37.
 S.C. 1931, c. 52. See also Parliament of Canada Act,
R.S. 1985, c. P-1, s. 33.
 In November 1989, the government appointed a five‑person
Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing to inquire into and
report on the process for electing Members to the House of Commons and the
financing of political parties and candidates’ campaigns. Its report was tabled
in the House on February 13, 1992, and contained 267 recommendations,
including draft legislation (Journals, p. 1016). Following the
tabling of this report, the Special Committee on Electoral Reform was
established to conduct a comprehensive review of the report and to report its
recommendations for changes in the Canada Elections Act. Its report also
included the removal of the office of profit or emolument disqualification
(Special Committee on Electoral Reform, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence,
December 11, 1992, Issue No. 7, pp. 3‑5, 29).
 Bill C‑114, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act,
received Royal Assent on May 6, 1993 (Journals, p. 2935).
See also Parliament of Canada Act, R.S. 1985, c. P‑1,
s. 32. Also included in the legislation was an amendment to allow persons
confined to an institution because of mental illness to vote, and by extension,
to be candidates during the period of confinement or while under the protection
and supervision of a guardian (S.C. 1993, c. 19, s. 23(3)).
 Constitution Act, 1982, R.S. 1985, Appendix II,
No. 44, s. 3. The Chief Electoral Officer and the Assistant Chief
Electoral Officer are prohibited from voting in a federal election (Canada
Elections Act, S.C. 2000, c. 9, s. 4).
 Canada Elections Act, S.C. 2000, c. 9, ss. 3 and 65.
 As an example, there have been occasions when party leaders who
were not Members of Parliament have sought a seat in the House of Commons in a
riding where they did not live. In these instances, the sitting Member resigned
his or her seat and a by‑election took place. In 1983, Brian Mulroney was
elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. Later that
year, Elmer McKay resigned his Central Nova seat and Mr. Mulroney won a by‑election
in the riding. In 1990, Jean Chrétien was elected to the leadership of the
Liberal Party of Canada. Fernand Robichaud resigned his Beauséjour seat shortly
thereafter and Mr. Chrétien won the seat in a by‑election. In 2000, Scott
Brison resigned his Kings–Hants seat to allow Joe Clark, the leader of the
Progressive Conservative Party, to run for a seat in the House.
 Parliament of Canada Act, R.S. 1985, c. P‑1,
s. 21. Until 1919, candidates were permitted to contest more than one seat
in a general election. In 1920, legislation was adopted to put an end to this
practice (An Act to amend the House of Commons Act, S.C. 1920,
c. 18. s. 1). See the remarks of the Bill’s sponsor, S.W. Jacobs
(George‑Étienne Cartier) at second reading (Debates, September 18,
1919, p. 439). If a Member was returned for two constituencies, he had to
formally resign one of the seats. It was the practice of party leaders
routinely to seek two seats in an election. In the general election of 1878, at
a time when the polls were not confined to one day exclusively due to
geographic and other factors, Sir John A. Macdonald contested three seats. He
was defeated in Kingston, Ontario on September 17, yet was elected two
days later in Marquette, Manitoba. Pursuant to the law at that time, upon his
acceptance of the office of Prime Minister, he vacated this seat and was
subsequently elected to represent Victoria, British Columbia on October 21.
In 1896, Sir Wilfrid Laurier won his own safe seat in Quebec East and also
captured Saskatchewan (NWT) from the opposition. He resigned the latter seat.
In 1908, Sir Robert Borden won a safe seat in Carleton (Ontario) and a doubtful one in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He relinquished Carleton. Party
leaders, who successfully ran in more than one riding, resigned one of the
seats immediately in only six of the 14 instances. See Ward, The
Canadian House of Commons: Representation, pp. 81‑2.
However, if one of the elections was contested, the Member could not resign
from either. This happened to Sir John A. Macdonald in 1882 and to
Sir Wilfrid Laurier who held two seats from 1911 to 1917.
 Canada Elections Act, S.C. 2000, c. 9, s. 65(g).
See also section 4(c) which prohibits inmates serving sentences longer
than two years in a correctional institution from voting. In 2002, the Supreme
Court of Canada struck down this provision, declaring that all prison inmates
who are otherwise eligible to vote in a federal election may vote regardless of
the length of their sentences (Sauvé v. Canada (Chief Electoral Officer),
 3 S.C.R. 519). The government has yet to introduce statutory amendments
to reflect the Court’s decision. The Chief Electoral Officer currently uses his
adaptation power to provide a process to allow federal prisoners to vote by
special ballot. See the Thirteenth Report of the Standing Committee on
Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House on June 22, 2006 (Journals,
p. 344), in particular Recommendation 1.15 of the Chief Electoral Officer,
and the government’s response tabled in the House on October 20, 2006
(Journals, p. 558). For further information, see A History of the
Vote in Canada, 2nd ed., pp. 97‑9.
 Canada Elections Act, S.C. 2000, c. 9, s. 65(d).
 Canada Elections Act, S.C. 2000, c. 9, s. 65(f) and (h).
It has only been since 1993 that judges have had the right to vote (S.C. 1993,
c. 19, s. 23).
 Canada Elections Act, S.C. 2000, c. 9, s. 65(c).
This prohibition can also be found in the Parliament of Canada Act,
R.S. 1985, c. P‑1, s. 22. Similarly, most provincial and
territorial electoral statutes and/or statutes regulating the composition and
conduct of these legislatures prohibit Members of the House of Commons from
seeking election to a provincial or territorial legislative assembly without
first resigning their seats. For further information, see the section in this
chapter entitled “Vacancies in Representation”. The Parliament of Canada Act
also contains provisions declaring a Member’s election void and his or her
seat vacant if the Member is elected to the legislature of any province (R.S.
1985, c. P-1, s. 23).
 Canada Elections Act, S.C. 2000, c. 9, s. 65(i).
 S.C. 2000, c. 9, ss. 65 and 502(2) and (3). See also Standing Order
 S.C. 2000, c. 9, ss. 65 and 502(1) and
 Constitution Act, 1867, R.S. 1985, Appendix II,
No. 5, s. 39. As an example, Robert de Cotret was appointed
to the Senate on June 5, 1979. He resigned from the Senate on
January 14, 1980 to run, unsuccessfully, as a candidate in the
February 18, 1980 general election. On October 26, 2000,
Bernie Boudreau, who had been appointed to the Senate on
October 4, 1999, resigned to seek a seat in the House of Commons in
the general election of November 27, 2000. He was unsuccessful.
Michael Fortier was appointed to the Senate on February 27, 2006. He
resigned his seat on September 7, 2008 to seek a seat in the House in the
general election of October 14, 2008. He was not elected.
 Parliament of Canada Act, R.S. 1985, c. P-1, s. 35. For
further information, see the section in this chapter entitled “Vacancies in